You Know Her As a Witch ...
Now Meet Her As a Woman
FIRST PICTURE: A proud father captured this tender moment between Elizabeth and little William Allen Asher. To Elizabeth, being a mother is her greatest accomplishment and her deepest satisfaction
"So you want to know about witches," laughs Elizabeth Montgomery, her bright green eyes flashing. "Well the first thing you have to learn is that all witch's are women and vice versa. And the second is not every witch flits about piloting a broom-stick. In fact, some of the most bewitching witches are ordinary housewives.. . .
"I myself believe there was some kind of hocus-pocus afoot in my getting to be a TV star. In spite of being Robert Montgomery's daughter, the odds were against me. I'm no Hollywood glamour girl, and my so-called 'beauty' calls out for a plastic surgeon. I feel sorry for the poor makeup man in the morning. I'm his greatest challenge."
The actress, who is currently scoring an astonishing success as ''Samantha." the witch, in ABC-TV's "Bewitched," twitches her lovely lips as ''Samantha" does when she's about to go into a bit of magic. "Why, they used to tell kids to behave or the bogeyman would get them ... now they say, 'Behave or Liz Montgomery will get you. Really, you know, every time something unusual happens, my own husband gives me a real fishy look, as if he thought I was trying to put a hex on him. And, of course, littte does he know, poor dear, that he's not far from the truth! What wife doesn't use the black arts to keep her man on his toes?"
If "Samantha" is "a nice sweet likeable witch"--as Liz describes her--it's probably because, like the actress herself, she is all woman. And just as Liz would rather be a hit as wife and mother than see her name up on marquees as a star, so would "Samantha" prefer lighting a fire in her man's heart to cooking up a brew to enchant the rest of the world.:
"I think that instinct holds for every female," says Liz. "if it comes to a showdown, her choice is home and family over career. When women choose a life of competition with men in the market-place, it is usually due to circumstances beyond their control ... like sickness in the family or some inner drive, for success that's caused by a childhood of frustration. Most women try to walk the tightrope between home and office, and some of them manage to do surprisingly well at it.
"in my case, the problem is much the same for both 'Samantha' and me. For the sake of home and husband, she'd like to kick the witchcraft habit, but finds it too hard to do. I'd like to concentrate all my heart and soul on my private life, but I find it impossible to forsake acting. I grew up in the actor's world of makebelieve, and it's become part of my living tissue. My great hope is that, like 'Samantha,' when pursue my special brand of witchery, it will not offend my husband but make me more intriguing to him."
Elizabeth Montgomery is the wife of Bill Asher, who is the man in her life in more than one sense. Aside from being the mate of the popular actress, he is also director of he; show, "Bewitched." When Liz tries to get around him with the use of feminine blandishments, Bill takes a typical husband's attitude. "Don't pull those green-eyed charms on me," he growls. "You just play that scene the way I tell you. .. ." And Liz replies demurely, "Yes, master ... as you desire, my lord." Her greatest single source of pride and accomplishment is her infant boy, Billy, born July 24th of this year. "He's the love of my life," she preens--then, with a sudden chortle, "and he's such a dear... pure magic."
"PURE MAGIC" is how Elizabeth describes baby Billy, seen here in these exclusive pictures. Husband Bill - a target for sorcery at home and at work (he is director of "Bewitched") - obviously agrees.
If Billy was smart enough to pick a famous actress for a mother, he was merely following the example set by his mom in choosing Robert Montgomery for a father. By now, however, Liz wishes people would accept her for what she is, on her own merits, and forget about her relationship with one of the screen's most talented actors. "After ten years as an actress, you'd think people would have stopped asking me how it feels to be Bob Montgomery's daughter," she grumbles, but without losing the twinkle in her eyes. "How the devil do people think it feels? I'm deeply fond of my father, he feels the same about me. Just like any father and daughter. What else is there to be said about it?"
Bob Montgomery, on his side, has always had a little more to say about it. "I realized that Elizabeth was going to be an actress when she was only five," he recalled, some time ago on a visit to Hollywood. "I was in the house, reading, when the sound of singing attracted my attention. It came from upstairs. I went up and found Elizabeth doing the wishing well scene from Walt Disney's 'Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs,' which she had seen the day before. In this famous scene, Snow White sings a line of the song 'I'm Wishing, and then an echo sings it back to her. Well, Elizabeth had rigged up a wastebasket for a well, and was caroling away as though she were before the cameras. What puzzled me was the echo. But a short search revealed that she had hidden Skip, her three-year-old brother, behind a couch, and he was providing the echo!
