Elizabeth Montgomery captivated hearts with her wholesome character on Bewitched—but behind the scenes, she was a downright rebel with her fair share of scandal.
1. She Had Secrets
We all know Elizabeth Montgomery as Samantha Stephens from the popular TV comedy Bewitched, where she played a typical suburban housewife with a terrible secret. What the world didn’t know then was that Montgomery had even more secrets than her character.
In fact, Montgomery had a long list of husbands and an even longer list of illicit lovers. Yes, behind Montgomery's angelic face, she had her own dark backstory.
2. She Was Born Into Show Biz
Elizabeth Montgomery was born in Los Angeles, California: the buzzing entertainment capital of the world. She also had two show business parents. Her mother was a Broadway actress from Kentucky, and her father was Robert Montgomery—a New Yorker and Academy Award nominee.
Sadly, her parents faced an early tragedy: They lost their first child when she was still an infant. On April 15, 1933, young Elizabeth came bouncing in to fill the hole in their hearts. They’d lost one child and were now ready to spoil baby Elizabeth rotten.
3. They Spared No Expense
Montgomery's parents spared no expense when it came to their only daughter’s education. They enrolled their darling daughter into two haughty-sounding schools: Westlake School for Girls followed by Spence School. But all this fancy education had a purpose. Her parents were desperate to get their daughter on an academic track and far away from the entertainment industry.
Montgomery, however, had other plans—and brazenly turned her focus to acting, becoming a student at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts.
4. She Begged For It
Once Montgomery had finished acting school, she wanted to get down to work. She’d already majorly disappointed her parents by throwing herself into show business, but now she needed a big favor from her father. Montgomery hoped to land a spot on her father's TV series, Robert Montgomery Presents.
Though reluctant, he allowed her to have her debut on his show—but he still wasn't happy about ushering his daughter into the world of celebrity. Unfortunately, their fraught relationship would lead to some of Elizabeth Montgomery's unfortunate daddy issues.
5. She Couldn’t Please Him
If Montgomery hoped to win her father's approval by becoming a succesful Broadway star, she was sorely mistaken. Her first show was Late Love where she even won a Theater World Award—not too shabby for a first performance. It wasn’t, however, good enough for dear old dad.
During the run of the show, Mr Montgomery sent her notes telling her what she had done wrong. Clearly, she couldn't prove herself through acting, so Montgomery tried to her please her father by making a questionable decision.
6. She Married For The Wrong Reasons
Montgomery's fear and devotion toward her father affected more than just her career—it also bled into her love life in increasingly disturbing ways. In 1954, she married Frederick Cammann, a rich, well-connected socialite who had nothing to do with show business and was sure to finally earn her father's support.
The fact that Cammann was a decade older than her and could almost be her father wasn't creepy at all, right? Sadly, this was only the beginning.
7. She Seduced Her Co-Star
When Elizabeth Montgomery starred in her first Hollywood film, The Court-Martial of Billy Mitchell, opposite heartthrob Gary Cooper, it turned into a disaster for her personal life. After all, despite the fact she was still married to Cammann, Cooper was her kryptonite: a dashing older man.
Before long, Montgomery and Cooper were reportedly hot and heavy with each other—and were so flagrant about it that a crew member once caught them in Cooper's dressing room, red-handed. But these care-free romps had massive consequences.
8. Her Marriage Was A Disaster
As you might have guessed from her jumping right into bed with her first Hollywood co-star, Montgomery was miserable at home. Turned out, her older husband Cammann, like her father, also wanted her to quit acting and stay home all day to take care of the household.
This was definitely not what she signed up for, and the writing was on the wall. Within a year, the marriage was over. Now that she was a free woman, she ramped her life right up.
9. She Fell For Him
After countless appearances on TV—and an Emmy award—Montgomery was in the mood for a little lovin’. In 1956, she appeared in Warner Bros Presents and promptly fell in love with the show’s host. Was this another ill-advised choice? I’ll let you be the judge.
Her beau of the moment was Academy Award winner Gig Young who was a whopping 26 years older than Montgomery. This was, however, not just a passing fling. The two became husband and wife the same year. I guess Montgomery was through with trying to please dad, because this new husband made him furious.
