Family Tree Tuesday – Elizabeth Montgomery
Elizabeth Montgomery was an American film and television actress, best known as Samantha Stephens in Bewitched. Bewitched was a rating success and at the time was the highest rated series ever for the ABC network. Montgomery played the lovable witch Samantha Stevens for eight years (1964-1972). The show had been renewed for a ninth season (1972-1973), but Montgomery wanted to move on and backed out. She received five Emmy and four Golden Globe nominations for her role on Bewitched, but never won. In June 2005, a statue of Montgomery as Samantha Stephens was erected in Salem, Massachusetts.
After Bewitched, Montgomery returned to a Samantha-like role in a series of Japanese television commercials (1980-83) for “Mother” chocolate biscuits and cookies by confectionery conglomerate Lotte Corp. These Japanese commercials provided a substantial salary for her while she remained out of sight of non-Japanese fans and Hollywood industry. In the United States, she spent much of her later career pursuing dramatic roles that took her as far away from the good-natured Samantha as possible. Her later roles such as a rape victim in A Case of Rape (1974); the accused (but later acquitted) murderess Lizzie Borden in William Bast’s The Legend of Lizzie Borden (1975); and a pioneer woman facing hardship in 1820s Ohio in the mini-series The Awakening Land (1978) were performances that brought her Emmy Award nominations.
Elizabeth Montgomery was born on April 15, 1933 (died May 18, 1995) to actor-director Robert Montgomery and Broadway actress Elizabeth Bryan (Allen). She had an older sister, Martha Bryan Montgomery, who died as an infant and was named after her aunt Martha-Bryan Allen. She also had a younger brother, Robert Montgomery, Jr. (1936-2000).
Elizabeth’s father, Robert, was born Henry Montgomery, Jr. in Beacon, New York. His early childhood was one of privilege since his father was president of the New York Rubber Company. The family’s fortune was gone after his father, Henry Montgomery, Sr., committed suicide in 1922 by jumping off the Brooklyn Bridge. Robert Montgomery became President of the Screen Actors Guild in 1935 and was elected again in 1946. In 1937, he was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actor as a psychopath in the chiller Night Must Fall, then returned to playing light comedy roles, such as Alfred Hitchcock’s Mr. and Mrs. Smith (1941), but continued to search for dramatic roles. He joined the U.S. Navy during World War II rising to the rank of lieutenant commander. In 1945, he returned to Hollywood, making his uncredited directing debut with They Were Expendable, where he directed some of the PT Boat scenes when director John Ford was unable to work for health reasons. He hosted an Emmy Award-winning television series, Robert Montgomery Presents which was where his daughter Elizabeth had her first television debut.
Robert Montgomery was active in Republican politics and was a friendly witness before the House Un-American Activities Committee in 1947 out of concern about communist influence in the entertainment industry. In 1954, he took an unpaid position as consultant and coach to President Dwight D. Eisenhower, advising him on how to look his best in his television appearances before the nation. A pioneering media consultant, Montgomery had an office in the White House during this time. He has two stars on The Hollywood Walk of Fame, one for movies and another one for television.
Elizabeth’s aunt Martha-Bryan Allen was an American 1920s stage actress who chose matrimony over a promising Broadway career. Her father, Bryan H. Allen, was the treasurer of a local electric company. She married Lewis Cushman, Jr. founder of the American Bakeries Company.
New York socialite Frederick Gallatin Cammann became Elizabeth Montgomery’s first husband in 1954, which lasted for barely a year. Her second marriage was to actor Gig Young from 1956-1963, and then to director-producer -screenwriter William Asher from 1963-1973 with whom she had three children: William Asher, Jr., Robert Asher and Rebecca Asher. Her last two pregnancies were incorporated into Bewitched as Samantha’s pregnancies with Tabitha and Adam Stephens. Montgomery’s final marriage was to actor Robert Foxworth in 1993, after living with him for nearly twenty years.
Throughout the last year of her life, Montgomery was a volunteer and a strong supporter for the Los Angeles Unit of Recording for the Blind & Dyslexic (RFB&D), a non-profit organization which records educational books on specially formatted CDs and in downloadable formats for disabled people. After her death, the Los Angeles Unit of RFB&D dedicated the 1995 Record-A-Thon to Montgomery and secured 21 celebrities to assist in the reading of the book Chicken Soup for the Soul, which was also dedicated to her memory. A star on The Hollywood Walk of Fame was presented in honor of Montgomery’s work in television on January 4, 2008.
Check out Elizabeth Montgomery’s family tree and see how you may be related!