"After that, her mother and I were resigned to the fact that she would be an actress. Our hope was that she would turn out to be a good actress and not just the daughter of Montgomery. I sincerely believe that hope has been fulfilled. Even if I were a stranger, I'd have to say that about Elizabeth, She is good --and some day may even be great."
As a child, one of Elizabeth's best treats was to climb on her father's lap and question him closely about all that went on at the studio that day. Her first brush with the spotlight came when she was six. She played The Rolf in a play done in French at Westlake School. Naturally, she went to her father for professional advice. "Forget about acting, honey," he told her. "Just think you really are The Wolf and act the way you think a wolf would."
"It was my introduction to 'method' acting," Elizabeth recalls humorously, but then admits that she applies the same theory to her performance as Samantha. "I look in the mirror and tell myself,'You're supposed to be a witch. You are a witch. Bool' "Elizabeth's association with actors was not restricted to her home. At Westlake School, which she attended for eleven years, she made friends with the daughters of Spencer Tracy, Herbert Marshall and Alan Mowbray. "I'm afraid I gave my teachers gray hair because all I could think of was dramatics," she confesses. "The only thing that saved me from getting D's in every other subject Was the fact that my mother put her foot down hard. She said I wouldn't be permitted to take part in the school plays unless I kept all my grades at a B average.
"The parents of Hollywood children really do try to protect them from acquiring too much of the glamour stuff too soon. But, of course, some of it is bound to seep through. Still, it was only in rare cases that the kids got a lopsided view of their position in life. Take me, for instance. I never felt special because my father was a star. Most of the people who came to our house were important in One phase of the industry or another. Many of the kids I went around with at school came from richer or more renowned families than the Montgomerys. I'd Say my environment was more likely to teach me humility than the feeling of arrogance."
The environment Of Lit' formative years was nothing like that imagined by movie fans of the '30s and early '40s. Mr. and Mrs. Robert Montgomery and family lived a quiet, gracious life that was free of the wild parties people visualized when they thought of Hollywood. They moved in circle of wellgroomed, poised and intellegent leaders of the movie colony, who frowned on exhibitionism and screwball behavior. Generally included in dinner parties or polo matches hosted by the Montgomerys were such stars as Irene Dunne, James Cagney, Rosalind Russell, Frank Morgan, Ralph Morgan and George Arliss. Conversation was informed, witty and progressive.
Though Elizabeth and Robert J. ("Skip") were given every cultural advantage, they were not spoiled. Their father had begun life as the son ofman industrial executive, and his own background was replete with private tutors, the best schools and an open sesame to the portals of art, literature and music. Robert was eighteen when his father died. It was then his family discovered that there was no estate to speak of, and they had been living up to their income. Young Bob went immediately to work. His first job was tapping railway wheels, then he shipped out on an oil tanker. There followed a Span of six years, "lean ones," and a variety of jobs before he made the switch to acting. It proved to be the start of thirty-five successful years in the entertainment field.
In 1929, with the shadow of depression hanging over the land, Bob arrived in Hollywood accompanied by his bride, Elizabeth Allen, an actress with whom he had worked on Broadway. Mrs. Montgomery retired to give her full time to being a wife and mother. Determined that his children would never be left as he was--penniless, in his youth--and that they would learn the value of a dollar, Bob set up educational funds for their benefit. "If anything happens to me," he would say, "Elizabeth and Skip will be able to complete their education and my family will be on secure grounds." As a result of this realistic attitude, money was never tossed carelessly around in his household. While Liz takes a very deprecating view of her really exciting beauty, she is proud of one thing: her striking facial resemblance to her father. Like most girls, she tends to favor a doting father above all other members of her family. She was not the Montgomerys' first child. A daughter, Martha, died at eleven months. It is said that Bob never spoke of this loss, but it was apparent to all who knew him that the wound cut deep and never really healed. Naturally, when Elizabeth was born two years later, Bob was delighted to learn he had another girl. "I never replaced Martha in his heart," Elizabeth points out, "but I did help to soothe his grief." When she was three, her father took her out to the stables, tossed her aboard a horse and said, "Ride!" She did, and grew so expert that she won dozens of blue ribbons. When she was six, Bob tossed her into the swimming pool and said, "Swim!" She went on to become accomplished in this, too.
Father goes to war
In a few years, another influence entered their lives. Grandmother Rebecca Allen, affectionately called "Becca," came to live with them. While a governess was always present, it was Becca who took command when the parents weren't home.
