But off-screen the blonde beauty struggled to find happiness, running through four tumultuous marriages and bewitching many of Hollywood’s leading men, a startling new book reveals.
One of the sexiest and most desirable women in Hollywood, she cast a spell on such stars as Elvis Presley, Dean Martin and Gary Cooper.
But the daughter of movie legend Robert Montgomery suffered from a “father complex”, often falling in love with older men, and sought out troubled lovers who abused her physically and mentally.
‘She enchanted every man she ever met,’ says Herbie Pilato, author of the new biography Twitch Upon A Star.
‘But she seemed drawn to troubled men, not nice guys.
‘She was always looking for the ‘bad boy’, which may have been part of her rebellion against her father.
‘Though she had her Bentleys and Beverly Hills mansion and made millions from Bewitched, ultimately she had a dark side to her.’
In the early Sixties she became a close friend of President John F Kennedy and Pilato notes: ‘He chased almost every beautiful woman he met, though if anything happened Elizabeth never spoke about it.’
Montgomery was 62 when she died of cancer in 1995. She married four times and had three children with her third husband, Bewitched producer Bill Asher.
Yet she may never have found true happiness.
‘She was beautiful and alluring and looking for love,’ says Pilato.
‘She worked with Gary Cooper on the movie The Court-Martial Of Billy Mitchell and he had a thing for her. He was an older man, which she loved.’
A stagehand caught the duo alone in Cooper’s dressing room, sparking on-set scandal.
‘Dean Martin was smitten with her when they filmed Who’s Been Sleeping In My Bed? He was a romantic and loved women. And again for Elizabeth there was the attraction of an older man.
‘Elvis Presley was closer to her age when they co-starred in Kid Galahad but he wanted her. Her much older husband got upset when he saw Elvis flirting with her on set but Presley called him an ***hole.’
Among her most tormented lovers was former ballet star Alexander Godunov, who became a successful actor with films that included Witness and Die Hard.
‘He was an alcoholic and she was drawn to him, perhaps hoping to rescue him,’ says Pilato.
‘But he was abusive and self-destructive. Elizabeth had an affair with him while with the man who became her fourth husband.’
When Montgomery split from Godunov he fell into a downward spiral.
‘He lost himself in an alcoholic haze,’ says a Hollywood insider. ‘He eventually drank himself to death.’
Montgomery became a star as Samantha Stephens, the wholesome, bubbly, nose-twitching housewife witch of Bewitched yet her four marriages were as troubled as her affairs.
‘Her first husband was rich New York socialite Fred Cammann, about a decade older than her, whom she met while filming a TV show,’ says Pilato.
‘But he wanted her to quit acting and be a stay-at-home wife in New York and Elizabeth had ambition. She soon took off for California and a career and their marriage went south.
‘Her second husband was the Oscar winning movie star Gig Young, some 25 years her senior and at 48 almost her father’s age. Her father was horrified.
‘Elizabeth was 22 and infatuated but Gig Young was an alcoholic, emotionally abusive and probably physically abusive as well. She tried to save him but their marriage broke down. It may have been a lucky escape. Young shot his second wife to death and then killed himself in a murder-suicide.
‘Elizabeth’s third husband was Bewitched producer Bill Asher, yet another older man. But that marriage struggled and he had affairs throughout Bewitched.’
Despite the success of Bewitched, which became one of America’s top rated TV shows, boredom set in after a few seasons and Montgomery launched into an affair with one of the directors, Richard Michaels, shattering both their marriages in 1971.
‘Toward the end of his life Bill Asher still missed Elizabeth and was crying his heart out for her, saying, “It was all my fault,”‘ says Pilato, who befriended Montgomery in her final years.
‘He couldn’t get over her.’
‘Then she met former Falcon Crest star Robert Fox worth, nine years her junior. They were together 20 years before they finally got married – soon after she ended her affair with Alexander Godunov – but later she was diagnosed with cancer and died 18 months after they wed.’
Montgomery spent her life trying to resolve the conflict with her famous and overbearing father.
He was Hollywood royalty and her mother was Broadway actress Elizabeth Allen
Montgomery grew up in their Beverly Hills mansion among family friends including Bette Davis.
She made her debut on her father’s weekly TV show in 1951.
‘Robert Montgomery was a famous movie star of the Forties and Fifties and a major TV star in the Sixties and Elizabeth struggled to escape his shadow,’ says Pilato.
‘He didn’t want her to become an actress and that sparked the beginning of her resentment. He was her toughest critic as an actress and was very hard on her personal life too, from the way she walked and her posture to her penchant for older men. He was horrified. He thought she was trying to replace him with all her older lovers.
‘Elizabeth was a teen when her parents divorced and that strained her relationship with her father even further. Her dysfunctional childhood family home haunted her for years.
‘She was conflicted, trying to please her father but also rebelling against him. She wanted him to play her father on Bewitched but he refused. I think he resented the fact that his daughter had become a bigger star than he was.’
When she appeared in the TV movie The Legend Of Lizzie Borden, about a woman accused of killing her parents with an axe, Robert Montgomery said: “You would!”
‘He took it as a personal affront – as if she secretly wanted to kill her own father,’ says Pilato.
‘Robert Montgomery was a staunch Republican and Elizabeth became a fervent Democrat, fighting for social causes that antagonised her father.
‘And she was one of the earliest stars supporting Aids victims and campaigning for gay rights.
Despite her pampered upbringing she was unaffected, very down-to-earth.
Perhaps that’s why she bewitched so many of the men in her life. She walked away from the Hollywood life. She didn’t like the fakeness of Hollywood and its people.
‘She had wanted to quit acting before she even began filming Bewitched but her husband Bill Asher told her, “Don’t quit – you have too much talent.”
‘She always had a love-hate relationship with acting. That allowed her to pick and choose the roles she really wanted after Bewitched finished. She ended up becoming the queen of the TV movies.’
Montgomery was nominated for eight Emmy awards but never won.
‘She refused to play the Hollywood game and didn’t go to the parties or take out ads begging for award consideration,’ says Pilato.
‘She wanted her work to speak for itself.’
Her death came quickly, only six weeks after colon cancer was diagnosed.
She joked that she wanted pina colada in her IV drip and when the end came in her 26-room Beverly Hills mansion she sent her family away from her deathbed, wishing to die alone.