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10. She Saved Herself
Obviously Montgomery’s new choice of husband sent her father into a fury. Not only was he a much older man, but he was also in show business. And what was Young’s third strike? He had a worrisome drinking problem. Sadly, Young began to seriously mistreat Montgomery, and—even sadder—she spent her time trying to save him from himself.
She failed miserably, and the two divorced in 1963. But as we'll see, Montgomery averted a blood disaster by leaving Young in the dust.
11. She Fell Big Time
While working on 1963 neo-noir thriller Johnny Cool, Montgomery solidified her reputation as an actress who met her boyfriends at work. In the film, she played a socialite who falls for a gang member. As it turned out, Montgomery also fell for someone else: the director. So, had she learned her lesson about dating older men? Not a chance.
William Asher was more than a decade older than her. Not only was her new beau older, Montgomery wasn’t safe with Asher. In fact, her very life was in danger.
12. He Couldn't Keep Her Safe
While working on Johnny Cool, Montgomery had the prestige of being the director’s girlfriend. It didn't, however, keep her safe from harm. During filming, Montgomery's hand got crushed in a car door, and she also sustained severe bruises while jumping aboard a boat. In fact, The Los Angeles Times even gave her a nickname: “the most bruised actress in pictures”.
However, besides the physical accidents, this film also bruised her emotionally.
13. She Did It For No Reason
Montgomery's body went through the wringer while filming Johnny Cool, but this wasn’t the only thing out to get her. You see, the script called for Montgomery’s character to suffer a physical attack from one of the male characters. Montgomery was strong, but filming the scene was both emotionally and physically difficult for her.
She persevered, but despite all her troubles, her director/boyfriend swooped in and did something heartless: He mercilessly cut the entire scene from the movie. Montgomery, however, didn’t give up on working with Asher.
14. They Were A Team
Johnny Cool was pretty much meh with the critics, but this didn’t stop Montgomery. She married Asher in 1963 anyway. The two had a plan to sell themselves as a show business duo and quickly stumbled upon a comedic series that caught their eye.
The story was about a modern day witch and her hilarious relationship with her very mortal husband. Of course this was Bewitched and it was about to be one serious game changer for Montgomery. However, though it sounded like the perfect project, it certainly got off to a grisly start.
15. A Shot Rang Out
Montgomery had a husband she loved and was about to embark on a new show that had “hit” written all over it. She eagerly looked forward to the first day of rehearsal: November 22, 1963. If that date rings a bell, it’s for a tragic reason. It was the day a shot rang out in Dallas, ending President Kennedy’s life.
It was a personal hit to Asher who was on a first name basis with President Kennedy. Bewitched was off to an ominous start—and the troubles were just beginning.
16. They Sabotaged It
Montgomery was now in her dream role playing the lovable Samantha Stephens on Bewitched. The dream, however, was about to become a nightmare. You see, Montgomery and her husband, the director, had done something to sabotage the making of Bewitched: They’d gotten pregnant.
They were still filming season one, and Montgomery was very clearly showing her baby bump. Nothing short of a miracle could save the filming of Bewitched.
17. They Cheated
Montgomery was likely ancticipating the arrival of her first child, but the producers on Bewitched were pulling their hair out, trying to figure out what to do. There were no miracles to cover up Montogmery’s expanding, pregnant midriff. There were, however, ways to cheat.
The plan was to first film all of the scenes that didn’t have Montgomery in them—which were few. After Montogmery gave birth, she'd quickly film her scenes, and the show would get its premiere.
18. They Wanted More
When Bewitched finally hit television screens, Montgomery completely bedazzled audiences. The producers thought it would be fun to give them even more of Montgomery. Enter Serena, Samantha Stephens’ free-spirited—and provocatively dressed—cousin. Fans loved her, and so did someone else.
Crew members reported seeing something odd: Montgomery—still in her Serena outfit—and her husband headed to a motel for some behind-the-scenes fun. Montgomery’s real-life husband seemed to have it all. Her on-screen husband, however, had nothing but problems.
19. He Suffered
When the actor playing her husband, Dick York, came down with severe back pain, Montgomery let the writers deal with it. And what was their not-so-clever solution? In all his scenes, Husband Darrin was either on the couch, in bed, or out of town. York’s back pain soon became crippling—and his solution was even worse.
