Tag Archives: Bewitched

Jill Foster 1930-2017

Jill Foster’s daughter, writer Laurie Newbound, has announced that her mother passed away peacefully on March 24, 2017, “shortly after midnight, at home surrounded by love”.

I was first drawn to Jill after watching her on reruns of Bewitched in the early ‘90s. Indeed, Jill was probably best known outside of her native Canada for playing adman Darrin Stephens’ (Dick York) girl Friday, Betty, on the series. Darrin actually had eight “Bettys”. Long before that HR nightmare Murphy Brown, it seems that McMann & Tate Advertising had a niggling problem with secretary turnover, but didn’t want to go so far as to hang the expense of a new desk nameplate. Jill’s Betty appeared in 10 episodes from 1965-1969. Interestingly, often her character’s surname differed: with Betty Schaeffer, then Willis, and then Wilson arguably giving Liz Taylor a run for her money. One Bewitched website owner, Vic Mascaro, suggests, “Apparently while not in the office, she was finding new husbands!” In real life, Jill wasn’t doing anything of the sort. Her part on Bewitched came about through her partnership with one of the show’s writers and script consultant, Bernard Slade, whose actual name is Bernard Newbound. Jill and Bern (as he likes to be called) were married for nearly 65 years. He survives her, along with children Laurie and Christopher.

Jill in Bewitched’s second-season episode, “My Boss, the Teddy Bear”.
Jill feeling under the influence of one of Endora’s spells in Bewitched’s fourth-season episode, “Man of the Year”.

It is somewhat peculiar that I singled Jill out from the cast, particularly since her part was typically small and restricted to a few scenes in an episode. I have a way of doing that. Of course, I adored the series lead Elizabeth Montgomery. After all, what 10-year-old child, unless utterly devoted, writes for a school assignment a recipe poem (remember those?) about a woman who had played a witch 20 years previously, and who was now busying herself starring in TV movies as vicious nurses, domineering mothers, and serial killers? But I’m often drawn to the co-stars and featured performers. On Bewitched it was people like Jill, Kasey Rogers (as Louise Tate, Larry Tate’s wife) and guest stars Charles Lane, Reta Shaw, and Sara Seegar. Perhaps it was also because while Jill’s part was small, she was terrific in it, and it hinted at the depth of her comedic acting ability.

Beware of Endoras bearing gifts. Jill and Agnes Moorehead in “My Boss, the Teddy Bear”.
‘You know a psychiatrist could cure you of an attachment like that’. Jill and Dick York with a furry friend.
‘Mr Stephens, teddy bears don’t have heartbeats’. Betty gets pragmatic.
Jill with Lael Jackson, Henry Hunter, and Jack Collins in “My Boss, the Teddy Bear”.

Born Florence Jill Hancock on May 9, 1930 (we share a birthday, albeit some decades apart) in Toronto, Jill did have office experience. As Frank Peppiatt told it in his memoir, when TV first came to Canada in 1952, Jill was working in a stockbroker’s office, as well as a member of a theatre group. Frank and his pal, John Aylesworth, were working at MacLaren Advertisting when their former colleague, Peter MacFarlane, now a producer and director at CBC, took the pair to lunch. Based on their office straight man-funny man routines, Peter asked if the pair would write some comedy, the one genre, as Frank wrote, “CBC lacked … on its television schedule”.

After a few nights staring at what other writers have told me they dread the most – the blank yellow legal pad – Peppiatt and Aylesworth came up with the idea of a skit involving “seeing comic book characters relaxing on their day off”. More specifically, the skit would involve Superman “at home in a crappy apartment”, with “a creepy father who couldn’t care less about his prowess”, and his “floozy-looking” mother. The brass asked Peppiatt and Aylesworth to appear in a test of the skit, and so they had to find Mother. Peppiatt remembered a friend’s ex-girlfriend named Florence Hancock, who had starred in a production of Born Yesterday, as well as playing “the nutty mother” in You Can’t Take It with You. Peppiatt told Aylesworth, “I saw her play the lead in Born Yesterday – you know, the Judy Holliday part. She was hilarious”. Rehearsing the skit in Peppaitt’s mother’s basement (I won’t ruin for you how they managed to put Frank’s Superman costume together; CBC didn’t yet have a costume department to furnish the outfit), as well as another skit where Florence would play a gun moll, Florence allayed the men’s fears about their abilities to memorise the lines. She also brought along her new guy, Bernard Newbound, to help cue the trio during rehearsal.

