Elizabeth Montgomery played the lovable witch, Samantha, in the hit sitcom Bewitched. But did you know that towards the end of her time on the show, she chose to rebel a little? She did this by not wearing a bra on camera, which for the time was a pretty risqué thing to do. In this video, we’re taking a look at why she did it, as well as some other interesting aspects of Elizabeth Montgomery’s life! Join us as Facts Verse presents: Elizabeth Montgomery Didn’t Wear a Bra in Late Bewitched Seasons
Elizabeth’s last stand
While Elizabeth Montgomery was certainly appreciative of Bewitched, and all it did for her career and her life, at a certain point, she was over it. She actually attempted to quit after 5 seasons of the hit show. But ABC wasn’t about to let go of a huge money maker like Bewitched. They offered Montgomery a lavish amount of money to stay on, and she agreed. She kept at it for three more full seasons, with the show ending after its eighth season. But that didn’t mean she was psyched to go to work every day by the end.
Montgomery was itching to move to new and more exciting projects. She felt stifled by Bewitched, since she played the same character in more or less the same settings week after week. As such, she began to rebel slightly. This came in the form of not wearing a bra on camera in the eighth season. Montgomery later admitted it was not only to show her discontent with still having to do the show, but also as a nod to the feminist movement.
Despite their star clearly being ready to jump ship, the network tried the same strategy after the eighth season, offering Montgomery an even more exorbitant sum of money. But this time, Montgomery turned it down. And in the years after the show was cancelled, this decision proved financially correct for her. That’s because she actually owned 20% of the show’s revenue. So as it went into syndication, she made millions in residuals.
Bewtiched and Feminism
While it’s a lot more common these days to see female characters on TV and in movies who have strength, power, agency, and more, it was a quite rare back in the days when Bewitched was being produced. As such, it can be argued that Bewitched was an important show for the feminist movement. In her book, “Culture and the Sitcom: Student Essays” author Isabelle Jeffrey makes the argument that the show makes bold statements not only about gender roles, but about the expetations of society for women, and the patriarchy that inhibits them. She points out that Betwitched was a female-centric sitcom where (nearly) all of the female chracters have strength. This was certainly a rarity. And yes, perhaps it was due to the fact that it dealt with magical realism, so the writers and producers felt less pressure to stick to the norms of 1960’s gender roles. But regardless, the show had several female characters like Samantha, Endora, and Serena, who portrayed strength and agency that exceeded that of most of sitcom females. Jeffrey even points out that Tabitha, Samantha’s daughter who appears later on in the series, is given powers right away. This makes her immediately more powerful than all of the males on the series. And a strong feminist ideal was displayed with the way Montgomery’s Samantha treated Tabitha. Rather than being told to be ashamed of being different and more powerful, Tabitha is encouraged by her mom to take pride in who she is and embrace her powers. With these elements in mind, Jeffery says the show’s great power is that it invites a legit conversation about female issues and empowerment. And that’s not something that can be said about that many shows of this era.
Activism and Charitable Work
Elizabeth Montgomery certainly left her mark on the world of TV, but it could be argued that she left an even larger one in the worlds of political activism and charitable work. She was known for being a champion of left-leaning political causes, and worked tirelessly to help them. And unlike some celebs who simply lend out their name for a cause, but don’t do much actual work, Montgomery liked to put her blood, sweat, and tears into the causes she held dear. She donated money, and gave a ton of her energy and time to various causes that were important to her. These included women’s rights, gay rights, and outreach to disabled people. She had a particular passion for spreading awareness of AIDS and promoting research for it. In 1992, Montgomery was one of the grand marshals for the LA Gay Pride Parade.
Montgomery was a fierce opponent of the Vietnam War, and continued to speak out against transgressions of the US government throughout the years. She offered her talents as a voiceover artist for two documentaries that were harsh assessments of US foreign policy. One was called Cover Up: Behind the Iran Contra Affair, and it was released in 1988. The other was its sequel, which was released in 1992 and called The Panama Deception. The latter won an Academy Award.