20. It Was Strained
Dick York had turned to medication to deal with his chronic pain, but tragically, this progressed into something worse: onset drinking. While in the middle of a scene, Montgomery suddenly noticed that York was tipsy. It seemed that Dick York's personal troubles couldn't get any worse—but they did.
21. He Had A Third Strike
Montgomery was now dealing with a very distraught co-star, whose pain and drinking deeply affected his ability to perform. That’s when York announced his third complication: He was in love with Montgomery. Now remember, it was Montgomery’s husband who was sitting just over yonder in the director’s chair.
The set of Bewitched had suddenly become a very complicated place. Something had to give...or someone had to go.
22. She Didn’t Care
Montgomery had pretty much had it with York, his back pain, his drinking, and his so-called love for her. She just wanted to go to work and get the job done. While filming a scene for the fifth season, York collapsed on set. That was the last straw. The ailing actor gracefully bowed out, and the production replaced him with Dick Sargent.
When it came down to it, Montgomery didn’t really care who played her husband. However, when they replaced the director—that’s when the real trouble began.
23. She Had To Keep It A Secret
Remember, the man in the director’s chair on Bewitched was Montgomery’s husband. When guest director Richard Michaels stepped in, he took on two roles: TV show director and—shocker alert—lover of the lead actor. Yep, Montgomery started an affair with Michaels, and on a small set like Bewitched it was going to be next to impossible to keep it a secret.
24. It Crashed And Burned
The affair between Montogmery and Michaels crashed and burned in a spectacular way. Both Montgomery's husband and Michaels' wife found out about the affair, and both tried to pick up the pieces of marriages broken by cheating. Even though they tried their darndest, neither couple was able to survive. In fact, the two marriages ended within a year of each other.
Morale on the show was at an all-time low. What would the repercussions be?
25. She Wanted Out
Elizabeth Montgomery was no different than most stars on long term TV series: She was feeling bored and looking for a way out. When she hinted to producers that maybe her time on Bewitched was up, she didn’t get sympathy or a pep talk, she got money thrown at her.
Montogomery continued for a few more seasons just for the cash and then, in season eight, she said stop. Her marriage to the director was over, and she saw no reason to keep playing a character she’d grown tired of. She quit the series that had been her bread and butter for almost a decade.
She was finally a free woman.
26. She Got Angry
Montgomery had now shed two shackles in her life: her husband and the TV series that had locked her into a single role. She desperately needed to move away from sitcoms and do more serious work. In 1974, she appeared in a TV movie about a woman who faces an assault by a man—twice. This was heavy stuff.
Montgomery wanted to stay true to the material, so when the producers wanted to cut the second incident, Montgomery got angry. Her solution was extreme.
27. She Made A Threat
Montgomery knew she had star power and she wasn’t afraid to use it. She said that if they cut the scene, she would walk away from the film altogether. The terrified producers heeded Montogery’s warning, and reaped the benefits.
The film was NBC’s highest-rated movie, and it had an astonishing audience share of almost 50%. In addition, Montgomery received an Emmy nomination. Sadly, she did not take home the trophy. There was, however, a win for other people.
28. She Made A Change
This movie, with Montgomery as its star, started a conversation about how authorities and other professionals treat women who are victims of this kind of offense. Following this film, human rights for female victims improved. Montgomery could stand proudly as an actor who was making a difference.
The actress clearly liked working on edgy material—and, well, the edge doesn’t get any sharper than her next project.
29. She Wielded An Ax
Montgomery continued to take roles that helped audiences forget her Bewitched role. In 1975, she starred as the title character in the TV movie The Legend of Lizzie Borden. If she was looking for serious, she’d done a good job. There was nothing funny about this true story of a woman who hacks up her father and stepmother with an ax.
It wasn’t, however, only Lizzie Borden who was swinging an ax.
30. She Had Him Removed
The ax on the set of The Legend of Lizzie Borden may have been a prop, but they should have kept it away from Montgomery. You see, when she signed on to play Lizzie Borden, Montgomery wasn’t so keen on the director.
This was horror film filmmaker Curtis Harrington, who had the idea to make the film in the first place. Montgomery, however, wanted someone more serious to direct the film, and the ax fell on Harrington. Was Montgomery morphing into her ax wielding character? Well, there’s a shocking reason why this might be true.