Based on their studio test filmed one Saturday morning, CBC offered Peppiatt & Ayelsworth and Jill Foster (Florence’s chosen stage name) an initial run of 10 one-hour live shows. And so, After Hours was born. Jill and Bern were married the same year, on July 25, 1953.

In reading about After Hours and other early television variety shows whether in Canada, the United States, or my own Australia, you get a real sense of the ingenuity of these pioneers. It was all a brave new world, and Jill’s collaboration with the comedy team is on ready display in Peppiatt’s book; as is her excitement at the prospect of the new series. The trio went on to The Big Revue (1953-54) and On Stage (1954-55), with Norman Jewison producing and directing the programs, and then Here’s Duffy (1958-1959). Jill made appearances across other major anthology series of the time throughout the ‘50s and ‘60s, including CBC Summer Theatre, On Camera, and General Motors Theatre (known as Encounter in the U.S., and also by other names in Canada depending on the program’s current sponsor). In one segment of General Motors Theatre, “Blue Is for Boys” (1960), which was in fact Bern’s play Simon Says Get Married, Jill played Julie, the “charming scatterbrain” paired with William Redfield’s character via an electronic dating service. Actually, Jill was also quite active in theatre in Toronto, appearing at the famed Crest Theatre, including in Simon Says Get Married. Gordon Pinsent, who worked multiple times with Jill, wrote of her in his autobiography that she was “a natural comedic talent who never seemed to be ‘acting’”.

Jill on the stage (Photo: Laurie Newbound private collection).

While a genuine comedienne at CBC, Jill played in drama, too, including in a highly-lauded television production of her husband’s play “A Very Close Family” screened on CBC’s Festival in 1964, in which she played Melvyn Douglas’ daughter. She also played the wife of a bank robber who has dynamite-d himself up in “Power to Destroy” (1958) on General Motors Theatre ; a “shrewish wife”, Myra, opposite Gordon Pinsent in an episode of Playdate called “Willow Circle” (1963); and in a segment of The Unforeseen called “Rendezvous” (1959) that sounds decidedly “The Twilight Zone” chilling. Her daughter Laurie recently posted a picture to social media of Jill appearing on General Motors Theatre in “Lost in the Crowd” (1957), directed by – as Jill often was – Paul Almond. Laurie commented “She is so good in this scene, she makes me cry”. The Newbounds/Slades often appeared together, including on the series A Case for the Court (1962), in a story of uxoricide (I had to look it up, too – it’s murdering one’s wife – Bern and Jill weren’t the couple). For some fun, Jill appeared with her husband on his quiz show, Life a Borrowed Life, as well on The Superior Sex.

Jill, Laurie, and Christopher during their first year in the United States (Photo: Laurie Newbound private collection).

The Newbounds moved to the United States in 1964 and Jill’s acting work slowed down. Besides Bewitched, she appeared on her husband’s Love on a Rooftop as Florence (there you go), and in a unsold pilot with a who’s who of comedy, In Name Only (1969), a Harry Ackerman-E.W. Swackhamer production scripted by Bern (Ackerman’s wife, Elinor Donahue, also appeared).

‘No, I won’t cry. He’ll say I’m wasting water!’ Betty has to contend with a thrifty Darrin in Bewitched’s fourth-season episode “Cheap, Cheap!”.
‘I think Hallucination is a very good name for it!’ Dick and Jill try perfume in Bewitched’s fourth-season episode “The Solid Gold Mother-in-Law”.
‘I know it’s part of my job to brush off all the oddballs’. Jill with Dick and Cliff Norton in her final Bewitched episode, “One Touch of Midas”.
Miss Wilson takes a call. Jill with Melody McCord, David White, Dick York, Cosmo Sardo, and Elizabeth Montgomery in “One Touch of Midas”.

In May 1977, Bernard and Jill starred as George and Doris in a production of Bernard’s megahit Same Time, Next Year at the Citadel Theatre in Edmonton. A newspaper article at the time rightly placed Jill as being “one of the first television performers” in Canada and star of CBC dramas.

Jill and Bern in Same Time, Next Year (Photo: Laurie Newbound private collection).

