By SALLY HAMMOND
YOU ENTER the exquisitely pale beige suite at the Regency where Elizabeth Montgomery and her entourage are ensconced and right in the middle of everything is baby's playpen. Shoved off into a corner is a forlorn little TV set that looks as though nobody ever bothered to watch it.
Somehow the scene symbolizes the outlook of the actress who plays an appealing young suburban housewitch in ABC-TV's "Bewitched," found often times at the top of the ratings.
Montgomery's own winsome words:"The TV series is as close to being lost in our lives as anything can get. Being together and raising our family comes first."
The 31-year-old actress, uttering these housewifely phrases over eggs Benedict and strawberries at 12 noon, presents a startling study in contrasts. Blessed with a winning appearance, her views, mostly on togetherness, range from McCalls to Redbook.
Tanned to the color of Melba toast, she wears her long blonde locks fetiringly casual, pinned on top with an Alice-in-Wonderland blue bow.
Even more deceptive than her appearance is her hoydenish, almost boisterous, manner. Pleasingly unaffected, she has a wry and earthy humor. But, again, the substance of what she says might be quotes from
the women's mags.
From the bedroom adjoining, her TV director husband, Williaim Asher, adds another dose of domesticity by calling his wife on the phone from his bed and engaging her in lovetalk.
Moments later, the Scottish nanny comes in from a stroll with 9-month-old William Allen Asher, wearing blue overalls and chalky kid shoes, and the picture is complete. He gurgles and grins and squashes his doting mother's proffered strawberry into a mush with his little fat hand.
ISN'T THIS AN ODD TMIE TO BEGIN RAISING a family--she's expecting her second in November--just when she's struck it lucky in a top TV show?
"Why it's the other way around!" the actress spouted good-naturedly. "It sure was an odd time to start a TV show."
Both babies, she admitted, have been "marvelous surprises," but their untimely arrival has made everyone connected with the TV show nervous except her.
"This baby," she continued cuddling down into an armchair "is so much wanted that they can jolly well mite-it into the script. Bill and I feel extremely lucky to be able to work together professionally, but I wouldn't even be doing this series without Bill,nor he without me."
It turned out, as the actress rattled on, that she sees nothing at all outside her cozy homefiress that is really worthy of ambition.
"if husband, children and home are all-satisfying to a woman," she explained, "that's what she should have. Making a husband happy and raising good healthy children, that's what women were put on this earth for.
"Of course," she conceded with no enthusiasm, "if a woman has other interests, that's fine too. But to me the most important thing is the home. Nothing is fun to Bill and me if we can't share it.
"I enjoy a career of acting, sure, but it's a bonus. I'd give it up if it conflicted with my domestic life--in a minute!"
She topped oh her little speech with one more paean to motherhood. Asked if she won't be a teeny bit embarrassed to appear pregnant on television during the many forthcoming segments of "Bewitched," she declared :
"Goodness, no. It's part of life. In fact, motherhood is the most marvelous thing ever to happen to anybody"
ELIZABETH MONTGOMERY MIGHT HAVE INHERITED her equable conservatism from her father, Robert Montgomery, the suave longtime star of movies and TV who became a working Republican during Ike's Administration. As the first Presidential Adviser on Television, with an East Wing office in the White House, he did so well that one columnist, congratulating him, remarked, "Ike's TV performances have been so boff that he's received at least as much comment on how he looked as on what he said."
Steering away from all things political, however, Miss Montgomery best explains her conventionality by recalling that "nothing very unusual happened to me until now..."
Beginning with her birth in Los Angeles, her growing-up years followed a comfortable, unhurried course, interrupted only in her teens by her parents'divorce.
Being the daughter of a famous actor didn't affect her "one way or the other," she insists. "I was never in awe of him. Everybody's father had a job and that just happened to be his."
Her Louisville-born mother, who made her mark on Broadway as Elizabeth Allen in dramatic roles, met her father in summer stock, she thinks at the Cape Playhouse in Dennis, and their first baby died at 18 months. After Elizabeth came Skip, or Robert Jr., now in stocks and bonds here and "doing very well. "She comments, "Skip acted a while and then gave up. I guess he's the only sane member of the family. "The first home she remembers was "pretty but unimpressive," with no pool, in San Ysidro, which she takes care to spell out. But the big house Mom and Dad built in M-o-n-o-v-a-l-e was perfectly gorgeous, real New England, with fieldstones below and white clapboards above."