31. There Was An Eerie Connection
Like most actors, Montgomery knew she was just playing a part when she signed up to portray the murderous Lizzie Borden. But there was an eerie connection between the actress and her character. Genealogist Rhonda McClure found out something shocking about Montgomery and Borden: They both came from the same family.
In fact, they were “sixth cousins once removed”. There was, however, something else in this film that Montgomery had to be comfortable with: acting in the buff.
32. She Went Au Naturel
Experts say that Lizzie Borden could not have committed the murders unless one thing was true: She hadn’t worn a stitch of clothing while doing it. You see, they found no blood on her clothes, and she had no time to do the laundry. Montgomery had no problem appearing sans clothing, but this was a TV movie after all.
So, in the TV version there’s only a suggestion of Montgomery sans clothing. However, for the European release in theaters, audiences saw her swinging the ax in her birthday suit. For her next movie, Montgomery went from acting like a maniac to acting with one.
33. It Was Controversial
Continuing on her stream of serious minded projects, Montgomery then signed up for 1977’s A Killing Affair. Here, Montgomery plays an officer who begins to have romantic feelings for her partner. So what’s the controversy in that?
Well, in 1977 the fact that her love interest was Black was still quite the taboo. But hold your horses, there was something else about this film. Something that could have cost Montgomery her life.
34. She Was One Lucky Lady
The real danger on A Killing Affair was Montgomery’s co-star: It was none other than OJ Simpson. Of course, Simpson would later get into huge trouble when authorities charged him with the murder of his ex-wife Nicole Brown Simpson and her friend Ron Goldman. Let’s just say that Montgomery was more than a little lucky she didn’t pick up a boyfriend on this film.
Montgomery had certainly come a long way from playing housewife Samantha Stephens. But not so far that she couldn't go back.
35. She Played Her One Last Time
Even though Montgomery was through with playing Samantha Stephens, she wasn’t through with making money off of her. In the 1980s, a series of chocolate commercials aired, starring none other than Montgomery as Samantha Stephens. If you don’t remember these very cheesy commercials, don’t worry: They were only aired in Japan.
It turned out that Montgomery didn’t want American audiences to see her making money from Bewitched. Montgomery was taking in money hand over fist, and her personal life was also coming up roses.
36. She Gave Up
So, what was going on with Montgomery’s usually turbulent personal life? Well, she seemed to have given up on marriage. Since leaving Bewitched, Montgomery had shacked up with TV actor Robert Foxworth. Montgomery and Foxworth were as good as married, but had never actually tied the knot.
Montgomery, however, didn’t need a wedding ring to do what she did best.
37. She Had A Wandering Eye
Montgomery’s life with live-in boyfriend Foxworth was likely like working on Bewitched: safe and predictable. So, who would lure Montgomery’s wandering eye this time? Enter: Russian ballet dancer Alexander Godunov, whose defection from Russia was so dramatic it even involved then-President Jimmy Carter.
Well, Montgomery met Godunov and they started a passionate affair. This was a first for Montgomery. Well, it wasn’t the first time she’d cheated—but it was her first younger man.
38. She Broke Her Pattern
Yes, Montgomery had finally changed her pattern. She was through with older men. Hurrah! Except for one thing: her younger boyfriend wasn’t any better than the older guys. Most importantly, he had a drinking problem. Their love affair burned hot—but it burned out fast.
Now older and wiser, Montgomery dumped her boozy dancer and went back to reliable Foxworth. The two finally decided to marry in 1993.
39. She Was Critical
Okay, one thing is pretty clear: Montgomery wasn’t the most faithful spouse. This didn’t mean, however, she didn’t care about things like freedom and equality outside her house. Even back in the 1970s she became a fiery critic of her government. She saw that young men were giving up their lives for a battle that she thought was meaningless.
This, of course, was the Vietnam War, and Montgomery risked losing fans by speaking out against her country’s involvement. Yes, Vietnam had made Montgomery angry, but she was even angrier about something happening in the good ole USA.
40. She Fought
Another fire under Montgomery’s belly was the equal rights for women movement. Montgomery looked around and saw that men and women were not equal, and she wanted to do something about it. But wait a minute, hadn’t she already done this on Bewitched?
