Pilato describes Elizabeth's relationship with her father, Robert Montgomery, in great detail (he was a staunch Republican, she became a Democrat). Her father supported her acting career, which included attending the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in New York and appearing frequently in the anthology TV series Robert Montgomery Presents. In contrast, Pilato provides little insight into Elizabeth's relationship with her mother, Elizabeth Bryan Allen, despite the fact that she and Robert Montgomery were married for 22 years.
|Montgomery in The Untouchables.|
Shortly after their wedding, Asher and Montgomery approached 20th Century-Fox producer William Dozier (Batman) with an idea for a series called Couple. However, Dozier steered them toward a new series already in development about a witch who marries a mortal. Thus, Bewitched was born.
|With co-star and friend Dick Sargent.|
After eight seasons of Bewitched, Elizabeth Montgomery decided to end the series although ABC tried to convince her otherwise. Pilato quotes television executive Peter Ackerman, who noted that "with it (the cancellation of Bewitched), more to the point, because of it, Bill and Liz ended their marriage." The couple had three children by then. Bill Asher had an affair with Nancy Fox, an aspiring actress and former ice skater. Elizabeth had a fling with Richard Michaels, who directed some episodes of Bewitched.
|Playing accused murderer Lizzie Borden.|
Elizabeth Montgomery's post-Bewitched acting career included Emmy nominations for two made-for TV movies: the potent drama A Case of Rape (1974) and the fact-based The Legend of Lizzie Borden (1975). On another television movie, Mrs. Sundance, Montgomery met actor Robert Foxworth, who became her partner and eventual husband until her death in 1995 from colon cancer. (Pilato also relates the story of Montgomery and Emma, the Labrador Retriever, who starred together in my favorite of her made-for-TV movies, Second Sight: A Love Story.)
Author Herbie J. Pilato's sources include new interviews with Montgomery's friends (e.g., Cliff Robertson, Sally Kemp), magazine articles, TV interview transcripts, interviews conducted with his subject, and unused materials from his Bewitched books. He lists Montgomery's complete professional credits and includes an index and a nice selection of photographs.
Pilato's claims may occasionally be exaggerated (it's a stretch to call I Married a Witch "one of the best English-language motion pictures of its time"). On one page, he labels Montogomery's Twilight Zone performance as her best pre-Bewitched work. Elsewhere, he bestows that honor on her guest stint in The Untouchables. He also italicizes the proper names of all fictional characters, a small editing quirk perhaps, but one that becomes annoying.
Still, Twitch Upon a Star is an engrossing look at a strong-willed actress whose career spanned five decades. It will satisfy Elizabeth Montgomery's fans, as well as Bewitched buffs interested in learning more about that series' leading lady--and even how the famous twitch was "invented."
The Classic Film & TV Cafe received a review copy of this book.