Elizabeth Montgomery is beloved by many fans for her role on one of the most famous TV shows of the 1960s: Bewitched. However, lurking beyond Montgomery’s light-heartedness in that series is a connection to a sinister murder in American history. Let’s take a look at that story and a TV movie Montgomery made.
“Bewitched’ star Elizabeth Montgomery’s roots
Montgomery, according to Family Tree, is a descendant of early settlers in Massachusetts. Specifically, her relatives include Samuel Luther and Mary Abell who lived in Swansea, Massachusetts. One of the other descendants of Luther and Abell was a woman named Lizzie Borden. And so, there is a connection between Lizzie and Montgomery.
The brutal murders in Massachusetts
Firstly, some background. History.com tells us Lizzie lived in Fall River, Massachusetts with her father, Andrew Borden, and her step-mother, Abby Borden. The relationships between Lizzie, her father, and step-mother were very strained. Lizzie had issues with her father over money and she basically despised her step-mother.
Both parents were found dead in their home on August 4, 1892. The weapon used to murder them was a hatchet. They were brutally bludgeoned to death. Circumstantial evidence against Lizzie included facts concerning her contentious relationships, that she bought poison prior to the murders, and she burned a dress days after. In addition, the only persons at the home at the time of the murders was Lizzie and the housekeeper.
Despite evidence, Lizzie’s Christian countenance and the fact that no blood was found on her led to her acquittal of the brutal slayings. Afterward, Borden lived on in pop culture through the rhyme “Lizzie Borden took an axe, And gave her mother forty whacks; When she saw what she had done, She gave her father forty-one.”
How Elizabeth Montgomery kept Lizzie Borden in the headlines
Elizabeth Montgomery starred in a movie about the Borden murders. TCM tells us that a film version of the story, The Legend of Lizzie Borden, aired on ABC on February 10, 1975. Ironically, Montgomery had the lead role of Lizzie. Family Tree states that Montgomery did not know that the alleged murderer she was playing was “her sixth cousin once removed.” The Hatchet: A Journal of Lizzie Borden and Victorian Studies comments on the physical resemblance of the two women. In addition, it reports that Montgomery was quite comfortable in the period’s costuming. Further, Montgomery was able to project through facial expressions the character of Lizzie who was deeply layered. Montgomery also enjoyed being called “Lizzie.”
Was ‘The Legend of Lizzie Borden’ successful?
According to IMDB, The Legend of Lizzie Borden was nominated for a 1976 Golden Globe for Best Motion Picture Made for Television. Montgomery received a Primetime Emmy nomination for Outstanding Lead Actress. In addition, the film was nominated for an Emmy in Art Direction. It won a Primetime Emmy for Outstanding Film Editing as well as the 1976 Edgar Allan Poe Award for Best Television Feature. Clearly, it resonated with viewers and critics. Perhaps Montgomery proved she could aim a hatchet as well as she could twitch her nose.
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