"We lived there a long time until the war, when it got too big for the three of us, Dad being off in the Navy. So we moved to B-e-v-e-r-w-i-l into a darling little house that was smaller and easier for mother to keep."
All the while, she attended fashionable and private Westlake School for Girls from grades 1 to 11. "I didn't like it any more than any child likes school, although it was a good school, a marvelous school But I stayed so long I got to be like a piece of furniture they hated to get rid of."
Up to the 7th grade she got good marks and everything was a snap, but from then on she worked "just hard enough so I'd pass."
"The principal would call me in and say, 'Elizabeth, you're not applying yourself. If: you were stupid there might be some excuse for mediocre grades.' That happened weekly ...
"But I was more interested in horses, riding class, drama and art. I've been drawing ever since I was a teeny thing and love to do flowers, fruit, animals, people, using pencils, charcoal, crayon." (She's just illustrated a little children's book she's written, called "Annabelle.'')
HER FATHER NEITHER ENCOURAGED NOR DISCOURAGED her acting career, she said. "I remember him saying,'When you've finished school, if you're serious and if you'd like to be an actress, I'd like you to make your debut with me.' I said, I'd love to. It was really very sweet of him. I think I was an old 10 at the time."
After the Montgomerys' divorce, the children's mother brought them to live in New york City, putting Skip into St.Mark's and Elizabeth into Spence, where "it was a little rough suddenly knowing nobody alter knowing everybody at Westlake. Not that Spence wasn't marvelous. They were very sweet. I took a wonderful course in art and architecture that was fascinating and extraordinary."
She graduated in one year, then went to the Academy of Dramatic Art for a year, at the end of which Dad obligingly spoke at the school's 80th anniversary ceremonies. After sharing "the wisdom of his 40 years as an actor," he came out foursquare against a national theater because "I'm congenitally against government control."
At 18, Elizabeth made her debut as planned, with Dad, on his highly successful TV show "Robert Montgomery Presents." In "Top Secret," he played a diplomatic corps trouble-shooter and Elizabeth was his daughter, "a sophisticated girl who traveled a lot.'
Just then Elizabeth's husband signaled from the bedroom for his clothes. She took an armful out of a hallway closet, delivered it, and giggled, "Isn't this fun!"
Returning reluctantly to her brief Broadway career --two Light comedies in the early Fifties, she liked best 'Late Love," with Arlene Francis, of which one critic said, "Elizabeth Montgomery makes a most attractive and appealing debut as the romantic daughter of the household." (Her second was "Loud Red Patrick," with Arthur Kennedy.)
"My dramatic career has been very undramatic," she went on. "I've been very lucky playing an enormous variety of roles on TV. I guess you'd say I'm a TV baby. I've done oooh, maybe 200. It's been marvelous.
"When I hear people knock TV I get so upset, If it hadn't been for TV I wouldn't be where I am."
The Montgomery name was by no means a drag. she admits, but it put her on the spot to show talent. This she did resoundingly as Rusty Heller, a gangster's moll who was done in by the "Untouchables," which won her an Emmy nomination alongside Ingrid Bergman and Judith Anderson.
Her first series, "Bewitched," has at bottom a theme that parallels her own, plus a shot of magic. Samantha, the cute witch, can have virtually anything, be anywhere, do anything, but all she wants is to "do for her man."
"Sure it's valid," she insists. "Sam only uses her witchery when pressed to a point where she has to and thinks it can help. She wants Darrin to feel capable and successful without supernatural help She loves Darrin, but not as much as I love Bill because that's impossible."
The actress clams up tight at mention of her two former marriages, to another TV director, Fred Cammann, for one year and to actor Gig Young for six. She's shut them out as though they'd never happened.
"Bill and I recently bought a new home in Beverly Hills," she said, all starry-eyed and smiling "It has a tennis court and we both adore tennis, the house itself is just a conglomeration of warmth."
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