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Why Dick York Left Bewitched (Tragic)

It’s never a good sign when the famous TV show recasts one of your favorite characters with a new actor, but it’s a scenario that plays out time and time again since the dawn of television. One of the most famous TV recastings was on Bewitched. Darrin, played by Dick York, swaps out for Dick Sargent in season 6 and many viewers to this day still have no clue why Dick York chose to leave the series. The true reason for his departure is actually quite heartbreaking.

But before we get to that, lets take a look at how he got his start in show business.

Dick York’s Early Years As An Actor

On September 4, 1928, little Richard Allen York came into the world, the son of a seamstress named Betty and a salesman named Bernard. When he was attending St Mary of the Lake grammar school in Chicago, a nun discovered that he was a talented singer and pushed him to join the schools theater club. Young York made his acting debut in the play Water Babies at the age of 9. The aspiring actor played a fish.

He later went on to study drama at De Paul University and landed small roles on local radio programs. His first major foray into acting however came in 1944 when he scored a part in the radio series That Brewster Boy. He Followed that up with a the role of Billy Fairfield on The Jack Armstrong Show.

Host In Junior Junction

For the next three years, he would bounce between that role, doing commercials for daytime Radio series, and starring in a weekly drama show which aired 5 days a week.

After that, ABC hired him on as a host for a show called Junior Junction, a program that would direct at an audience. He stars in several recruitment films, by the Navy including one short that distributes to high schools across the nation called, Shy Guy.

By the time that the 1950s came around, York found himself performing in Broadway plays. Notably he acted in Tea and Sympathy in 1953 and Bus Stop in 1955. In 1955, he also had a supporting role in the film My Sister Eileen and another in the 1958 film Cowboy.

Before joining the cast of his most memorable series Bewitched in 1960, York appeared in quite a few TV shows that are now considered classics including The Alfred Hitchcock Hour, The Twilight Zone, The Virginian and Wagon Train.

Bewitched And His Failing Health

Bewitched was a huge success for York. He nominates for an Emmy Award for his performance in 1968 but eventually, the actor forces to step away from the series.

One of the most popular theories at the time for why he decided to call it quits was because of some kind of dispute between the actor and the network execs over money. In short, people suspected that Dick York wanted more cash and the network brass weren’t having it. But as plausible as this scenario may sound, nothing could be further from the reality of the situation that played out.

Even though Dick York absolutely loved being on the program – and he played his well quite flawlessly- he stuck with it much longer than he should have. Health problems haunted him for much of the duration of his tenure on set and they would eventually be his undoing.

They Came To Cordura Movie

Several years before Bewitched entered into production, Dick York suffered from a traumatic back injury while filming the movie They Came To Cordura. That tragic event left him in constant pain and the actor couldn’t stand for extended duration without being in a tremendous amount of discomfort. York turned to opiate-based painkillers for relief.

To help alleviate some of his symptoms, a wall is built at a slant backstage of the set so he can lean up against it between shots. That only served as a temporary fix because halfway through season threes production cycle his pain got so bad that filming would be forced to pause with increasing frequency.

To try to work around the actor’s limitations, Darrin gets more scenes where he is either lying down in bed or sitting in a chair or on a couch. But even this solution proves to be not enough to tend to his needs, Darrin writes out of scripts without much explanation. Most of the time his absence, saying that he is away on a business trip or that Samantha needs to visit her witchy family members.

By the way, if you’re enjoying this video so far, make sure you give it a like and subscribe to our channel. And stick around to find out how Dick York spent his latter years helping the poor. His story is inspirational as much as it is tragic.

But lets jump back into talking about Bewitched…

By Season Five It Was Clear That Dick York Needed An Out

Dick York suffered from a sudden illness during the filming of season five that proved to be the death of his time working on the series. During the production of the episode “Daddy Does His Thing”, he developed a high fever of 105 and was feeling quite ill but that didn’t stop him from showing up to work. He took a strong cocktail of antibiotics and figured he was good to go, but it turns out he wasn’t

Even though he was wearing a sheepskin jacket and it was mid-summer, he was freezing and couldn’t stop shaking..While filming a scene on some scaffolding, Dick suddenly collapsed. He rushes to a nearby medical facility where he stays for quite some time in recovery. William Asher, the show’s director visited York and asked him if he had any desire to call it quits. Dick replied by saying ‘ If it’s alright with you, Billy.”

When the show renews for a sixth season, Dick York replaces Dick Sargent. Of course, audiences weren’t thrilled with the change-up and Bewitched only went on for another 2 seasons before being canceled. In addition to falling ratings, Elizabeth Montgomery who played Samantha Stephens no longer felt like the show was worth keeping on the air without York. It became blatantly clear that is was time to move on. And move on they did.

Dick York’s Health Continued To Go Downhill

Even after stepping away from Bewitched, York’s health continued to deteriorate. His back pain continued to worsen, and as such, so did his increasing reliance on high-powered prescription painkillers. For the next several years he grappled with the horrors of opiate addiction and when he finally decided enough was enough and nixed the drugs, he endured terrifying withdrawal symptoms which included cold sweats, nausea, vomiting and hallucinations for days on end.

Even though he was able to win his battle with addiction, his health issues persisted. It looked like his Hollywood career was pretty much kaput. He and his spouse buy some real estate and intend on renting it out to live off of, but he isn’t cut out for being landlord. His heart is too big and he just can’t bare telling people that are already on welfare that they evict when they couldn’t pay their monthly rent. Eventually, because of negligent payments, the couple lost the building.

Dick York couldn’t even afford to go to the dentist. Soon, his teeth decayed and rot right out of his head. He gained well over 100 pounds and couldn’t find any gainful employment, but by the late 80s it looked as if he was starting to turn his life around. He lost all the weight, got his teeth fixed and even made a return to acting appearing in series like Fantasy Island and Simon and Simon but after wrapping up work on those shows, the phone calls stopped coming in and he was back where he started – jobless, sick and broke.

Dick York Spent His Later Years Tending To Least Fortunate

Despite being mostly bed-ridden. York spent his remaining years teaching acting and working alongside the transient and homeless population. The plight of homeless people was always something that struck a cord with York. Compassion was one of his most admirable qualities. The way he saw it, anyone could find themselves without a home at some point in their life.

York grew up during the Great Depression. Poverty was something that everyone that lived through that time period saw up close and personal.. His family was poor and could barely afford to put food on the table. When his brother passed away, they couldn’t even afford to give him a proper funeral. His family had to break into the cemetery late at night in order to bury him.

Having lived through such troubling times and having had a taste of what it was like to have to live without, York felt compelled to do everything that he could to help those that were in need – even when it was York himself who needed a helping hand.

Dick York Is A Heavy Smoker

It didn’t help that York was also a heavy smoker. It’s reported that he smoked three packs of cigarettes a day. This bad habit eventually caught up to him when he developed a debilitating case of emphysema. On February 20, 1992, when he was only 63, he fell victim to the end-result of decades of bodily neglect and declining health. He was laid to rest in Plainfield Cemetery in Rockford, Michigan.

Dick York’s story is truly one of the sadder one’s that Hollywood has to offer. May his life serve as a cautionary tale to those that might not be giving their health the kind of prioritization that it deserves. And for gosh-sakes, if you’re smoking three packs of cigs a day, do yourself a favor and pick up some nicotine gum at the drug store. It’s time to quit.

Now we would love to hear from all of you Bewitched fans out there. What did you think about Dick Sargents performance as Darrin? Do you think he did an adequate job at playing the part or do you think that no one could ever fill Dick York’s shoes? Let us know what you think in the comments section.

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