It was some time before we saw Jill on television again. In 1996, she was back at CBC to appear on the highly-publicised A Tribute to Peppiatt & Aylesworth: Canada’s First TV Comedy Team, as part of the series Adrienne Clarkson Presents. In the interim, Jill and Bern had travelled the world, were now grandparents, and Jill, according to Laurie, was most at home in her kitchen. Reflecting on those early days at CBC and working with Peppiatt and Aylesworth for the program, Jill summed up her feelings, “It was a great period. I guess I’d like to do it again”.

Jill in front of the cameras.
Aylesworth, Peppiatt & Foster.

In 2003, I was looking to locate Jill for an interview. I emailed Bill Aylesworth, John’s son, and then Paul Almond. They were both happy to try to put us in touch and enthusiastic I had an interest in that period and their/their family’s work. Unfortunately, they both let me know that Jill declined. I now know that she was unwell at that time and this was the likely reason for her not wanting to participate. However, I was happy to hear that Jill had maintained her friendships over all that time. As Bill told me in August 2003, “I just saw her a few weeks ago in San Diego. My dad was having a 75th Birthday bash and Jill, Bernard Slade, Rich Little and others attended”. He also mentioned that Jill and his mother played tennis together. Paul told me that he was in continual touch with Jill, and he spoke very highly of her. Sadly, Peppiatt & Aylesworth are now gone. Paul is gone, too. He was a champion for maintaining the history of those “golden years” of television. He wrote in one 2005 email that “I actually put my Moviola into an editing room museum I set up years ago, and now it’s priceless – these early years of TV will be a treasure trove, with all the new digital stuff coming up”.

I am glad to see he was right, and I look forward to finding much more of Jill’s – as well as Paul’s and Bernard’s and all the countless others who made history –  work. I am reminded in reading over old emails how wonderful it was to email back and forth with Paul over that period. I look back now and, while I was very respectful, I don’t think I really got at the time the fact that these men and women were giants and pioneers. I hope more of the work becomes available. Paul did write me about the practice of kinescopes and tapes being destroyed or lost, which he jokingly said meant that of his work, “a lot is (deservedly) missing”! Certainly, so long as Bewitched is playing somewhere in the world, there Jill will be. And that show really is immortal. Of course, there’s the theory that signals from the early days of television may finally be reaching outer space. Perhaps, somewhere, there’s Frank as Superman, with Jill and John, as the Man of Steel’s parents, telling their son that Lois Lane is on to him.

Mom: She told me she saw you changing in a phone booth.
Superman: No, no, never!
Mom: She’s just stringing you along.
Dad: So she can get scoops for that rag, the Daily Planet.
Mom: Fish wrap.

Now that’s pretty dazzling to consider.

With thanks to Laurie Newbound. Frank Peppiatt’s autobiography (in which the “Superman at Home” sketch is included), published in 2013, is When Variety Was King: Memoir of a TV Pioneer: Featuring Jackie Gleason, Sonny and Cher, Hee Haw, and More. Gordon Pinsent’s autobiography, published in 2012, is Next (written with George Anthony).

Same Time, Next Year quote about Jill from Medicine Hat News, April 22, 1977 (“Focus Section”, p. 8).

Hasten Slowly

Billy (Zach Galligan) learns a valuable lesson in water conservation in Gremlins 2: The New Batch.
Billy (Zach Galligan) learns a valuable lesson in water conservation in Gremlins 2: The New Batch.

Can you believe we’re approaching August? This year a lot of friends have mentioned how they feel the days and weeks seem to be flying by. Last Saturday on our way into town for dinner, Bob and I saw three young men dressed in festive sweaters heading to what was probably a Christmas in July soiree. It was a very cold night, and I can only imagine that this trio felt very wise indeed in their warm garments as they crossed Pulteney Street. We both wondered out loud where exactly they had bought their Rudolph sweaters with bright red pom-pom noses. Then it started to rain and the traffic became the focus of my attention. Please tell me if this isn’t specific to my city, but I get the distinct impression that Adelaide drivers experience a type of Gremlins effect when it rains. Just like little Gizmo in the film who gets wet and spawns some ballistic creatures, the ability to drive or act in any rational way on the roads seems lost when even a few drops fall.

I emailed my mentor and friend, Professor Emeritus Rosalind Cartwright, at the end of 2012 about how the last couple of years had seemed to fly by. I must have given her the impression that I had been drifting along, rather than using my time and talents effectively. Writing back just a few hours later, Professor Cartwright advised me to “spend your young adulthood wisely so that in the following decades you will have something valuable to do that lasts”. And her reply ended with “I saw promise in you that needs to be a focus so that time does not continue to slip away”. I return to her email often. It really was the start of three years of more productive work in my day job, as well as the start of this blog.

