Janet's Vintage Finds

Bewitched’s Samantha: A Powerful Woman With or Without Witchcraft

Bewitched Samanth and Darrin

When I was young I used to love watching Elizabeth Montgomery in “Bewitched,” the 1960s-70s sitcom about the beautiful witch, Samantha Stephens, and her mortal husband Darrin. To her immense credit, Montgomery was able to make Samantha seem like a perfectly plausible witch and an equally believable suburban housewife.

Bewitched television series graphic
Bewitched ran from 1964-72.

As a girl, what really drew me to Samantha was her power, and I don’t just mean witchcraft. She could handle any situation, and look perfect doing it. It isn’t, of course, easy to live among mortals and carry out boring mortal rituals, like driving to the grocery store and cooking dinner, knowing all the while that you could take care of those mundane tasks in seconds with the twitch of a nose. But she took on this burden because she (inexplicably) loved Darrin and she always succeeded in whatever she set out to do. (It’s often unclear what she sees in the hapless ad exec).

The antics of Samantha’s witch and warlock relatives often played havoc with the Stephens’ home life as well as Darrin’s career. But Samantha repeatedly saves the day, not to mention Darrin’s butt. On quite a few occasions, she is instrumental in securing huge advertising clients for her husband. Of course, her actions were often in response to her witch relatives meddling in Darrin’s client meetings. Still, not only did Samantha always restore harmony but she often came up with an even better plan for the client than Darrin ever could have thought of.

bewitched Elizabeth Montgomery
Elizabeth Montgomery as Samantha. (Photo from “That’s Entertainment” a blog by Jackson Upperco.)

A case in point is an episode in which Samantha’s uncle Arthur (Paul Lynde) tries to impress his girlfriend by displaying practical jokes around the Stephens house. When Darrin’s boss, Larry, and the prospective clients arrive, they are confronted with a string of strange and annoying events: drinks sticking to the table; a boxing glove appearing out of nowhere and knocking Larry unconscious; a the sudden appearance of a barrel of monkeys in the living room– you get the idea.

Anyway, just as the clients are preparing to leave in disgust, Uncle Arthur agrees to stop the nonsense. Samantha quickly arrives at Darrin’s side for the inevitable “explanation.”

“Go ahead and tell them about your plan, that you can enjoy your home without making it a Coney Island funhouse,” says Samantha to Darrin. Of course, Darrin can’t fathom where she’s going with that at first, but the upshot is that Sam saves a huge ad account by quickly thinking up a campaign idea related to the practical jokes — and Darrin gets the credit. All the while, Samantha stands by his side seemingly content to play a supporting role. Of course, the irony is that she is the star of this show and no one even for a moment gives Darrin serious respect.

As long as we’re talking about not getting credit, it also happened to Montgomery herself during the show’s run. According to the blog, Neatorama, Montgomery “also played her deliciously mischievous cousin Serena in several episodes. She was not credited for the role, as producers figured it would be obvious.”

Bewitched Samantha and cousin Serena
The actress credited with playing Serena was ‘Pandora Spocks’, but it was really Montgomery expertly playing both parts (photo from Lux Magazine’s blog).

On some levels, “Bewitched” is a silly sitcom. But there was something special about Samantha. She made me long to cast spells and become invisible, but also to remember that you don’t need magic to feel powerful. Her quick intellect and calm, sure manner get her and those around her through some tough situations. Not a bad model to follow, I thought then. And still believe now.

“Bewitched” rose above the average half-hour comedy in the early days of TV, and it’s stuck with me. Does anyone else feel the same about a favorite childhood show?

 

Audrey Hepburn: Painful Childhood Influenced Her Work on Screen and Off

Audrey cover
Audrey Hepburn
Audrey Hepburn: “Princess of all our fairy tales,” says People Magazine (Winter 1993)

I came across a 1993 issue of People magazine recently. A Special Collector’s Issue devoted to the life of Audrey Hepburn that came out just after Audrey’s death at age 63, from colon cancer.   I remember saving it and pouring over the pictures. She’s always been my favorite Hollywood star (see my previous post on the style of Audrey and Grace Kelly).

I started reading the articles and was reminded of the difficulties she overcame before rising to stardom. We came to think of her as living among the beautiful and privileged but she first endured a harsh childhood spent partly in Nazi-occupied Holland. Born Edda Hepburn-Ruston on May 4, 1929, in Brussels, Audrey’s first great sorrow was the divorce of her parents when she was just 6. She adored her father and lived with him for a while in London but he mostly ignored her. She later returned to live with her mother–who was of part-Jewish ancestry–in Holland, just before it was invaded by Germany. Over the next few years, her uncle and a cousin were executed by the Nazis.

