The Montgomery family were an illustrious group of show business folks whose immense talent and unparalleled performances left an indelible mark on cinematic history.
The chief protagonist in this dynasty is Robert Montgomery, the notable actor, directer and producer whose prolific body of work left a large impact in every medium of the entertainment industry. His wife, Elizabeth Allen was a Broadway star who had considerable success on the stage, but didn’t quite garner enough recognition to join her husband in motion pictures. And last but not least is his children, Elizabeth and Robert ( Skip ) who both inherited the acting genes, and enjoyed fulfilling careers on the screen.
When it comes to the children of Robert Montgomery, Elizabeth Montgomery is the most famous. Noted for her spirited personality, and her willingness to take on challenging roles, Elizabeth endured a triumphant tenure in film and television, and attained critical acclaim for her role as Samantha Stephens in the classic television sitcom, Bewitched, in which she is best remembered for today.
In many ways, Bewitched helped shape Elizabeth’s career. If it weren’t for the central role of Samantha Stephens, Elizabeth Montgomery may have never had the recognition and the continual fame that Bewitched brought her, but as a result to appearing in a weekly television series, her popularity catapulted to great heights. Audiences wanted to see more of Elizabeth Montgomery. They were forever in awe of the sweet and vivacious witch whose presence was gracing television screens worldwide. Luckily for all these ardent fans and admirers, their wish was granted when it was discovered that Samantha had a duplicate that would come to the fore in season two when her identical cousin, Serena made her entrance.
Audiences couldn’t be more elated. They were being awarded with a double dose of Elizabeth Montgomery who agreed to play Serena under the pseudonym of Pandora Spocks, but this time there was so much more to eagerly await. Instead of all that sugar that came with Samantha, Serena inhabited a large dollop of spice.
Even though Serena had a recurring role, she didn’t actually make her Bewitched debut until episode eighteen in season two’s, And Then There Were Three, when Samantha is in the hospital giving birth to Tabitha. This is the first time that Darrin encounters Serena, and due to the fact that they were never introduced, their first official meeting creates havoc when Darrin automatically assumes that Serena is an adult Tabitha, thanks to Endora who threatens Darrin that she will cast a spell on Tabitha that will have her age overnight.
The appearance of Serena propelled a vigorous response from audiences who were enthusiastic about seeing Elizabeth playing dual roles. After her first appearance as Serena, director and producer, William Asher decided to make her a recurring character, though it wasn’t until season five that this was fully put in place. She did however make three more appearances during the next two seasons, the most notable being season fours, Double, Double, Toil, And Trouble, where Endora plots with Serena to have her masquerade as Samantha in front of Darrin in an attempt to break up the mixed marriage. She would then make a brief appearance in That Was No Chick, That Was My Wife during the same season.
Fast forward to February 1968 when the episode Hippie, Hippie Hooray premiered. This time Serena emerges as a hippie, which ultimately leads to problems once Larry stumbles across her picture in the newspaper and mistakes her for Samantha. Assuming that Samantha has metamorphosed herself into a hippie, and has been arrested in a riot charge, Larry becomes concerned for Darrin who is married to a nonconformist. The already perplexing situation escalates when McMann & Tate lose a conservative client due to Serena’s actions. Now Darrin must address the situation by proving to Larry that the person in the newspaper was Serena, but the only way to achieve this is to invite Larry and Louise over for dinner, and to have both Samantha and Serena present.
Once season five arrived, Serena became more of a prominent figure. Her unexpected arrivals at the Stephens household were getting more and more frequent, meaning that Darrin had to contend with the cataclysmic disturbances of both Endora and Serena.
We would next see her in the fifth episode of that season, titled, Samantha Goes South For A Spell, where Serena eludes a vengeful witch named Brunhilde, and takes refuge at Samantha and Darrin’s, but once Serena discovers that it was Samantha who he was tracking down, Serena punishes Samantha and transports her back in time to New Orleans in the year 1868.
A few weeks later, Serena played an eminent role in the episode, It’s So Nice To Have A Spouse Around The House. The basis for the plot goes like this: When Samantha is notified that she must attend the witches council, Darrin automatically refuses. As a result, Endora arranges for Serena to masquerade around the house as Samantha, to make Darrin think that Sam took note of his advice, and decided not to appear at the council. At first the task is simple for Serena, but once Darrin surprises her by taking her on a second honeymoon to the destination where they originally honeymooned five years earlier, the situation intensifies as Serena begins to find it difficult to pose as Samantha when romance is pivotal.