Professor Cartwright’s words echo whenever I resist the urge to do what I love the most: write. Two other psychologists, Hugh Kearns and Maria Gardiner, discussed procrastination and time management among other topics in a series of seminars I attended last year. They’ve also written some pithy columns on these issues for Nature, including “Waiting for the Motivation Fairy” and “Turbocharge Your Writing Today”. Their take home point regarding time was that you are never going to have more time than you do now. Hugh also had some cool visual props, but I keep their trade secrets fresh for attendees. From these seminars, I learnt to be really honest with myself as to when I was procrastinating and avoiding writing, and when there wasn’t enough time for everything I wanted to do, which meant some things had to go to make way for others.

And so I write to you after not posting here since May. Being honest with myself, there has been maybe 5% procrastination and 95% of what feels like a faster-ticking clock than usual involved. Procrastination is peculiarly strong in writers. Anyone who writes for a living or a hobby (and I do both) will tell you that writing is the hardest part of writing. Odd given I’d be concerned if a teacher told me the hardest thing about teaching was teaching, or a doctor telling me it was, ah…doctoring. Wait, that’s forgery, right? Which a good doctor would never do, unless it’s one of those “based on a true story” TV-movie doctors who someone like Judith Light or Melissa Gilbert has to bring to justice.

Like those doctors, a lot of writers believe they’ll be discovered for the frauds that they imagine themselves to be. Pauline R. Clance and Suzanne A. Imes came up with a memorable title in their psychology research for this tendency: impostor phenomenon. I rarely see 200 lightbulbs of recognition go off so consistently than when I introduce this concept to psychology undergrads. My other consistent mental patterns are overgeneralizing and catastrophizing. If I can’t come up with a new idea, a coherent way to get my point across, or if I write a piece that I am not happy with, I start to think I’ll never write again, I’m a bad writer, and I’ll never write a piece as good as that last one. Although that last time was pure chance you impostor, you.

Owning the title since 1919 (via Wikimedia Commons).
Owning the title since 1919 (via Wikimedia Commons).

But I don’t only operate on a diet of procrastination, fear, and tapas alone. There are also more practical reasons for finding it hard to write. Since returning from Japan in late April, work has been incredibly busy and, more to the point, mentally taxing. Usually I write for the blog at night, but I haven’t had the energy after days of particularly complex and difficult research. It’s been all I can do to sit in front of the TV and watch MasterChef while thinking, Why can’t you cook like that 23 year old, you impostor… But I’ve had to realise sometimes it’s OK. I also made the decision to put on hold some initial ideas for articles as I work on three very large projects for the blog. The first is an interview conducted in late May, and is now in the writing-up stage. The second and third are two articles I am researching on actors who have passed away, but who left big impressions and much love for them behind. Although I do wish that I could increase the speed of my progress, I relish the research phase.

What do I do when I have ideas but not the time to write about them? I have notebooks all over my home office with the beginnings of articles. These may be a paragraph or two; sometimes even just an opening line. Some of these will be completed and others may fall away. But I find so long as I write them down, put the notebook to one side, and return to it every now and then, I will finish these initial ideas at some point. For those occasions when I don’t, I usually realise that’s OK, too.

Doing my best impression of The Lettermen at Arashiyama Bamboo Forest, Kyoto, Japan.
Doing my best impression of The Lettermen at Arashiyama Bamboo Forest, Kyoto, Japan.

There are lots of ideas in those notebooks. One of them is reflecting on the end of Mad Men in May, specifically critiques of the final episode. A lot of reviews centred on how much of a conclusion the final episode was to the series and its lead character Don Draper. Many of the shows I loved growing up didn’t have finale episodes. Often they had already been off the air for almost 10 or 20 years by then, and finales weren’t really the done thing when those shows were made. My favourite, Bewitched from 1964-72, certainly didn’t. Another favourite, M*A*S*H* (1972-83), did. It was even released on video. When I found it in Video Mania, I rented it, watched excitedly, and ran (not really, it was a distance from our house and I didn’t really run anywhere in those days) back to ask the 15 year old behind the counter if they had the last episode of Bewitched. He looked a little surprised, but to his credit he did type it (or something) into the computer. To this day I don’t really expect a show to have an end episode, although cancelling a show on a cliffhanger was done to maddening effect a few years back for my friend Paul with Kyle XY, and for me with the reboot of Dallas just last year.