Audrey Hepburn childhood
Audrey was shy and awkward as a child

Audrey’s mother survived by posing as a pro-German aristocrat but still had her home, property and bank accounts confiscated by the Germans. Audrey’s half-brother was sent to a labor camp after he refused to join a Nazi youth group. The Germans forced the family to evacuate in 1944 and Audrey found herself living in a crowded house in a neighboring village. One day, she was snatched off the streets by German soldiers to work in their military kitchens but escaped to a deserted cellar. There, she nearly died from malnutrition before being rescued by Allied troops in 1945,

The images of war always haunted her and I think this is part of her power on the screen. There are many beautiful movie actresses but, to me, Audrey rose above the pack. She had such a kind face and eyes that could simultaneously express joy and sadness. Think of the scene in Breakfast at Tiffany’s when she’s sitting on the fire escape outside her apartment singing “Moon River.”

Roman Holiday
Audrey and Gregory Peck in “Roman Holiday”

Audrey started off in show business in Holland but her first Hollywood hit was “Roman Holiday,” in 1953, for which she won an Oscar. Soon after came Holly Golightly in “Breakfast,” the part she became most famous for. Here’s how People describes that role’s impact on style and attitudes at the time:

“Holly was the wanton gadfly of the Kennedy generation, with “Moon River” its love song. Young men fell hopelessly in love with Hepburn when she and George Peppard dropped their cat and dog masks and kissed in front of their elevator; young women descended on American’s major cities wearing beehive hairdos and extravagant dark glasses. Daring to be different, defying the world with her wistful exuberance, Holly in 1961 was the pre-dawning of the Age of Aquarius.”

Breakfast at Tiffanys
In Breakfast at Tiffany’s
Breakfast at Tiffanys
With “Breakfast” co-star George Peppard

Her beauty was a mixture of girl-next-door and royal princess. Here’s how the New York Times described her in its obituary:

“Descriptions of her beauty and appeal inevitably included the word “gamine.” She was boyishly slender, with an aristocratic bearing, the trace of a European accent and a hint of mischief. ‘A Wild-Eyed Doe’.”

By the time I came to know Audrey’s work, she was already in her 50s, and I admired her even more as she aged. Her second “career” was working as a roving special ambassador for UNICEF, driven by her own experiences with living in a time of wartime suffering. I remember seeing her on TV visiting children in Ethiopia and other countries. Her celebrity status helped bring needed resources to people suffering during civil wars and famines. She was in Somalia in 1992, just a year before her death.

Audrey Hepburn unicef
Audrey’s second career: ambassador for UNICEF

 

The publisher’s letter notes that People magazine had never before devoted an entire issue to a single movie star. When Audrey died, the staff started sifting through all the information and pictures and finally decided that a mere article could not do justice to Hepburn’s extraordinary life. I completely agree. I hope you enjoy seeing some of the pictures from that issue — I don’t think she ever took a bad photo.

Audrey Hepburn broadway early career
“Gigi” was her first big role in Broadway
Audrey hepburn style
Audrey’s style had a big influence on fashion trends

 

 

Audrey hepburn on bike
Audrey was always stylish, never pretentious

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  • Source: Content based on articles in the Winter, 1993 Special Issue of People magazine. Photos taken from the same issue.

We All Need To Look Like A Princess Every Now and Then

Cinderella

For my wedding (quite a few years ago now), I asked a a dressmaker friend who was just opening her own shop to design and sew my dress. In the months leading up to the big day I stopped by for measurements and fittings and remember the excitement I felt as the dress took shape. It was unlike anything I had every worn: silk and satin with an overlay of lace; a long line of tiny pearl buttons; fitted bodice with long, flowing skirt; satin bow trailing down the back. My friend was a creative designer and expert, meticulous seamstress.

wedding satin lace
My wedding dress: satin, pearls, and lace

For years now the dress has lain dormant inside a dry cleaning bag in the back of my closet. Then recently I tried it on and was pleased to discover that it still fit. I love how it makes a luxurious swooshing sound against the floor. Why have I barely glanced at it for decades, I wondered while gazing in the mirror? For one, single day I gave myself license to look like a princess. Then shoved it into the back of a closet for all eternity.

These days, my typical wardrobe falls into the general category of casual/sporty with a few dressier items thrown in for nights out or special occasions. Friends would probably describe my style as updated and practical. And the fact is that I rarely have any reason to dress up. Working from home, I go through entire days without seeing another person, communicating exclusively by email and phone. It’s hard to come up with a good reason to change out of my sweatpants or worn-in jeans.

Like many women, I like the idea of looking perfectly beautiful or glamorous but keep it in the realm of fantasy instead of actually living it. I have a nagging feeling that I’m being too frivolous or not modern enough. I’ve never been someone who was obsessed with frilly things or the color pink. However, I was hooked on Barbie for a while in my pre-teens. And I was transfixed by certain picture books with happy endings, especially “Cinderella.”