The next episode where Serena is present is a two part story arc, titled, Cousin Serena Strikes Again. Here we witness Serena at her most mischievous. The night before an important dinner with their wine enthusiast client, Clio Vanita, Serena gate crashes the Stephens home, and threatens to intrude in on their dinner party. At the commencement of the dinner however, Serena is non existent. This makes Darrin believe that luck is on his side. That is until Serena invisibly appears and turns Clio into a chimpanzee in order to save her cousins marriage. Throughout the next episode, Samantha is pleading for Serena to return to change Clio back, but unfortunately for Darrin who needs Clio present for a meeting that morning, Serena has completely vanished.
In the next episode, Mrs. Stephens, Where Are You, Serena meets Darrin’s mother for the first time while she is babysitting Tabitha. For the first few seconds their introduction runs smoothly, but once Mrs. Stephens starts to express her displeasure with Samantha’s mothering ability, Serena immediately is fueled with anger, and turns Phyllis into a cat.
In almost every episode that Serena makes an appearance, it is clearly apparent that she is willing to take on new challenges. For example in Marriage Witch’s Style from season five, Serena begins to realize that Darrin is the key to Samantha’s happiness, and after witnessing their intimate relationship, Serena wants to follow in Samantha’s footsteps by marrying a mortal. This particular episode clearly illustrates how progressive and understanding Serena is towards mortals. Though she would never admit it, Serena could see the positive aspects of Samantha’s marriage while the rest of her family constantly displayed their disdain for mortals.
The following episode takes a similar approach. In season fives, Samantha’s Power Failure, Sam is stripped of her powers by the witch’s council, who have been trying to break up Samantha and Darrin’s marriage for years. When Serena and Uncle Arthur arrive the next day, and show their compassion, they too lose their powers. As a result, they decide to live as mortals, and go as far as securing employment at a local cafe, where disastrous consequences ensue.
Five months after the Tommy Boyce and Bobby Hart single, I’ll Blow You A Kiss In The Wind was released, a Bewitched episode titled, Serena Stops The Show premiered. In this episode Serena uses her powers to make the ascending popularity of Boyce and Hart flounder, so she can hire them to perform at the Cosmo Cotillion in the witchy realm.
A few weeks later, The Generation Gap aired. This is one of the lesser known episodes from the series, but it shouldn’t be dismissed. As an added bonus, Endora is back to her usual plotting with Serena. This time their task is to cast a spell on the daughter of Darrin’s client to make her enamored by Darrin’s charms. The next episode was another obsolete title called , A Chance On Love, which features a case of mistaken identity when Darrin’s client romantically pursues Samantha thinking that she is Serena.
Despite the major cast change with Dick Sargent replacing Dick York in the role of Darrin, Samantha’s Hot Bedwarmer along with the other Salem outings are among the most memorable episodes of Bewitched. In the second of six Salem installments, the truth about the mysterious bed warmer that prominently appeared in the first Salem episode is unearthed. When it is revealed that the bed warmer is a rejected suitor of Serena’s, she is forced to return to 17th century Salem to undo the spell.
In the following Salem episode titled, Darrin On A Pedestal, Darrin and Samantha are exploring the sights of Massachusetts when Serena constructs a plan that will have the fisherman’s memorial statue replaced with Darrin.
Once the Salem episodes came to a close, and the Stephens returned home to Morning Glory Circle, the ratings began to drop. With the decline in popularity, scripts from old episodes were sometimes recycled, and plots with similarities were employed. That being said, the episodes were still enthralling. Each cast member delivered something special to the episodes. By now, Serena’s recurring role was well established, meaning that her appearances were marked as daily arrivals. Her next appearance is in The Corsican Cousins, where Endora zaps Samantha, and makes her the victim by feeling everything that Serena feels both physically and emotionally.
After a two month hiatus from making appearances, Serena returned in February 1971, when she appeared in the episode, The Return Of Darrin The Bold, where Darrin starts to exhibit signs of wish-craft when Serena injects Darrin’s ancestor, Darrin the Bold with magic powers. She would then make another entrance a few week later in Samantha And The Troll, when she masquerades around and takes over the household while Samantha is attending a medical appointment.