I was happy with the way Mad Men did it. There was a good balance of the change required of central characters in a fictional narrative and the continuity of personality and behaviour in a person that is real life. Don would get up the next morning and his life would go on, whether he learnt to develop trusting relationships with his children, friends and co-workers, and a partner; and whether he returned to advertising. I think it was a good choice in the final season to have Don work at the real-life McCann Erickson, an agency that had existed in its merged form for 40 years when Don entered it, and which is now in 2015, 85 years old. We know that the agency would go on with or without him. When I left my first university job, I walked down the corridor, past the room where I had taught (and was, before that, a student) and almost expected the walls to come down. Metaphorically, at least – I’m sure the structure was sound. It’s like the episode of The Simpsons where Homer becomes the voice of a cartoon dog named Poochie and advises the scriptwriters, “… whenever Poochie’s not onscreen, all the other characters should be asking ‘Where’s Poochie?’” I had to realise that’s not the way the world works, and Don had to do the same. Mad Men stops telling the characters’ stories in 1970. I am sad that’s where I leave them. But, come what may, I wish them all well.

I was also pleased with a nod Mad Men gave to Bewitched in one of its final episodes. They have done this many times before. I’ve always felt that inspiration for Don Draper and co. was drawn from their adman predecessors in Bewitched. I guess since Mad Men is set in the ‘60s and briefly in the ‘70s, Darrin, Samantha, and Larry Tate from Bewitched are actually contemporaries of Don, Betty, and Roger. I’m sure it was no coincidence that that decision was made to film part of the Mad Men episode “Lost Horizon” at the Warner Bros. Ranch, formerly Columbia Ranch. On this lot is the neighbourhood known as “Blondie Street” that is home to the facades of a whole range of shows, including Bewitched. It is here that Don’s attempts to track down the mysterious waitress, Diana, end. He rocks up at the home of her husband, which was used 50 years ago as the home of Samantha and Darrin’s nosey neighbours, Mr and Mrs Kravitz! Well, The Partridge Family house if you prefer dreamy Keith Partridge. When Don leaves, Samantha and Darrin’s house can be seen across the street! I like to think Samantha was at home at the time, waiting for Darrin to come home from a hard day at his office on Madison Avenue.

Don Draper stops past the old neighbourhood.
Don Draper stops past the old neighbourhood.
Meanwhile across the street with Samantha and Esmeralda.
Meanwhile across the street with Samantha and Esmeralda.

I haven’t started a new show since Mad Men finished. However, I have been engrossed in Donna Tartt’s novel The Secret History, which has also given me some ideas for a piece. In fact, about how quickly time feels like it passes. Of course, I went away to Japan in April and I should really write about that. But I know if I try to write about all of these things while I am so busy, I will probably end up writing about none. Ah, my old friends anxiety and catastrophizing, we meet again.

I am actually sitting down to write this on July 24. Some 46 years ago the Apollo 11 mission ended with the safe return to Earth of Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, and Michael Collins. The date was one I remembered from school, but I was reminded of it after watching a story on TV about the discovery of an earth-like planet, Kepler-452b. What a title. Guess “Earth” was already taken, but still.

Marge: I don't see any anger. I see a yearning for freedom. Do you have a title? Jack: A Time to Kill. Marge: Titles are hard.
Marge: I don’t see any anger. I see a yearning for freedom. Do you have a title?
Jack: A Time to Kill.
Marge: Titles are hard.

I’ve just put on the record player an LP of The Walker Brothers before I go to get ready for my friend Adam’s birthday in the city. I usually prefer original albums to buying compilations or “greatest hits” on record, but this one was on sale. One of my favourite songs is “Stay with Me Baby”, and besides their version being included there are other great tracks. Right now “Make It Easy on Yourself”, the lead from their album Take It Easy with the Walker Brothers, is on. All right I see what you’re doing Scott, John, and Gary Walker. I’ll take it as easy as I can as I navigate the rain soaked roads, and likely more Gremlins.


Thanks to David Pierce for verifying that I did, indeed, see the Kravitz house on Mad Men. I was more focused on Samantha and Darrin’s.