Cinderella carriage
From Walt Disney’s Cinderella, A Big Golden Book 1967 ed.

 

However, I think the princess thing is primal. In my 20s, I love Audrey Hepburn and must have watched Breakfast at Tiffany’s dozens of times in my 20s; it seemed to help me weather the down times (see my previous post about Audrey’s style). I also love old musicals with Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers. One of my favorite scenes of all time is from Top Hat, when Ginger seems to float down that spiral staircase in a dress made of feathers. Watching them dance made me forget all my real-world troubles.

Fred and Ginger dancing cheek-to-cheek in 'Top Hat'
Fred and Ginger dancing cheek-to-cheek in ‘Top Hat’

Maybe our continuing love affair with princesses is just that: a necessary escape. As modern women, we will do the practical things everyday at home and in our jobs. We will be responsible and fulfill our obligations. But sometimes we want to immerse ourselves in a world where nothing is mundane or practical and everything works out happily in the end. I wouldn’t even want life to be like that all the time, but it’s fun to watch.

Maybe I’ll even wear the dress again someday. We could renew our vows in a vintage-style wedding (Deer Pearl Flowers has posted some great vintage decorating ideas).

What do you think of the “princess” obsession? Out of place in the modern world? Or just a fun escape?

 

5 Secrets to Audrey Hepburn’s and Grace Kelly’s Vintage Style

grace-kelly-90774_1280

Few of us can be as stylish as 1950s celebrities Grace Kelly and Audrey Hepburn but we can all add some vintage style to our look. Here are 5 tips to creating your own vintage style.

“Vintage” is sometimes equated with “old” but what it really conveys is lasting quality–that’s what I think of when I see Audrey Hepburn or Grace Kelly in old movies. Like fine wines, they seemed to acquire more style and grace with age.

Miriam Webster notes “vintage” can be used to describe “something that is not new but that is valued because of its good condition, attractive design, etc.”

They could have placed Hepburn and Kelly’s pictures beside that definition as examples of vintage in human form. These two actresses defined chic sophistication throughout their lives.

How can we mere mortals borrow some of that style? Here are my thoughts:

  1. Embrace shorter hairstyles. Grace Kelly’s swept, back hairstyles appear so soft and natural. While you may not be able to achieve this exact style, there are a few basic takeaways: shoulder length, no bangs, highlights, waves. Audrey’s perfect facial structure allowed her to rock a pixie cut. While you may not want to go that short, you also don’t need to hide behind your hair.
    grace-kelly-90774_1280
    Grace Kelly’s swept back style.

     

Audrey Hepburn for Givenchy
Audrey’s pixie cut. Photo by Carrie Spritzer via Creative Commons.

2. Don’t over-accessorize. Who doesn’t want to look like Audrey Hepburn in the wee hours of the morning gazing through Tiffany’s display window? Besides the perfect black dress, what’s most memorable are her signature hat and sunglasses. She had a masterful way with accessories. Lesson for us: you don’t need a lot of makeup or flashy jewelry to look elegant. Find a couple of stand-out accessories to define your look.

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Audrey Hepburn’s classic black hat and sunglasses.

3. Forego the knife. Audrey and Grace didn’t have access to a lot of the cosmetic procedures used by stars today but they were still elegant and attractive as they aged (sadly, Grace only made it into her 50s).

audrey-hepburn-old
A still beautiful older Audrey Hepburn. /photo by JC Pons via Creative Commons

4. Invest in quality.  Grace and Audrey were stylish but never trendy. A few quality, signature pieces defined their look. Think Grace’s Hermes bags or Audrey’s orange, double-breasted coat worn in Breakfast at Tiffany’s. Lesson: Build your wardrobe around a few quality pieces instead of buying a lot of cheaper items based on passing trends.

Grace Kelly with iconic Hermes bag. (From Marie Claire)
Grace Kelly with iconic Hermes Bag (photo from Marie Claire).

Audrey Hepburn's Orange Coat
Audrey Hepburn’s Orange Coat by Givenchy. Photo by Landahlauts via Creative Commons

 

5. Wear Flats. Although 1950s and early 1960s fashion often conjures up images of form-fitting, cinched waist dresses and sleek stilettos, you can achieve a vintage style in flats, too. Personally, I have never gotten used to walking in high heels so even though I realize they look attractive, I think of stilettos as pure torture. Audrey and Grace often wore flats or 1 or 2-inch heels with both dresses and casual outfits.

Audrey wears low heels with her elegant black dress.
Audrey wears low heels with her elegant black dress.
Grace Kelly
Grace Kelly looking casual. Photo by II Giss/ Creative Commons.

 

 

 

Do you like vintage style? How do you achieve it in your everyday or special occasion wardrobe? I’d love to get your input.

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