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  WINDY CITY TIMES

Agnes Moorehead to get her due at NRHOF ceremony
by Sarah Toce
2014-07-30

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Harnessing a talent uncompromised and a career spanning 60 years in the entertainment industry,

Bewitched television actress Agnes Moorehead will be honored posthumously at the National Radio Hall of Fame ( NRHOF ) ceremony Sunday, Nov. 9, in Los Angeles. It will mark the first time the induction ceremony has taken place outside of Chicago.

Born in 1900, Moorehead began her career as a singer on KMOX/St. Louis. In the 1930s she moved to New York and, by 1935, was arguably one of radio's busiest and most versatile actresses. Moorehead epitomized the golden age of radio drama, becoming the first actor to play Margo Lane on The Shadow and Mrs. Brown on The Aldrich Family, and she was an original ensemble member of Orson Welles' The Mercury Theatre on the Air. During the 1940s Moorehead co-starred with Lionel Barrymore in Mayor of the Town and became "the First Lady of Suspense" by appearing in more than 25 episodes of the long-running series. Television brought her more fame through her role as Endora on Bewitched before she passed away on April 30, 1974.

The four-time Oscar-nominated actress partnered with two companions ( husband John Griffith Lee from 1930-1952; and Robert Gist from 1953-1958—both actors ). She fostered a son named Sean Moorehead, but little is known about his current whereabouts.

One item that had been heavily noted throughout Moorehead's career, however, was her friendship with legendary MGM actress Debbie Reynolds. Reynolds' son Todd Fisher reportedly said that his mom had a long-term affair with Reynolds.

"Oh, we had met years before at somebody's party. But How the West Was Won really brought us together, when we were thrown together on the set over a period of weeks. You know, it's quite rare to form a lasting friendship from making a picture together. But Debbie and I have formed a friendship that has lasted," Moorehead once shared.

Boze Hadleigh, in his book Hollywood Lesbians, also said Moorehead was a lesbian, and even asked the star herself about this, comparing her to Marlene Deitrich, Greta Garbo and others. She responded with a diversionary comment: "Those women, were more beautiful than me."

Moorehead witnessed both the sugar and the spice of fame during her tenure in Hollywood.

The role that eventually brought her so much fame almost didn't make it off the tarmac. Moorehead initially turned down the role of Endora in Bewitched, but reconsidered when Elizabeth Montgomery asked her in person. Moorehead joined the cast not expecting the show to last more than one season, let alone become the overnight sensation it turned out to be—spanning decades and generations, still airing in reruns to this day.

"Elizabeth [had] great battles with Hollywood veteran Agnes Moorehead, who played her mother. Agnes was very fond of Dick York and didn't want to see him go. She reduced his replacement to tears on occasion," the Daily Mail reported.

York's replacement was Dick Sargent, who, in real life, was gay. Before being cast as Darrin on the popular television show, Sargent admitted to press that he made a couple of attempts at suicide during his college years. He even added a phony failed marriage to his publicity material to hide being gay.

To the gay community, "bewitched" was a term for being in the closet at the time. Montgomery copped to the show's gay innuendos during an early '90s interview with The Advocate. She said, "Don't think that didn't enter our minds at the time. We talked about it on the set—that this was about people not being allowed to be what they really are. If you think about it, Bewitched is about repression in general and all the frustration and trouble it can cause. It was a neat message to get across to people at that time in a subtle way."

Moorehead won two Golden Globe awards—both in the category of Best Supporting Actress—or Hush…Hush, Sweet Charlotte and Mrs. Parkington. The wins were 20 years apart—a testament to her longeveity in Hollywood. Additionally, she was nominated six times for a Primetime Emmy Award for her work on Bewitched. While she didn't come out ahead of the race for those nominations, she did garner an Emmy for her work on The Wild Wild West. Years later, in 2003 and 2005, TV Land would grant her two wins in the categories: "Favorite Mother-in-Law" and "Favorite Classic TV In-Law," respectively.

Moorehead cemented her place in celluloid history by receiving a star ( located at 1719 Vine ) on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 1960.

There are a total of seven inductees for the 2014 NRHOF ceremony. The black-tie ceremony will be produced and broadcast by Premiere Networks, in association with the Museum of Broadcast Communications ( MBC ). They include: San Diego syndicated successes Charlie & Harrigan ( a.k.a. Jack Woods and Irv Harrigan ), Baltimore-born radio personality Barry Farber, Hubbard Broadcasting founder and ad sales pioneer Stanley E. Hubbard, "The Voice of the San Francisco Giants" Jon Miller, Chickenman Dick Orkin, "This American Life" star Ira Glass, and the aforementioned Agnes Moorehead.

The 2014 NRHOF induction-ceremony broadcast will also honor the women of the National Radio Hall of Fame: actors Eve Arden ( Our Miss Brooks ), Virginia Payne ( Ma Perkins ), Shirley Bell ( Little Orphan Annie ) and Virginia Clark and Julie Stevens ( The Romance of Helen Trent ); comedians Gracie Allen and Jane Ace; triple threats Marian Jordan ( Fibber McGee and Molly ) and Gertrude Berg ( The Goldbergs ), who created, wrote, and starred in their own hit shows; behind-the-scenes players like producer Lynne "Angel" Harvey and executive Cathy Hughes; journalists Ann Compton ( ABC News ) and Susan Stamberg ( NPR ); interviewer Terry Gross ( Fresh Air ); singer and national icon Kate Smith; urban-radio personality ( now TV talk-show host ) Wendy Williams; Chicago disc jockeys Yvonne Daniels and Terri Hemmert; and jazz great Marian McPartland.

Visit www.Museum.Tv or www.radiohof.org .


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