Her charitable work was just as important to her, especially as she neared the end of her life. Though she died in 1995, she was hard at work in 1994 with various charities. That year, for example, she produced a handful of PSA’s promoting Learning Ally, a nonprofit that created recordings of educational books designed specifically for the disabled community. She also volunteered with the organization, and lent her voice to one of their recordings: a version of the 1952 best-selling poetry book “When We Were Very Young” by A.A. Milne.
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Now let’s talk about some other interesting facts about Elizabeth Montgomery…
She accidentally created a Samantha boom
The name Samantha wasn’t all that popular in the era when Bewitched was first put on the air. But the show was so successful, and Montgomery was such a popular actress, that her character’s name suddenly became hugely common as a name given to babies. So, if your name is Samantha, there’s a decent chance you can thank Elizabeth Montgomery, and the makers of Bewitched for that.
She was nearly in a Hitchcock movie
One of Montgomery’s early roles was in an episode of Alfred Hitchcock Presents. And while we obviously know her as a comedy powerhouse, her performance for the legendary director showed how versatile of a talent she was. In fact, Hitchcock was so thrilled by her performance in that one episode, that he wanted her to play a part in his upcoming film, Marnie. She was to play the sister-in-law of Sean Connery’s character. Montgomery probably would have liked to have done it, too. But unfortunately she was unavailable due to a scheduling conflict. So Hitchcock had to search elsewhere, and the part eventually went to actress Diane Baker.
She has several connections to Lizzie Borden
After playing a wholesome and magical character on Bewitched for so long, Montgomery looked to branch out in her post-Bewitched career. Right away she played two roles that were decidedly unlike Samantha Stephens. The first was as a rape victim in 1974’s A Case of Rape. This was certainly a dark departure from the lighter fare of Betwitched. For her effort, she got an Emmy Award nomination. She leaned into this experience by next taking on the role of accused murderer Lizzie Borden. This was in The Legend of Lizzie Borden in 1975. She shined in the role, earning yet another Emmy nod for it. However, her connection to Borden went beyond portraying her in a movie. After Montgomgery’s death, a genealogist traced back Montgomery’s family tree and discovered she and Lizzie Borden were related. It was distant – the two were sixth cousins – but it’s still a remarkable coincidence.
Her famous nose twitch
One of the most famous aspects of Bewitched was the slight nose and lip twitch Samantha did whenever she worked her magic. Accompanied by a slight bell melody, the twitch would indicate to the audience that she was about to fix a problem that could only be fixed with a paranormal skill set. And yet, it wasn’t simply something the writers came up with on a whim. Montgomery’s real life husband was Bewitched producer William Asher. Asher had previously noticed that Montgomery did this exact nose and lip twitch whenever she was nervous about something. He found it so intriguing and endearing, that he worked it into the show.
She’s a part of the Salem witch lore.
Even though Montgomery’s character of Samantha was a sitcom witch, she somehow managed to become a part of witch-based American lore. As we all remember, the Salem Witch Trials were a horrible incident in early American history, when women in the small Massachusetts town were unfairly accused of being witches, and some were even put to death. The incident became so infamous, it spawned the phrase ‘witch hunt.’ However, nowadays, the Salem Witch Trials are often thought of in a lighter sense. And the town itself has embraced its part in the scandalous time, and its witch-based decorations, themes, and tours draw a ton of visitors each year. It was in the spirit of this take on Salem and witches that led to a bronze statue of Samantha Stephens being erected there. The statue went up in 2005, and visitors can pay tribute to a fake witch being honored among real-fake witches.
Now it’s time to hear from you. Are you a fan of Elizabeth Montgomery? What’s your favorite episode of Bewitched? Let us know in the comments below. And before you go, be sure to give this video a like, and subscribe to Facts Verse if you haven’t already. Click the bell icon to stay updated on all our latest content.