"We were in Europe when World War II broke out. My father was in England filming 'The Earl of Chicago. He promptly joined the American Field Service and was attached to the French Army as an ambulance driver. Mother went to work as a volunteer Red Cross worker. Skip and i were sent home by boat to Becca.
"One reason I seldom felt upset when Dad and Mother had to go away was Becca," Elizabeth continues. "She always gacve me a sense of safety and comfort. It was a feeling that only grandmothers know how to give, I think. Consequently, I could watch my parents go on location without feeling neglected or rejected. Becca made me understand that Skip and I were always with them, in their hearts, wherever they might go. She would see to it that we prayed every night for Daddy and Mother. I was too young to grasp the horror of war, but I did get the idea that there was danger involved and that's why we'd been sent home."
Bob Montgomery was the first Hollywood star to go to war. Many thought he was crazy to give up $5,000 weekly to risk being killed--especially when, as a husband and father of two, there was little chance of his being drafted. But Bob had spoken out often against fascism, now he felt he had to give more than lip service to his beliefs. He served first as a French ambulance driver; then, after Dunkirk, as an officer in the U.S. Navy.
He spent three years in uniform, rising to Lt. Commander, and saw action with P.T. boats. When he returned to the MGM lot after forty-five months, he was asked to tell about his adventures. His answer was typical. "Let's just say I'm damned glad to be back. I've missed some of the most wonderful moments in the lives of my kids ..."
Montgomery made his acting comeback quite properly as a P.T. boat skipper in "They Were Expendable." When director John Ford suffered a broken leg in an accident, Bob took over. It was his first attempt behind the cameras, and a memorable one. One critic called the movie, "the closest thing to a perfect movie this year." But after a few more directorial jobs, in which he also starred, Bob grew restless. He had become more interested in production and wanted to take a fling at television.
A decision was made, and the entire Montgomery dan packed up and headed East. Liz had just graduated from Westlake and was still set on becoming an actress. At fourteen, she had asked her father if he would appear with her in her first play. Bob promised he would.
Young Liz was thrilled about the move to New York. She was enrolled at the exclusive Spence School for Young Ladies. Her brother also made the adjustment from West to East quite easily. But apparently the senior Montgomerys did not.
End of a marriage
Trouble soon began to surface, and after twenty-two years of happy marriage, they obtained a Las Vegas divorce in 1950. Lit was seventeen then, Skip fourteen. Custody was awarded their mother. Neither Bob nor his wife would discuss the split. Mrs. Montgomery's only comment was: "Moving East wasn't for the best. Usually, Hollywood gets the blame for divorces, but, in this case, it was the reverse. I had hoped we could work out our differences, but now I realize it can't be."
If she felt any emotional conflict or disturbance at this turn, Liz kept it to herself. A little more close-mouthed than normal, perhaps, she went about the task of graduating from Spence and followed through with enrollment at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts. Shortly after their divorce, Bob married Mrs. Elizabeth Harkness. It was remarked, with significant smiles by certain columnists, that not only did the second Mrs. Montgomery have the same first name as her predecessor but she bore a noticeable resemblance to her, too.
"I felt no bitterness when my parents parted," Lit insists. "There was no spite or name-calling. There was no open quarreling that I knew of. They separated with the same dignity and mutual respect I had come to expect of them."
In 1951, Liz made her social debut at New York's Debutante Cotillion and Christmas Ball. Then, true to his word, Bob arranged for her to make her acting debut with him in a TV play called "Top Secret," an espionage drama on his weekly series, "Robert Montgomery Presents." He produced, directed and emceed the show.
"As for me, I shook like a blob of jelly!" Liz admits. "Father showed me no favors during rehearsal. He was so impersonal that I referred to him as 'Robert,' the way the other players did. Anyone in the cast who had been afraid I might get favored treatment was soon relieved. It was plain that, to Father, I was just a me,nber of his cast and I'd have to do a good job or clear out," she smiles.
This "impersonality" with respect to her career was carried a step further in 1953, when she was to read for the ingenue lead in "Late Love." She was aware that the role was that of Neil Hamilton's daughter, and that a phone call from her father to Hamilton would possibly have cinched her chance for the job. Yet she never even told her father she was up for the role.
But when she won the part and the play was being tried out in Hartford, Connecticut, Bob was in the audience, a proud and anxious father. He went backstage after the curtain fell and said, as she hung on his every word, "Well, my girl, naturally I hope you'll improve before you get to Broadway."
