Entertainment

‘Bewitched’ star Elizabeth Montgomery walked away from hit series for this reason, author claims

After charming audiences as America’s favorite witch, Elizabeth Montgomery was ready for a fresh start.

Despite “Bewitched” being renewed for Seasons 9 and 10, its star wanted out. And there was more to it than ratings taking a dip.

Peter Ackerman was only 10 years old at the time, but he would later learn of the drama unfolding behind the scenes. His father, Harry Ackerman, was the executive producer of numerous hit shows, including “Bewitched.” The younger Ackerman has recently written a memoir about his Hollywood upbringing, “Mom, Dad, Me, and Classic TV – Growing Up with Classic Television’s Harry Ackerman and Elinor Donahue.”

Elizabeth Mongomery in "Bewitched" and the cover of Peter Ackerman's book.

Akerman explained there is more to the story of why Montgomery left the popular show. (Getty Images/BearManor Media)

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“The ratings I believe were going down,” Ackerman told Fox News Digital. “I remember someone at the time commenting how silly it was getting – it was something I overheard the adults say. So there was talk, ‘Was there going to be another season?’ Elizabeth was spinning down a little bit. And then for one particular episode, it wasn’t her husband Bill Asher directing. It was a different fellow.”

Ackerman noted that without Asher directing, it made a big difference on set. And he was there to witness it.

“I think she was wearing jeans at the time,” Ackerman claimed. “She was pretty much bent over. So her rear end was sticking out a little bit. The director said, ‘Oh Liz honey, I could look at that all day.’ Everybody kind of laughed at it. I was, what you say today, weirded out. My mother was an actress. And this was my Aunt Liz. How could anyone make that kind of comment? I thought, ‘Surely, no one would ever make a comment like that to my mother on set.’”

“It really bothered me,” Ackerman admitted. “I don’t know how much later it was, but I overheard my dad talking to my mom after he had taken a phone call from Liz. It was a Saturday morning. He was pretty adamant about how that conversation went. My mom went to him after he hung up the phone and said, ‘What was that about?’”

The cast of "Bewitched" posing for a photo

Akerman revealed he was taken aback when a new director spoke rudely to Montgomery on set. (ABC Photo Archives/Disney General Entertainment Content via Getty Images)

“[Montgomery] had said to my dad, as he related to my mom, that the studio wanted to continue with the series,” he continued. “The network wanted to continue with the series. However, she would only do it if my dad would agree to basically fire her soon-to-be ex-husband. They had broken up at that point and hired this other fella who was directing that episode to be the new director. My dad said, ‘Liz, Bill Asher is my partner. I’m not going to do that to him.’ And she said, ‘Well then, ‘Bewitched’ is done.’ That’s what my dad told my mom.”

Montgomery’s marriage to Asher was unraveling. By then, Montgomery was ready to move on as an actress. “Bewitched” came to an end in 1972 and the couple divorced a year later.

Author Herbie J. Pilato, author of “Twitch Upon a Star” and executive producer of “Elizabeth Montgomery: A Bewitched Life,” previously alleged to Closer magazine that Asher “had an affair that broke Elizabeth’s heart.”

Asher had married Montgomery while directing the 1963 film “Johnny Cool,” where she played a gangster’s moll, The Guardian reported. At the time, both of them were recently divorced from actors. According to the outlet, Asher had a great influence over “Bewitched” and even got Montgomery to showcase her trademark nose twitch that her character used to cast a spell.

Elizabeth Montgomery and William Asher posing together

Montgomery with husband Bill Asher. The star allegedly gave Harry Ackerman an ultimatum, refusing to come back to the show after he refused to fire her estranged husband as director. (Martin Mills/Getty Images)

“There was a kind of devastation,” Ackerman added. “You didn’t want it to end.”

Ackerman has fond memories of “Aunt Liz,” who became family.

“She may have been the first actress who I met and got to know who was very much like her character,” he chuckled. “She had this pixie attitude. Her eyes glimmered and sparkled. Perhaps those were boyhood memories… But she really was Samantha. When I see Samantha on screen today, I’m seeing Elizabeth, Aunt Liz.”

“She was a practical joker,” he shared. “She loved playing practical jokes. I remember she played a character named Serena in the series where she wore a black wig. As a child, I didn’t know that was Aunt Liz. She came up to me, got down to my eye level and said, ‘Who are you? Who else is on this show?’ I introduce myself and tell her how nice Elizabeth is. She goes along with it and says, ‘That’s good to hear.’ It took me years before I learned that it was really Aunt Liz! She was just so playful and kind with me.”

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Elizabeth Montgomery smiling on a swing

Ackerman remembers Montgomery as playful “Aunt Liz,” who loved practical jokes. (ABC Photo Archives/Disney General Entertainment Content via Getty Images)

Following “Bewitched,” Montgomery was ready to shed her squeaky clean image. She went on to focus on dramatic TV films. She also worked with her fourth and final husband, actor Robert Foxworth.

The star passed away in 1995 at age 62 from colon cancer.

Ackerman still vividly recalls the last time he saw “Aunt Liz.”

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“By this time my dad was working on the Paramount lot,” he explained. “I stopped by and ran into Liz filming a TV movie. I guess by then, all was forgiven between my dad and Aunt Liz. I remember she said, ‘I’m so glad your father didn’t bring you yesterday – I was doing a nude scene!’ And then she suddenly covered herself with her hands as if she was without clothing.”

Elizabeth Montgomery dressed up in a blue costume

Ackerman remembers the last time he saw Montgomery before she passed in 1995. (ABC Photo Archives/Disney General Entertainment Content via Getty Images)

“She then put her hands on her hips and said, ‘I hear from your dad that you’ve been taking tap lessons. Let’s see what you got!’ So I showed her my moves. I remember she laughed, hugged me and said, ‘It’s so good to see you.’ And that was the last time I saw her, with that smile on her face.”

“When I see her on TV today, I still see Aunt Liz,” said Ackerman. “She truly was lovely. She made people feel good. She was magic. My father knew it – we all knew it.”

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