Bewitched: the “Darrin syndrome” and the tragic end of the good witch who conquered the public by moving her nose

A movement of the nose, a very particular sound and the urge to use his magic to solve everything while having promised not to: the essence of bewitched and the charm of Elizabeth Montgomery in the skin of the lovely Samantha Stephens did not become an absolute hit only in the 60s, when the ABC network The United States premiered the sitcom, but it also garnered fans around the world many years after its release thanks to its continued repeats. However, Not all was charm in the history of this comedy, because the tragedy eventually passed through the lives of its protagonists.

Created by Sol Saks and inspired by, among other works, the film I married a witch – a romantic comedy filmed during the golden age of Hollywood – the series is a portrait of the home life of an American married couple in the 1960s. Samantha is a good witch who marries Darrin Stephens (Dick York), an advertising executive who discovers his powers on his honeymoon. In love and submissive, she refuses to use her grace of hers and reveal her identity, but unable to keep her promise, lacking a magic wand, she often moves her nose to solve the different problems she faces. find her husband.

To complete the scene, Endora (Agnes Moorehead), Sam’s mother, doesn’t approve of her daughter’s union with a mortal, so she often shows up to make her life miserable with evil spells. During the 254 chapters, the series went from black and white to color, the Stephens family had two children – Adam and Thabitha – and the controlled witch from the first chapter gave way to a much more confident and determined woman.

Elizabeth Montgomery, protagonist of Bewitched
Elizabeth Montgomery, protagonist of Bewitched

As Sol Saks recalls in her memoirs, the sitcom’s script landed in Montgomery’s hands after actress Tammy Grimes turned down the role, and because both she and her partner, producer William Asher, were looking for a project. to do together. Although they wanted another kind of story, they knew how to realize that what they had in their hands could be a success.

A good story, “an extraordinary cast” – as the protagonist herself described – and the predisposition of an actress committed to the character were fundamental for bewitched transcend its boundaries and its time. It’s that in times when special effects were more like homemade makeup, Montgomery had to spend long periods of time “frozen” or with his arms raised while assistants tweaked the scene and achieved the magical effect in the final shot.

Montgomery has also placed two of her three pregnancies in the service of history. The first happened as soon as the sitcom started, so together with the production they decided to hide it with short shots and loose clothing. However, the second and third were incorporated into the plot and used to announce the arrival of Tabitha and Adam, the two sons of Samantha and Darrin. Much of the public believed, at the time, that the girl was her daughter in real life due to the incredible similarity of both.

When the series reached its fifth season, Montgomery – the only actress in the cast who appeared in all episodes – expressed her weariness and decided to step down. She couldn’t: A juicy contract and 20 percent of the entertainment rights kept her and earned her a fortune. Due to a lack of ideas and low viewership, the show was canceled at the end of the eighth season.

In 1995, while I was shooting Deadline for murder: from the archives of Edna Buchanan (1995), Montgomery began to feel bad. When she went to the doctor about her pain, she found out she had terminal colon cancer. Far from wanting to die in the hospital, the artist has returned home, where she spent her last days surrounded by her affections. The actress who gave birth to TV’s most famous witch died on May 18, 1995 at the age of 62 in her Beverly Hills home, eight weeks after discovering her illness.

Montgomery is an original su partenaire, Dick York
Montgomery is an original su partenaire, Dick York

The recordings of bewitched they were a torment to Dick York. The actor had suffered an accident while filming the Gary Cooper western They came to Cordura (1959) and suffered from severe back pain. Health problems were not unrelated to the technicians and producers: on many occasions the sets, like the chairs, were chosen specifically for her comfort. It was even common to have script options without Darrin in case the actor wasn’t available.

During the fifth season, York suffered an aneurysm which resulted in him being hospitalized. Plagued with pain and addicted to painkillers, he decided to give up the TV hit after 170 episodes. Between 1969 and 1972, Dick Sargent was the actor chosen by Columbia Pictures to play Darrin.. After gaining weight, losing his teeth, failing and trying to get his career back on track, York died of pulmonary emphysema in 1992 at the age of 63.

Dick Sargent, the new Darrin Stephens
Dick Sargent, the new Darrin Stephens

bewitched It thus became the first television series that changed one of its main actors to another artist and gave the move its name: today this castling is known by producers as “Darrin’s syndrome”.. In addition to naming the particular event, bewitched he was famous for the unusual number of roles played by more than one person: two Darrins, two Gladys Kravitz, two Louise Tates and two Darrin’s parents. The reason for these substitutions was never explained during the show and the characters continued with their lives as if nothing had happened.

Two historic murders altered the filming of the series. Rehearsals began on November 22, 1963, the same day as the assassination of United States President John Fitzgerald Kennedy. The recordings had to be stopped and Montgomery and Asher were particularly impressed: not only were they close friends of the former president, but the producer was the one who organized the party in which Marilyn Monroe immortalized the image of her singing her birthday wishes. Five years later, when activist Martin Luther King was killed, the series was suspended to make way for the news.

Beyond the casualties that led to temporary suspensions, no one on the set ever bothered to hide the fact that he drank excessively while filming. Many times they took advantage of the fact that their characters had a drink in their hand to drink openly. Cocktails, champagne, wine, whiskey … Except when there were children on stage, the actors enjoyed the drink and some, at times, ended up getting drunk. To confirm the data, a group of fans posted a long list on the internet where the episodes in which the protagonists drink appear, as well as a recording of the aforementioned bars.

Another of the most remembered moments of the show has to do with the lively opening of the show, which over the years has become an icon of television and time. The introduction was made by Hanna-Barbera Productions, creators of some of the most famous cartoons of the last century and of American popular culture: The Flintstones (1960), The supersonic (1962), Don cat and his gang (11952), and Scooby Doo (1969).

But not everyone has been successful in the story of Bewitched: not even the famous director Nora Ephron has managed to save the fiasco that turned out to be the big screen adaptation released in 2005. While the collection was not bad, critics destroyed the film and the main couple of Hollywood stars Nicole Kidman and Will Ferrell not only did not move, but also won a Razzie Award for their terrible chemistry.

Georgina Barbarrossa, Florencia Peña and Gustavo Garzón in Bewitched
Georgina Barbarrossa, Florencia Peña and Gustavo Garzón in Bewitched

With the rise of sitcom adaptation Americans and after the success of The nanny, bewitched also arrived in Argentina. With Florencia Peña and Gustavo Garzón as the main couple and Georgina Barbarossa as Endora, the vernacular version of the series premiered in 2007 on Telefe. After 35 chapters, the comedy was canceled with more than 20 episodes without a broadcast.

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