The Curious Casting Choices & Hijinks of “Bewitched”
by: Robb Rhone
Everyone knows the premise of the beloved and successful sitcom “Bewitched”, right? Mortal boy Darrin marries Samantha, a witch, but forbids her to use her power much to the chagrin of her family, especially her mother Endora, played to the hilt by the wonderfully wicked Agnes Moorehead. Ridiculous situations ensue. Samantha doesn’t cease using her God given talents and must keep them a secret from the mortal community. The rest is television history.
What if we decided to watch all 8 seasons together? I’ll tell you what! Approximately 106 hours later, you would look at me as if you’ve been hexed! You’d be right! Many roles were played by two people during the run of the series. Let me break it down for you…
DARRIN STEPHENS – Dick York was first as Darrin from 1964 until 1970, when severe back pain pulled him from more and more episodes. The powers that be had no choice but to recast him and faster than you can say “Abracadabra”, Dick Sargent was hired to play the husband for the remainder of the show.
GLADYS KRAVITZ – Thank your lucky stars you’ve never had a neighbor like this, and if you do – MOVE! Alice Pearce played the local busybody for the first two seasons and won the Emmy Award for ‘Outstanding Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role in a Comedy’ posthumously in 1966. Sandra Gould took over the role and is much more familiar to us since she played Gladys for a more considerable amount of time.
LOUISE TATE – Here’s a story of a lovely lady… (Wait a minute… never mind – different show). Why the cast change? We may never know. Rumor is Irene Vernon left dissatisfied with the size of her role as the wife of Darrin’s boss, Larry Tate. Kasey Rogers took over the part for seasons three through eight and was featured more prominently.
FRANK STEPHENS – Robert F. Simon played Darrin’s father in season one through eight. Roy Roberts played Darrin’s father on seasons four through eight. What you’ve read is not a misprint. These gentlemen both took turns throughout the run of the show as their schedules allowed. Shhhh! We weren’t supposed to notice.
BETTY WILSON – Me thinks Darrin and Larry had one too many daily cocktails at McMann & Tate, the advertising firm in which they worked. Never once did it phase them that Darrin’s secretary, Betty, looked different weekly, monthly, or yearly (having been played by a long list of various actresses). They must have really wrecked the mini-bar.
THE WITCHES & WARLOCKS
TABITHA STEPHENS – Twins Erin & Diane Murphy were both cast as the
adorable daughter of Samantha and Darrin, but it is Erin that you know best. As they aged, Diane looked a little less like Elizabeth Montgomery and was resigned to being her sister’s stand-in and body double. Tinka Tinka Tee!
ADAM STEPHENS– Twins are often cast in TV series to play one role due to child labor laws in the entertainment industry. By the time the show was canceled in 1972, David and Greg Lawerence had only been playing the Stephens’s son for a few years.
AUNT CLARA & ESMERALDA – Kooky and loveable, but magically deficient Aunt Clara was on “Bewitched” the first four years, until Marion Lorne passed away. She won the Emmy Award for ‘Outstanding Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role in a Comedy’ in 1968, an honor she richly deserved. Kooky and loveable, but magically deficient Esmeralda (do you see where I’m going with this?) entered the Stephens’s home as their nanny / maid. Portrayed by Alice Ghostly, Esmeralda was basically a carbon copy of Aunt Clara.
SAMANTHA STEPHENS & SERENA – Naughty vixen Serena (Samantha’s cousin) showed up early in the series and wrecked havoc! The actress credited with playing the role was ‘Pandora Spocks’, but they didn’t fool me! It was, of course, Ms. Montgomery playing both Samantha and her devilish doppelganger. To her credit, the characters not only looked differently enough, but they behaved and sounded very dissimilar as well.
Repeat after me “Yaggazoozee Yaggazoozee Yaggazoozee Zim!”
There! Did I put a zip back in your zap?
See you in the funny papers,