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Retro : Bewitched by Her Versatility : ELIZABETH MONTGOMERY PROVED SHE WAS MORE THAN A CHARMING WITCH IN 'THE AWAKENING LAND'

August 20, 1995|SUSAN KING | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Every Wednesday night this summer on Nick at Nite, fans of the late Elizabeth Montgomery can catch the bewitching actress in six back-to-back episodes of her classic sitcom.

But Montgomery was more than just a first-rate comic star of "Bewitched." After the series left the ABC airwaves in 1972, the daughter of popular actor-director Robert Montgomery made a concerted effort to change her TV image as the charming, nose-twitching witch Samantha. Over the next two decades, Montgomery demonstrated her versatility in numerous classy TV movies and miniseries, most notably 1974's "A Case of Rape," as a wife and mother who is sexually assaulted, in 1975's "The Legend of Lizzie Borden," in which she was chilling as the famed murderess and in the 1978 NBC miniseries The Awakening Land.

Montgomery received her 10th Emmy nomination for her glowing, juicy turn in "The Awakening Land," a sprawling frontier saga based on Conrad Richter's Pulitzer Prize-winning trilogy: "The Trees," "The Fields" and "The Towns."

Beginning Tuesday, TNT repeats the lusty seven-hour drama about a pioneer woman, her love for her family, the man she marries and the land on which they lived.

Montgomery plays the strong-willed, courageous matriarch Sayward Luckett Wheeler. Hal Holbrook, who also received an Emmy nomination, is her spouse Portius. Rounding out the impressive cast is a young Jane Seymour, Steven Keats, Louise Latham, Jeannette Nolan (also an Emmy nominee as the colorful Granny McWhirter) and Bert Remsen.

Emmy nominations also went to Michael Hugo for his lush cinematography, Fred Karlin for his evocative musical score and Bernard J. Small for his editing. James Lee Barrett and Liam O'Brien penned the literate, compelling script. Boris Sagal, the father of Katey Sagal of "Married ... With Children," directed. Former dancer and film star Marge Champion ("Show Boat") supplied the authentic dance movement and was dialogue supervisor.

"The Awakening Land" airs Tuesday at 5 and 9 p.m. and Wednesday 5-11 p.m. on TNT; "Bewitched" airs Wednesdays 8-11 p.m. on Nickelodeon and weekdays at 5:35 a.m. on TBS.

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