One of Serena’s funniest appearances is in her next episode, Darrin Goes Ape. After an altercation with Serena, Darrin is turned into an ape while Samantha is out with Tabitha and Adam. Problems arise when Gladys Kravitz notices the gorilla, and calls the police to investigate the Stephens home. Following the pattern of hilarious, Serena makes another appearance in Samantha’s Psychic Slip, an episode which is often labeled as corny. In this segment, Samantha is suffering from a severe bout of hiccups. As a result, strange things are popping in and out after each hiccup. To make matters worse, Darrin’s mother phones Samantha, and asks her to go shopping with her. As they are leaving, Serena arrives to take care of Tabitha and Adam.
Once season eight approached, Serena would only appear in three episodes, the first being, Samantha And The Lochness Monster, which is the third installment of a seven part story arc in which Samantha and Darrin are vacationing in Europe. This particular episode takes place in Scotland, and focuses on the Lochness Monster, who is really an old suitor of Serena’s.
In her second last appearance on the series, she starred in an episode titled, Serena’s Richcraft, where she finds herself powerless. Due to inhabiting no witchcraft, she falls hard for Darrin’s client. Serena’s final appearance is a memorable outing titled, Serena’s Youth Pill, and I classify it to be among my favorite episodes where Serena is featured. In this episode Serena reunites with Larry Tate, whom she calls “Cotton Top”. When Larry unexpectedly pays Samantha and Darrin a visit, Serena entertains him while Sam and Darrin are out. During the visit, Serena gives Larry a youth pill that makes him younger until eventually he’s a child again.
The idea of having an identical cousin emerge on the scene was a clever one. Originally, Serena was going to be Samantha’s long lost sister, but after some serious thinking, Elizabeth decided that she wanted it to be more imaginary, and thought it would be more creative if Serena served as Samantha’s look a like cousin, who at times can be a carbon copy of Samantha. It has been said that Serena was based on Elizabeth’s real life cousin, Amanda. However Montgomery denied those accusations, stating that even though her and Amanda were very close as children, Amanda was not the inspiration for Serena.
Once Serena was fully decided on, cast and crew members faced a tough decision when it came to deciding what Elizabeth should be billed as for playing Serena under the credits. Montgomery herself suggested that she be called Lizzie, but a Bewitched co-worker hinted that they didn’t like that name, and wanted her to be billed as Pandora’s Box. Elizabeth however stated that her choice was a little subtler and funnier. After taking it into consideration, they eventually decided to bill her as Pandora Spocks, a subtle not to the famous Greer myth of Pandora’s Box.
Playing dual roles in a movie or a television series is no easy feat. In fact many stars have shied away from it, fearing that they would get lost in translation, but Elizabeth who was always eager to display her full potential as an actress, was more than ready to take on that challenge, and it is with no doubt that she enjoyed doing it. As Serena, Elizabeth was given the chance to be free spirited, and totally wild. The character of Serena was certainly a lot more hipper than the role of Samantha, an amiable and conservative housewife who takes pleasure in preparing breakfast and dinner for her husband, and tending to the needs of her children.
Employing dual roles in movies and television productions can be difficult. In Bewitched however, this was easily achieved. In the scenes that required both Samantha and Serena to be present, Elizabeth Montgomery’s stand-in Melody McCord was used to help fulfill the process. Seventeen years later in 1989, Elizabeth reflected back on the experience, and explained the following for the Samantha-Serena transformation process:
“Melody McCord was my understudy. We would go into my dressing room and go over dialogue, so she could get the timing right, so there wouldn’t be any gaps. She was exactly my height and looked very much like me. That’s why we could do the wonderful crossover scenes on camera. We were lucky that she worked out that way. There are times when you have an understudy that don’t look anything like you at all, except for light coloring. She and I are built alike, same coloring. Then they would have to tie-off all the cameras and wait until we changed clothes and makeup. For her, makeup was no problem unless we were using 3/4 of her face, and not just changing her wig. With me, it would be a complete makeup change. It was always easier to go from Sam to Serena than Serena to Sam. Serena wore a lot more makeup….. That crazy person.”
After Serena’s last appearance, Bewitched would only run for seven more episodes before terminating in March 1972. In the years that followed, Bewitched has continued to evoke fond memories, and occasionally it is still being referenced to in today’s popular culture.