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‘Bewitched’ Star Elizabeth Montgomery Dies of Cancer

May 18, 1995 GMT

LOS ANGELES (AP) _ Elizabeth Montgomery, who charmed 1960s television viewers as a nose-twitching suburban sorceress married to a wary mortal in ``Bewitched,″ died today after a battle with cancer.

She was 62, according to numerous reference books and old clippings, though her family maintained that she was 57.

Montgomery died at her home surrounded by husband Robert Foxworth and her children, said family spokesman Howard Bragman. The actress underwent surgery in April to remove what was described only as a small malignant tumor.

In a statement, her husband and children said she was known as ``a friend who has been in our living room thousands of times and has impacted our lives in many ways.″

Montgomery’s post-``Bewitched″ career focused on TV movies, including ``Deadline for Murder,″ broadcast on CBS just last week. It was her second TV film based on the career of reporter Edna Buchanan.

The daughter of Hollywood star Robert Montgomery appeared in a few films in the 1950s and 60s, including ``The Court-Martial of Billy Mitchell.″ But television was her medium of choice. ``I guess you’d say I’m a TV baby,″ she once told an interviewer.

``Bewitched,″ which ran on ABC from 1964 to 1972, was her only series. It was an instant hit, ranking second only to ``Bonanza″ in its first season. Montgomery starred as Samantha, a pretty suburban witch who, to please her advertising executive husband, tries to avoid using her powers.

She was surrounded by relatives who disapproved of her efforts to abandon her supernatural roots, notably her mother, played by Agnes Moorehead. When Samantha wound up using sorcery as a last resort to solve a comic problem, a twitch of the nose was usually all it took.

Montgomery also played Samantha’s mischievous look-alike cousin, Serena. Samantha and husband Darrin (played by Dick York, then by Dick Sargent) first became script parents in 1966 with the birth of daughter Tabitha. The pregnancy coincided with a real-life pregnancy for Montgomery.

York, who suffered from emphysema, died at age 63 in February 1992. Sargent, 64, died in July 1994 after a battle with prostate cancer.

Montgomery went on to star in made-for-TV movies that often won her critical acclaim.

They included ``A Case of Rape″ (1974); ``The Legend of Lizzie Borden″ (1975); ``Black Widow Murders: The Blanche Taylor Moore Story″ (1993), and ``The Corpse Had a Familiar Face,″ about Buchanan, in 1994.

She worked with Foxworth in television movies (``Mrs. Sundance,″ 1974, ``Face to Face,″ 1990) and in a 1989 New York production of the play ``Love Letters.″

She also tackled more serious subjects, working for liberal causes and narrating ``The Panama Deception,″ a documentary that criticized the 1989 U.S. invasion of Panama. The film won the Academy Award for best feature documentary in 1993.

Her mother, Elizabeth Allen Montgomery, also was an actress.

Robert Montgomery first gained fame as a suave leading man in the 1930s and later also won praise as a director. In the 1950s, he produced and was host of a TV playhouse series, ``Robert Montgomery Presents.″ His daughter made her television debut on that series and went on to appear in more than 200 live TV programs over the next decade.

In a 1965 Associated Press interview, when ``Bewitched″ was flying high, she recalled that ``I’d never thought much about a series because I liked the idea of picking a script I liked with a character I thought I could sustain for an hour. In a series, you live with one character day in and day out _ and you only hope it will be one that will not drive your crazy.″

Being a star’s daughter opened doors early in her career, she once said, but ``after that initial advantage _ then it’s entirely up to you. You have to prove yourself, or else.″

Among Montgomery’s previous husbands were actor Gig Young and ``Bewitched″ producer William Asher; she and Asher had three children.

Funeral arrangements were pending.