Liz flashed her green eyes at him and replied modestly,'lYou're right, Daddy, I'll try harder." And she did. Before the season was through, she had won the coveted Daniel Blum Theater World Award. A wire of congratulation arrived from Bob. It said simply, "Good." Sighs Liz, "That one word from my father was equal to a volume of praise from anyone else." After the play closed, Elizabeth was offered the lead in "A Summer Love," a TV part most young actresses would give their eye-teeth for. But she, oddly enough, was not elated. "What will people think?" she asked miserably. "Everyone knows Daddy's the producer, and they'll say I'm in the show because of him. I don't like people thinking I can't stand on my own feet. As an actress, there are times when I wish Daddy were a truck driver rather than a producer."
"Daddy" took a calmer view of the situation. "I'm sure you're the only one who's sensitive to our relationship," he assured her. Liz it's no secret that I've gone out of my way not to push your career." To others, he remarked,''Elizabeth is a strong-willed girl with a mind of her own and she doesn't need help from me or anyone else. The only thing I demand of her is a good performance --otherwise, I'll bean her!"
Not only did Lit get good reviews for her work in "A Summer Love," she also received high praise from her costar, John Newland, who said, "Elizabeth is one of the most flexible actresses I've ever known." Bob seemed pleased with the accolades given his daughter, but, in his characteristic fashion, was not overly impressed. "Elizabeth," he remarked, "always remember that, if you achieve success, you will get applause; and, if you get applause, you will hear it. But my advice to you concerning applause is this: Enjoy it, but never quite believe it."
Love--lost and found
It was shortly before doing "A Summer Love" that Elizabeth married Frederic Gallatin Cammann, a twenty-five-year-old graduate of St. Mark's School and Harvard University. The ceremony was held at New York's fashionable St. James Church in March of 1954, and was attended by many notables of society. Since Frederic had ambitions as a TV producer, he went to work for Bob. The Cammanns settled down in an apartment, but the love-nest wasn't occupied for long.
On August 10th, 1955, sixteen months after pledging their vows, Elizabeth divorced Fred in Las Vegas. She at once headed for Hollywood and her first film role, in "The Court-Martial of Billy Mitchell." While on the Warner parts that had made Bob famous (the suave, debonair, cocktail-shaking sophisticate), was beginning to get his career into high gear. Elizabeth was also doing well in TV, winning a nomination for an Emmy for her performance in an episode of "The Untouchables." Her movie career, however, seemed to be faltering.
Liz is practical, if she's nothing else. Asked why she wasn't doing more features, she answered candidly, "After seeing 'Billy Mitchell,' I can understand why nobody's beating down my door. So it's back to TV for me. And I'm not too sorry. I have a special devotion to the medium I started in."
A waft of gossip stirred the columns in late 1962. Were handsome Gig and gifted Liz on the verge of divorce? They denied it. But on March 25th, 1963, Liz suddenly departed for Juarez, Mexico, and nailed down a quickie divorce.
It wasn't long before the mercurial affections of the actress were on the rise once more. Friends insisted she was in love again, this time with William Asher, a multi-talented man who began at Universal Studios as a mail boy, just prior to the start of World War II. spent four years with the Signal Corps as a photographer, and returned home to take up his career as an assistant film editor. With Richard Quine, he produced and directed their original screen play, "Leather Gloves," for Columbia. He was an early entry into television by way of "Racket Squad" and "Big Town," going on from there to wield the megaphone for episodes of "I Love Lucy," "The Dinah Shore Show" and other top series.
Elizabeth met Bill when she appeared in the movie "Johnny Cool," which he directed. The fuse of romance may have been lit then, but it merely sputtered. Months after her divorce, and the release of the picture, the fuse came to an explosion. Liz and Bill were married in the fall of 1963. On July 24th, 1964, little William Alien Asher was born. He was the third grandchild for Bob. Bob Jr. (Skip) has already presented his father with two.
When the news came that she and Bill were to work together on "Bewitched," Liz was ecstatic. "Talk about having your cake and eating it," she said. "We both work, yet we'll be together most of the time."
Bill was asked how he liked being married to a witch. "Great, just great," he said. "But when she gets too frisky on my set, I tell her to behave or get on her broomstick and get lost."
And what does Liz say to that? "Oh," she says, "one more crack like that, Bill Asher, and I'11 change you into a fat little mouse and then change myself into a big fierce cat...."
TV Radio Mirror - January 1965 -- EUNICE FIELD
Elizabeth portrays Samantha in "Bewitched," ABC-TV, Thurs., 9 P.M. EST.
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