On ABC’s Bewitched, veteran actress Marion Lorne played Samantha’s favorite Aunt Clara. She also had the distinction of being one of the few relatives of Samantha that her husband Darrin actually got along with.
Aunt Clara was this gloriously hapless character who was elderly, bumbling, and absent-minded while simultaneously being quite lovable. While she always meant well, Aunt Clara’s spells typically would backfire in comedic fashion. And every time she would enter or exit the scene, she would always do so with an exaggerated fumble, such as clambering out of a chimney or crashing into a wall.
Being the eccentric that she was, Aunt Clara was very proud of her collection of more than 3,000 doorknobs of all things. Interestingly, this quirky obsession actually inspired by Lorne’s real-life collection.
Fans of the series might recall that Aunt Clara suddenly vanished at the end of the fourth season. She later replaced in season six by Sam’s new bungling housekeeper Esmerelda. While Aunt Clara’s departure never really explained, the real reason why Marion Lorne was no longer in the show is actually quite heartbreaking.
Join Facts Verse as we get to the bottom of Why Aunt Clara From Bewitched Never Seen Again.
Marion Lorne Got Her Start In Theater
Born Marion Lorne MacDougall on the 12th of August, 1883 (or possibly 1885 or 1888 depending on who you ask). This Pennsylvania-native hailed from Scottish and English immigrants. She grew up in a small mining town called West Pittston, which can found halfway between Scranton – home of Dunder Mifflin – and Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania.
Marion’s mother a homemaker named Jenny Louise, and her father a medical doctor named William Lorne MacDougall.
As far as her birth year goes, records indicate that she was born in 1883. It appears that by the 1920s, she intentionally lied about her age to make herself appear younger. Back then, record keeping wasn’t like how it is today. You could simply jot down another name or date on an official document. And there wasn’t really a easy way to verify whether or not it was accurate without jumping through a bunch of hoops and hitting up the official governmental archives.
Marion kept up the rouse that she was younger than she really was apparently right up until her death. Because even her urn lists her birth year as 1885. But anyway, regardless of all of that, we do know that she enrolled at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in New York City shortly after graduating from high school.
Lorne made her debut on Broadway in 1905 at the age of 22. She also enjoyed a flourishing stage career across the pond in London. It is where she had her own theatre called The Whitehall. There she enjoyed the top billing when appearing in plays written by her husband Walter C. Hackett, whom she married in 1911. Lorne and Hackett would remain happily married until Walter’s death in 1944. They never had any kids together, but by all accounts they seemed perfectly content with their childless lives.
Lorne and Hackett’s plays at The Whitehall were all very popular and well-received by critics. In fact, none of their stage productions ran shorter than 125 nights.
After appearing in several Vitaphone shorts with Warner Brothers. Including 1931s Success, in which she co-starred with Jack Haley, Lorne made her feature-length film debut in her late 60s. That offering Alfred Hitchcock’s psychological thriller film noir classic Strangers on a Train. Surprisingly, despite making a definitive impression in that film, Hollywood would only continue to use her a couple more times in movies. Some would say that this oversight was an egregious waste of her talent. Fortunately, her story didn’t end here.
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She Successfully Made The Leap To Television
Early in the infancy of television, from 1952 to 1955, Lorne was a series regular on the ABC sitcom Mister Peepers, playing the perpetually perplexed junior high English teacher Mrs. Gurney.
From 1957 to 1958, Lorne appeared alongside Joan Caulfield in the short-lived yet much applauched NBC sitcom Sally. In that series, she played a wealthy and scatterbrained elderly widow who was the co-owner of a department store. By now, you’ve probably caught on to the fact that Marion often cast in roles of befuddled, butterfingered women. While she played that part well, one shouldn’t assume that was she was a one-trick pony. In truth, Lorne had a great deal of range in her performances.
Marion Lorne was a gifted actress, but she once admitted that she was ‘a coward when it came to live television’. That being said, she persuaded on more than one occasion to appear on live TV with Rosalind Russell to promote the film The Girl Rush in the mid-1950s.
After Sally canceled after one 26-episode season, Lorne made regular appearances on the CBS variety series The Garry Moore Show.
While she devoted practically her entire life to acting and accomplished much both on the stage and screen. Marion Lorne would find the most widespread fame and success after she cast on Bewitched in 1964. That also proved to be her final role.
