Twitch Upon A Star: Herbie Pilato
Elizabeth Montgomery was a complicated and complex person. Creating a tribute or memoir spotlighting her career and focusing on those relationships that were unique and special to her is what author, playwright and screenwriter Herbie Pilato does within this memorable account of her life: Twitch Upon a Star. Most know Lizzie or Elizabeth for her role in the sitcom series Bewitched as Samantha Stephens who twitched her nose and made people disappear, room’s change or even finding herself in different places. Throughout the book the author has readers enter into many different worlds unique to both Samantha Stevens and Elizabeth Montgomery including her difficult relationship with her father, Robert, her need to be accepted by him and her desire to follow in his footsteps on the silver screen. The memoir allows readers to understand her goals, her personality and her need to do things in her own way. Interviewing numerous family members, friends, other actresses and actors even ex-husbands the author gives us the full spectrum of this amazing actress, mother, daughter and friend’s career. Imagine growing up with Robert Montgomery as your father and Elizabeth Allen as your mother in a world filled with money, fame and relationships that were often difficult and dealing with a father whose personality was not easy to deal with both at home and at the studio.
The author shares many aspects of her life but the one that is most interesting is her relationship with William Asher and how she revered him both at home and at work. Focusing on her career, making sure that she made eye contact with him during her rehearsals and performances we understand her great respect for him as a man, husband and creator of Bewitched. Four marriages three which failed we see the constant rise and decline Elizabeth Montgomery. Relationships are what I think this book is most about and her need to deal with people that are honest, upfront and forthcoming and ending those without cause or notice when necessary.
Her relationship with Dick York was quite tight and finding she having him replaced by Dick Sergeant caused a rift in the cast when Agnes Moorehead gave Sergeant a hard time and literally brought him to tears. A great mother, long hours and children that she loved and adored and never failed she were the quintessential of many things.
Beginning with her childhood and focusing on her relationship with her father the reader learns from an early age that Elizabeth felt she needed to work hard to match up and live up to what she felt her father wanted. Her mother was an actress on Broadway and stopped working when married. Throughout the novel the author alludes to the fact that Elizabeth Allen might have had some difficulty with drinking leading to her faltered relationship with her daughter. Her relationships with men, other stars, appearances and more often made her uncomfortable. From Bewitched, to the Twilight Zone, the Untouchables and on the wide screen Elizabeth Montgomery encompassed it all.
Flashing back to when the pilot for Bewitched began and how the famous twitch was born, you understand her connection to Bill Asher and the importance he played in her life both private and professional. How he reacted to her and if an interviewer was not as the author states “Her cup of tea,” both Lizzie and Bill were at times “brisk, businesslike, tireless, competent, hardnosed, personable and pragmatic,” almost like a fine tuned violin playing in sync with each other. Throughout the chapter titled Remember the Mane you learn more about her relationship with Asher and the knowledge that he would never be known as Mr. Montgomery and why.
The pictures within the chapter titled Double Double are breathtaking as the photographer brings many aspects of her career and life to light including her own children with her, Samantha and Darren, Endora and Samantha and the cast of Bewitched. These photos are priceless.
The author shares her relationship with Agnes Moorehead, which was complex. Often yielding to the older of the two in many respects you begin to wonder just why Moorehead was able to get away with many of the things she did on and off the set. Both were strong-willed and competitive and both great at their craft. Family values and family relationships were explored in Bewitched and Samantha or Elizabeth had to allow her husband at times to make decisions and curb her true feelings or nature. At times you begin to wonder what would have happened if Samantha Stevens was a working mom and not a stay-at-home mom.
In the chapter titled Twitch or Not Twitch she had to decide when and if she was going to walk away from being Samantha and go into other areas such as in “A Case Of Rape and her role as Lizzie Borden. Conversations that were overheard and messages passed on to others and things that should have remained silent about her marriage found their way to young ears. Elizabeth liked to be addressed as Lizzie and at times the author switches off between both names.
Within the chapter Temperatures Rising we learn more about the struggles within her marriage to Bill Asher their estrangement and how Bill had someone named Nancy to help him feel better. But, working on other projects such as The Paul Lynde show took its toll on their marriage, which began to disintegrate. Within the chapter we are privy to many other tense moments and interviews and statements by other people explaining why Bill and Elizabeth divorced. Discussions and interviews comprise most of this book as we get different perspectives about the many aspects of her life from numerous viewpoints shared by the author. You hear the voices of Robert Montgomery, her many husbands, Cliff Robertson and you share the good times, the bad, the rise and fall and you get to understand why Herbie Pilato had to spotlight and honor this great actress. Relationships are what I have stated this book is about as you understand her interaction with many stars, producers, directors and her own family. But, the focal point is Bewitched and the author explores the many avenues and roads followed by Elizabeth when deciding which roles to take and when it was time to turn in another direction.
You can tell from the dialogue and tone of the book that Elizabeth and each time he interviewed her really enamored Herbie brought him new insight into her viewpoints and the real person behind the twitch. From the Successes of the Awakenings to becoming a free spirit and free agent no longer locked into one role, she became what most would state a legend in her own time. The many faces of Elizabeth are portrayed in the pictures that follow at the end of the chapter titled The Awakenings. Spirits and Angels is followed by Humanities each chapter brilliantly titled featuring some aspect of her career and her interactions with other actors, friends and family. Her political viewpoints and views related to Political science follow and the book concludes with an afterword that ties it all together. Placing too much “Emphasis on age, she might not have made the best choices with regard to her health…”Unfortunately she died too young and the world lost her on May 18, 1995. Withering away quite rapidly the cancer too over and although she tried hard to fight it, it won. The author states: She gave herself little credit for artistic accomplishments that also failed to win the formal acceptance of her peers.” Her life was full, exciting, difficult, cut short and then she left this world but her family, friends, fans, and those that still remember her know that somewhere up in the sky there is a special star that is bright and will be one star that Twitches brightly and reminds us that she is watching over us: “ In this sense Elizabeth’s…..Lizzie’s… Lizbel’s ethereal essence is somewhere beautiful nose wriggling the light fantastic, leaving Hollywood to wonder if it will ever again emanate a more luximary….twitch upon a STAR! Told by Herbie Pilato this memoir is heartfelt, heartwarming, well told and will keep you interested from start to finish.
This book brings to light why so many still love Samantha, Darren, Endora, Uncle Arthur, Gladys and so many more. So, Elizabeth wherever you are: Keep Twitching!
Fran Lewis: Just Reviews