Twitch Upon a Star by Herbie J Pilato: Meandering Memories


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Like millions of people across the globe, I grew up watching Bewitched. Although, truth be told, it was not a favourite in our house, or at least if it was, it came on after my bedtime. I did watch it later on in its many resurgences on daytime telly as it was always (and still is, I believe) one of those shows that will be re-run fodder until the end of time.

I do remember the disappearance of actor Dick York who played Darren in the beginning episodes. His absence and subsequent replacement by Dick Sargent was never explained. If I remember correctly it was handled similarly to how they announce replacements in the American soap opera world; “the part of Darren will be played by Dick Sargent.”

It was almost like he’d died, York that is, and in those old halcyon days of pre-internet the information was not revealed to mere mortals like you or I. At least not to mortals who lived in the rural areas of Arkansas.

But regardless of who played the witch Samantha’s mortal husband, the show was entertaining and a wealth of young men grew up hoping that if they couldn’t find a witch like Samantha, they could at least find an Elizabeth Montgomery.

Later when Bewitched finally shuffled off into that realm of reruns and (hopefully) reunions or at the very least a TV movie, Ms Montgomery moved on to other more challenging roles both in her work as an actress and as a person. The work side of things were documented by her body of works. Some of which I only found out about by reading this book.

I had no idea that my “ideal” woman growing up portrayed one of my “real-life” role models and literary heroes, the Pulitzer Prize winning Edna Buchanan.

Twitch upon a Star or “The Bewitched Life and Career of Elizabeth Montgomery: TWITCH UPON A STAR” which is it’s too long title, is written by Herbie J Pilato. Mr Pilato has written several books about television shows and series. This 472 page book serves as a fan’s ultimate pledge of love and devotion. So much so that he uses a grand total of 25 pages to preface and introduce the actual recounting of Montgomery’s life.

I will not say that this book did not inform, because it did. Unfortunately it informed too much of the same information. Repeatedly. While I was eager to read of the “trials and tribulations” of a woman who I felt was a damned fine actress (I’d seen her Lizzie Borden and this childhood ‘crush’ scared the hell out of me) I did not want to read the same information time and again in different chapters.

Elizabeth Montgomery as ax murderess Lizzie Borden.
Elizabeth Montgomery as ax murderess Lizzie Borden.

The book suffers from following no real chronological time line. It moves forward and backward throughout Elizabeth’s life and career. The information dealing with her marriages leapfrogs back and forth and does not adhere to events as they happened. Rather they pop up randomly based, it seems, on the tiniest of threads that Pilato feels makes the re-revealing of this information crucial.

While the tone of the book is one of reverence. (It appears to be Mr Pilato’s opinion that not only could Ms Montgomery walk on water, she was incapable of getting her feet wet) Pilato does try to infer that the woman was not a saint, but the inclusion of so many repeated variants of the same anecdotal reveals plunges the reader into stretches of boredom and disinterest.

love “showbiz” biographies. Not the “kiss and tell” warts and all type of yellow journalism that would not look out-of-place on the cover of The National Enquirer (because enquiring minds want to know) but the ones that offer true insights to a great actors background or how they achieved their goals. The personal touches that make that face on the screen become a real person.

Or perhaps the “nuts and bolts” of what made them become a performer or a certain type of person. Something that tells me once about some incident or occurrence that shaped their lives or performances. Not repeatedly going over the same old ground again and again.

I was really excited to see this book on the Kindle list of Biographies. I always liked Elizabeth Montgomery and wanted to learn more about her as a person. Unfortunately the book relies far too heavily on old interviews done throughout her career; not only to “move” the book forward, but to repeatedly support some point that one of her friends may have made about her character.

Unfortunately this book was a hard slog to get through. I came close to giving up several times. The odd interesting tidbit of information was lost in the endless repeating of information and the stepping forward and then backward through the time line of her life.

This is a 3 out of 5 star book only because there were a few anecdotes that I’d not heard and there was the odd bit of information that almost made the sheer drudgery of reading the overlong and meandering tome worth it.

Recommended for only the most ardent Elizabeth Montgomery fans and then only those whose devotion can forgive such a wandering and unguided look at her life.

Two brilliant actors - Elizabeth Montgomery as Samantha and Agnes Moorehead as Endora.
Two brilliant actors – Elizabeth Montgomery as Samantha and Agnes Moorehead as Endora.

