Sins of the Mother

Elizabeth Montgomery stars as wealthy, formidable Ruth Coe, who "makes Lizzie Borden look like a combination of Mother Teresa and Mary Poppins."

Which Witch
(Read this vintage article from 1991)

Elizabeth Montgomery plays the manipulating mother of a serial rapist

Special to the Daily News

Having played a witch in a classic comedy series, Elizabeth Montgomery now has a some-what similar role -- minus the laughs.

The former "Bewitched" star has specialized in TV movies in recent years, and she offers one of her most sinister characters to date in "Sins of the Mother."

Tuesday's new CBS drama tells the fact-based story of an outwardly charismatic woman who psychologically manipulates the life of her son, played by Dale Midkiff, of "Elvis and Me" and "The Marla Hanson Story." Her effect on him manifests itself in his inability to establish lasting employment and relationships, and his frustration eventually builds to the point where he commits multiple rapes, for which he is arrested and convicted.

The mother consequently takes actions that expose the dark secrets that have influenced her family, also Including her husband (Richard Roat), the managing editor of the local newspaper. Based on the book "Son" by lack Olsen, the film also features Talia Balsam as the investigator in charge of examining the assault case.

Though some might perceive her newest character as evil, the enthusiastic Montgomery said, She would certainly disagree, because as far as she's concerned, there's nothing the matter with her at all. The thing I found interesting is that lot of people might think it's a part that was a snap to do, but it wasn't because she has so many veils on, each one more charming than the last. It's very difficult to get to the core of what really makes this woman tick, and I really wanted to know a little bit more about what she was like when she was a child. If you asked her if she was a perfect person, she'd probably say,'Well, of course not, nobody's perfect' ...knowing deep down that if there was a perfect person on Earth, she would be it."

Usually seen as a heroine, Montgomery has played villainous characters only on a few past occasions, notably as the title character in "The Legend of Lizzie Borden" (1975) and the scheming nursing-home supervisor in "Amos" (1985).

The actress claims that when someone asked her to describe her part in "Sins of the Mother," she responded, "'She makes Lizzie Borden look like combination of Mother Teresa and Mary Poppins.' It's true, too," she went on. "Lizzie Borden had an innocence that this lady does not have, nor would she profess to have it; she is very sophisticated and very knowledgeable. Just by the nature of who she was, there are moments (as a performer) when you might be driving along and think,'Ooh, what would she have done if that car had pulled out in front of her? If she was in a good mood, she might have just waved and said,'Hello, have a nice day.' If not, she might have sideswiped the other car and sent it into a telephone pole. There are so many levels to this woman, she was fascinating to play."

Montgomery's appearance in "Sins of the Mother" -- for which she wore a short, dark wig -- actually does have a certain link to her "Bewitched" past, even though she adds that she wasn't aware of it initially.

"We were out on location,"'she reponed, "and a lady came up to me with her little girl and started chatting with me about other things I'd done. Finally, she said to her daughter,'Say hello to Samantha.' The child stepped back, looked at me and said, 'That's not Samantha. That's Serena (Samantha's prankster twin, who also had short, dark hair).' Now, how astute can you be? I couldn't stop laughing, and I started to think that maybe there was a little bit of Serena in this lady, after all."
Meanwhile, as suggested by her presence in "Sins of the Mother," an ongoing hallmark of Montgomery's work is her desire to play a vast variety of roles. Those have ranged from the title characters in "Mrs. Sundance" (1974) and "Belle Starr"(1980), to a woman who awakens from a 20-year coma in "Between the Darkness and the Dawn" (1985) and an archeologist in last year's "Face to Face." As she explained, "I do try to surprise people by doing different things if I can because it certainly makes life more interesting. It also makes it harder to find material, but that's OK. Patience is pan of being an actor, and I guess sometimes I handle it well, and sometimes I don't."

Tuesday, February 18, 1991 Network: CBS

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