In fact, many people thought that the character of Samantha helped push women’s rights forward. How? Clearly the power balance of her onscreen marriage tilted very squarely in her direction. The New York Times went a step further and said that Samantha was “a hopeful role model for a changing society”.
There was, however, something sneaky Montgomery had done on Bewitched. It was a not-so-subtle appeal for gender equality.
41. She Took It Off
By the end of Bewitched, Elizabeth Montgomery was itching to become political but was feeling bound by playing Samantha Stephens. When she wanted to express her support for the women’s liberation movement, she did something incredibly sneaky.
You see, women across America were showing their anger by burning their bras. So what did Montgomery do? She took hers off and refused to wear it while filming. But that wasn't all.
42. She Led The Parade
Remember there were two Dicks on Bewitched: Dick York and Dick Sargent. As it turned out the second one just happened to be gay. Montgomery wanted to support her TV husband, so she dove into the Gay Rights movement. She and Sargent were the grand marshals of the Gay Pride Parade in LA in 1992.
But wait a minute, wasn’t there something fundamentally gay about Bewitched anyway?
43. She Had To Hide It
Montgomery later admitted that Bewitched was subtext for "repression in general". Okay, let’s break this down.
The show was about a woman who couldn’t be her real self. In fact, the very thing she was, was something she had to hide. And remember, back when they were making Bewitched, being gay was against the law. You could even end up behind bars for it. Could it be that being a witch was a metaphor for being gay?
Okay, that metaphor kinda works. There was, however, something else gay about Bewitched: almost everyone involved.
44. It Was Full Of Gay
We’ve already talked about how Dick Sargent was gay, but was there someone else gay on Bewitched? Paul Lynde, who had 10 episodes as Uncle Arthur, eventually came out of the closet. The man who played Samantha’s father—Maurice Evens—was reportedly gay, and some rumors suggest that the actress who played Samantha's mother—Agnes Moorehead—was a lesbian.
Some people called it the gayest cast in TV history. Montgomery had surrounded herself with a queer community, so when a national health tragedy struck, she stepped up.
45. She Stood Beside Them
In the 1980s Montgomery witnessed a dark cloud over America. This was the AIDS crisis, and she saw many of her gay friends suffering. Of course, the always political Montgomery was there to stand on the right side of history. In fact, she was one of the first celebrities to show their support.
She was incredibly brave—but sadly, she’d soon need this courage for her own health crisis.
46. She Ignored It
In 1995, Montgomery was in career heaven. She’d finally got a TV show she could sink her political teeth into. This was Deadline for Murder: From the Files of Edna Buchanan. Sure it had a stupidly long title, but it had a very exciting source: Buchanan was a real life Pulitzer-Prize winning journalist.
But when Montgomery began feeling fluish while filming, she ignored the symptoms. This decision would prove to be a disastrous one.
47. It Was Too Late
It turned out that it wasn’t the flu that Montgomery had, but something much worse: cancer. Unfortunately, the cancer had already advanced; it was terminal. Only eight weeks after her diagnosis, Elizabeth Montgomery passed. She was 62 years old and lucky enough to have her loved ones around her. A huge coincidence, however, made this date in history a double tragedy.
48. There Was A Gruesome Discovery
Remember when Montgomery dated that Russian dancer? Well, she’d lost touch with Alexander Godunov, but a morbid coincidence brought them back together. The same day that Montgomery passed, there was a gruesome discovery. Godunuv doctor sent a nurse to check on him—but when she entered his apartment, she stopped her tracks.
49. Her Exes Met Sad Ends
There was the dancer’s lifeless body. Godunuv had been lying there for close to a week, and no one had noticed. However, Godunov wasn't Montgomery's only ex to meet a disastrous end. Her agressive second husband, Gig Young, met his own grisly end in 1978.
Shockingly, he took his wife's life and then ended his own. Good thing Montgomery ended her own marriage to Young when she did.
50. They Sold Them Off
Montgomery’s early and shocking passing had done more than devastate her real and chosen family. They wanted her to live on but didn’t know how to make it happen. Then they had a brilliant brainstorm. They would take Montgomery’s clothes and sell them. Wait, were they that hard up for money?
No, it was an auction of her wardrobe and the proceeds went to the AIDS Healthcare Foundation of LA—a cause close to Montgomery’s heart. They even got Erin Murphy, one of the twins who played her TV daughter, to walk model the garments.