Author: Mike's Film Talk

Former Actor, Former Writer, Former Journalist, USAF Veteran, http://MikesFilmTalk.com Former Member Nevada Film Critics Society

7 thoughts on “Twitch Upon a Star by Herbie J Pilato: Meandering Memories”

  1. No problem. Glad to oblige.

    Meanwhile, I thought to provide these other sound-bites (“read-bites”?) about TWITCH from other media outlets:

    “Heavily researched, expertly executed, and handled with reverence, Twitch Upon A Star is a magical revelation about one of the most popular and endearing performers of all time. It’s clear that Herbie J Pilato not only knows what he’s talking about, but that he also cares very deeply about his subject, from a personal, yet objective perspective…No two ways about it, this book is a class act about a classic actress.”

    – Danny Gold, Film and Television Producer

    “I encourage everyone to read Pilato’s astounding, loving, riveting, eye-opening book.”
    – Lydia Cornell, star of classic TV’s Too Close For Comfort, comedienne, and women and children’s advocate

    “The way Herbie J Pilato tells it, Elizabeth Montgomery just didn’t have guts, she had balls. She was kind to those she felt deserved it but had no qualms about setting others straight. Who’d’a thunk that sweet little Samantha had such chutzpah?”

    – Larry Brody, veteran TV writer and producer (Baretta, Diagnosis: Murder, The Fall Guy, and more)

    “Not only has Bewitched’s Samantha Stephens influenced hundreds of female TV characters and the actresses who portrayed them, but Elizabeth Montgomery’s lasting influence on Hollywood and society has been far greater than the TV series that made her a legend. Herbie J Pilato, one of the great students of classic TV, spins a compelling narrative that brings to life a magical TV series and its even more magical star. It’s a true Hollywood story, and more than any book I’ve read Twitch Upon a Star goes behind-the-scenes to capture a fascinating period in history when television was coming of age.”

    – Jack Myers, Media Ecologist, Author and Producer

    “Intricately revealing, well written and hard to put down, Herbie J Pilato’s Twitch Upon a Star captures the essence and life of Elizabeth Montgomery. He leads readers on an intriguing journey into the loves, politics and performances of this multi-talented actor – a very magical journey, yet based in the real emotion of love. I heartily recommend this well rounded read for fans, friends and all who value the life of a gifted, complex and bewitching woman.”

    – Kathy Garver, film, TV, and stage star (Cissy on the classic Family Affair TV series); author, The Family Affair Cookbook and Surviving Cissy; speaker.

    “Much more than just a celebrity biography Twitch Upon A Star relays a spiritual quest that can speak to anyone. Retelling the story and work of a life can activate an awareness of the beauty and purpose in our own unfoldment. Pilato accomplishes this masterfully and magically, uncovering such depth and absorbing reflection with authenticity and vigorous charm to reveal Elizabeth Montgomery’s journey as a true cultural treasure. This book is magnificent!”

    – Thomas Warfield, performing artist and founder of PeaceArt International

    “Elizabeth Montgomery’s life is beautifully portrayed by author Herbie Pilato in [this] loving new biography.”

    – FrontiersLA

    “[A] comprehensive and touching biography of Montgomery’s life. . . . Fans of classic television or of well-written biographies should seek this out . . . an insightful read about an amazing woman!”

    – Journeys in Classic Film

    “. . . [T]ells you all about Bewitched, the magical 1960s-and-’70s sitcom, and other triumphs enjoyed by the talented and beautiful Montgomery.”

    – Village Voice

    “Twitch Upon A Star is ASTOUNDING. Herbie J Pilato does a wonderful job of mixing hard info with his personal relationship with Elizabeth Montgomery. His approach makes the book very unique. This is one of the best biographies I’ve read in years. It is a real classic . . . a brilliant work!”

    – Rick Lertzman, media historian and author of Codename: Dr. Feelgood

    “Wonderful book and terrific author . . .”

    – Shannon Devereaux Sanford, Shannon’s Corner, WTBQ radio

    “. . . Twitch Upon a Star is an engrossing look at a strong-willed actress whose career spanned five decades. It will satisfy Elizabeth Montgomery’s fans, as well as Bewitched buffs interested in learning more about that series’ leading lady-and even how the famous twitch was `invented.'”

    – Classic Film and TV Café

    “[A] blockbuster new book.”