She will forever remembered as the mumbling, rattlepated Aunt Clara. Like Samantha, Aunt Clara was a lovable witch. But with her advancing age, she found that she was beginning to lose her powers. Lorne delivered an incredibly performance in that series and she would have likely continued to shine on the small screen if her health had permitted to do so.
As we mentioned a moment ago, Bewitched was Lorne’s final role. And honestly, it proved to be the icing on the cake so to speak for her incredible six-decade-spanning career. Deservedly, she nominated for an Emmy award for Best Supporting Actress. But sadly just ten days before the award ceremony, she succumbed to a heart attack in her Manhattan apartment on the 9th of May, 1966. She ended up winning that Emmy posthumously, and Elizabeth Montgomery gave a heartfelt and touching acceptance speech on her behalf.
Lorne was 84 years old when she died. At the time of her passing, Bewitched had just finished up production on it’s fourth season and was gearing up for season five.
Lorne Not The Only Bewitched Cast Member To Die During It’s Production
Alice Pearce played Samantha and Darrin’s nosy Karen-esque next-door neighbor Gladys Kravitz. She diagnosed with terminal cancer shortly before production on the series started in 1964. However, she hid this fact from the show’s producers, knowing that if she revealed her diagnosis she wouldn’t get the role. Despite keeping her health issues secret, throughout her time on the series, her rapid weight loss was quite apparent.
Nearing the end of the show’s second season, Pearce sadly passed away from ovarian cancer at the age of 48. Like Marion Lorne, she too posthumously won a Primetime Emmy for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series.
Following her death, the role of Gladys recast with Sanda Gould taking Pearce’s place.
Rumors Persisted Of A Bewitched Cast Curse
While Bewitched is remembered as being a lighthearted comedy with an overall uplifting message. Pretty much everyone that appeared in it either suffered a great deal of turmoil because of it or ended up meeting tragic ends. This naturally led the more tin-foil-hat-inclined crowd to arrive at the conclusion that the show was cursed.
After Bewitched went off the air in 1972, Elizabeth Montgomery found herself typecast as everyone’s favorite suburban housewife witch. She couldn’t seem to escape the role. For the remainder of her career she refused to do roles that remotely resembled Samantha’s zany personality. By the time of her death from cancer in 1995, she didn’t want anything to do with the show at all.
Dick York, aka the first Dick, became one of America’s most beloved actors during his time on Bewitched, but his personal life was riddled with tragedy and illness.
He got his start as a child actor in the ’40s and landed his breakthrough role in 1960s Inherit The Wind.
After being cast as Darrin, he was forced to leave the show in 1969 after suffering a devastating back injury and subsequently getting hooked on pain meds. Unable to keep acting, in the mid-1970s, York lost his entire life savings in a failed business venture. With no other options to fall back on, he was forced to go on welfare. Broke and destitute, York died of emphysema in 1992.
After Leaving Bewitched, Dick York was replaced by another Dick, Dick Sargent. He had originally been offered the role of Darrin in 1964 but turned it down. Sargent stuck around for three seasons but probably wouldn’t have been given the role if the producers discovered that he was gay.
Dick came out in 1991 and became a gay role model of sorts. He knew that he was risking his career by coming out of the closet. But being true to himself was more important than fame and fortune. Sadly, just three years later, he died of prostate cancer.
Actress Agnes Moorehead, who played Endora, was in the cast of the 1956 film The Conqueror. The movie was actually filmed near a nuclear test site and was highly radiated – although nobody realized that at the time of filming. Dozens of cast and crew members ended up dying of cancer, including the film’s director Dick Powell, Susan Hayword, John Wayne, and ultimately Moorehead as well. She succumbed to the disease in 1974.
The last Bewitched star to meet a tragic end was David White, who played Darrin’s boss Larry Tate. White later became a regular on shows like The Rockford Files and Columbo. However, after his son, Jonathan, was killed in the horrific 1988 Lockerbie bombing, White became a recluse. Tragically, his wife, Mary Welch, passed away when giving birth to Jonathan in 1958. A little more than a year after dropping out of the spotlight, White died from a heart attack in 1990.
So what do you think? Is there really a Bewitched curse or do you think that all of these star’s troubling plights are just coincidental? Let us know in the comments. We’d love to hear your take.
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