A "Bewitched" Holiday Message of Equality - Herbie J Pilato

By Herbie J Pilato Media Biz Bloggers Archives

On October 25, 1963, Elizabeth Montgomery made a TV-guest star appearance on an episode of 77 Sunset Strip, titled, "White Lie," in which she portrayed the conflicted half-white, half-black granddaughter of a character played by Juanita Moore. It was a monumental premise that Moore had explored with her Oscar-winning performance in the 1959 ground-breaking feature film Imitation of Life. It was also an historic theme that Montgomery would revisit in playing Samantha - the witch-with-a-twitch - Stephens on Bewitched, which began rehearsals on November 22, 1963 - the day President Kennedy was assassinated. The core message of both "White Lie" and Bewitched was prejudice, against which JFK (who was friends with Elizabeth) had fought in an era which became increasingly volatile with race rioting, the Vietnam War, and future assassinations of Robert F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King, Jr., each also bold endorsers of human rights.

On Bewitched, Elizabeth's other-worldly Samantha loved her mortal husband Darrin (first played by Dick York then Dick Sargent) despite their "differences," which they ignored to concentrate on what made them the same: their humanity.

No episode of the show more clearly brought this message home than the Christmas segment "Sisters at Heart," which debuted on Christmas Eve, 1970, during the show's seventh season.

Here, Samantha and Darrin's supernatural daughter Tabitha (played by twins Erin and Diane Murphy) befriends Lisa, a young African-American girl (played by Venetta Rogers). The two children get along so well, they want to be sisters. But after a bully in the park tells them that's impossible because of their disparate physical appearances, Tabitha employs "wishcraft" (whatever she wishes comes true), and seeks to make both she and Lisa the same color. But the magic goes awry: white polka dots appear on Lisa, and black polka dots appear on Tabitha. Samantha of course is confounded and calls witch-doctor Dr. Bombay (Bernard Fox) for a remedy, though not before espousing to Tabitha and Lisa that, "All men are brothers, even if they're girls."

Herbie J Pilato is an actor/writer/producer/executive who has worked for Syfy, A&E, TLC, Bravo, The Discovery Channel, Universal, Warner Bros. and Sony. The author of a number of acclaimed classic TV tie-in books (The Bionic Book, Life Story - The Book of Life Goes On, The Bewitched Book, Bewitched Forever, The Kung Fu Book of Caine,The Kung Fu Book of Wisdom, and NBC & ME: My Life As A Page In A Book), Herbie J is also the Founder and Executive Director for The Classic TV Preservation Society (a nonprofit organization dedicated to closing the gap between positive TV shows and education; www.ClassicTVPS.blogspot.com); the Creative Director for Erie Street Entertainment (a TV production company that is geared toward sci-fi/fantasy, and family-oriented material; www.ErieStreetEntertainment.blogspot.com); and the President of Pop-Culture Consultants (an entertainment consulting firm, www.Pop-CultureConsultants.blogspot.com). He appears frequently on TV in shows, like the TV Guide Channel's new series, 100 Moments That Changed TV and Entertainment Tonight. He has performed on daytime soaps like General Hospital and The Bold and The Beautiful, as well as classic TV shows like The Golden Girls and Highway to Heaven. Herbie J’s new book, TWITCH UPON A STAR: THE BEWITCHED LIFE AND CAREER OF ELIZABETEH MONTGOMERY, will be published in November by Taylor Trade Publishing. To pre-order the book, click on this link https://rowman.com/ISBN/9781589797499 and/or for more information, please email hjpilato@yahoo.com.

Read all Herbie J's MediaBizBloggers commentaries at Herbie J's Classic TV Corner.

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