    – The National Enquirer

    “Life’s journey is never simple. Twitch Upon a Star: The Bewitched Life and Career of Elizabeth Montgomery is a biography from Herbie J. Pilato [in which] he tells the `Bewitched’ star’s story . . . forming friendships, romances, enemies, and everything in between. An advocate with her own problems, [Montgomery’s] story is one of [an individual] who tried to make a difference with her stardom. Twitch Upon a Star is a strongly recommended addition to Hollywood and television history biography collections; highly recommended.”

    – Midwest Book Review

    “. . . No matter how big your twitch itch, this book will scratch it.”

    – Ventura County Star

    ” . . . [I]t’s like meeting [Elizabeth Montgomery] all over again for the very first time. . . . If you’ve ever enjoyed an episode of “Bewitched,” come meet her for yourself.”

    – BookSteve’s Library Blog

    “This biography covers it all . . . Fans will love the three sections of photos and Pilato’s respectful, yet truthful, portrait of the woman who will forever be remembered for as the beautiful witch Samantha Stephens.”

    – SheKnows Book Lounge

    “Twitch Upon a Star is as perfect a book could be . . . [it] shines bright at a rating of 5 Stars (out of five). I read it twice. Afterwards I watched re-runs of Bewitched-knowing what I learned from Twitch Upon a Star-and what stirred me most were the questions that came to mind which I feel Twitch Upon a Star answered. Twitch Upon a Star is as no other book. . . . For me, a person who thinks he’s read the best of the best books, [this] put a twinkle in my eyes [from] Herbie J Pilato’s mastery of the craft of writing.”

    – Salvador SeBasco, Book critic; host of The Inside View Show

    “Twitch Upon a Star is based on Pilato’s exclusive interviews prior to Montgomery’s 1995 death. . . . The book follows her career before, during and after “Bewitched,” and goes behind the scenes chronicling her political activism [and] reveals behind-the-scenes anecdotes about the show and Montgomery’s life.”

    – Long Beach Press-Telegram

    “Pilato expertly captures the life of [this] wonderful actress.”

    – Daytona News-Journal

    “[Herbie J Pilato is] the master of all things “Bewitched.” . . . [Twitch Upon a Star is an] amazing new book.”

    – NewNowNext on Logo Online

    “For anyone who only recalls Elizabeth Montgomery from her most memorable role, on the 1960s sitcom `Bewitched,’ this thoroughly researched, extensively detailed, and wholly fascinating biography will load you up with everything you’ve been missing. It’s a delicious, detailed look at her life and remarkable career before, during and after that magical, life-changing show; her crusading and often controversial activism for the causes close to her heart; her often turbulent relationship with her father, actor Robert Montgomery; her rocky marital history; and the many other facets of the woman who played Samantha Stephens, TV’s `witch with the twitch’ at the end of her nose.”

    – American Profile

    “Fans of Elizabeth Montgomery and Bewitched will love this book.”

    – Living in the Kitchen with Puppies

    “Herbie J Pilato, a long-time fan and later friend of the actress uses his extensive interviews with the actress, plus meticulous research to get to the bottom of what the real Elizabeth Montgomery was like.”

    – Soap World Magazine

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  2. Hello – Thank you for your review of my book. So very sorry that you did not enjoy it. I tried to make the book as entertaining and informative as possible, with each chapter it’s own separate “book”; yet still connecting one to the other with a continuing thread. As I explain in the introductory sections I never envisioned TWITCH UPON A STAR as a “regular” celebrity biography. Because I knew Elizabeth, and because I am clearly a fan, I always knew the book would not be grouped with “tabloid” fare or as a exploitive work. That said, too, I still wanted to tell her life story as honestly as possible and made every attempt to do that with the utmost respect for all those concerned (which ultimately is how I dedicated the book). In either case, I send my best “twitches” to all – and hopefully, you will enjoy any of my future and alternate books. HJP PS: Please feel free to contact me (via my website: http://www.herbiejpilato.com) with any questions that you or any of your readers may have about TWITCH or any of my publications, blogs or body of work.

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    1. Firstly, thanks for stopping by to make a comment! I’m always pleased when (and not to mention a little surprised) when the author of a book I’ve reviewed stops by! I did indeed find the book hard to get through, as I stated in the review, but it did provide me with information about Ms Montgomery that I did not previously know.

      Secondly, thank you for including the link to your website and the open invitation to me and my readers to approach you for questions.

      Cheers mate!

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  3. My mother could never see Elizabeth without remember she was her father’s daughter and her father had been an ardent McCarthy supporter. No bewitched in our house.

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