Spookily enough, it was last October (almost down to the day) that I reviewed author Herbie J. Pilato’s amazing biography on Elizabeth Montgomery, Twitch Upon a Star. If you haven’t read the original review, here it is in all its splendor. Pilato is back with another Halloween treat honoring the enigmatic woman with the nose that loved to twitch with The Essential Elizabet Montgomery. In a similar vein to the Margaret O’Brien biography I reviewed, The Essential Elizabeth Montgomery is a compendium of all her performances with a smattering of biography for those who would like to know every show, theater production, and movie Montgomery is in. Essential is the word of the day with this book, and Pilato continues to bring his trademark warmth of the actress along with his boundless knowledge of her work. The perfect Halloween book for those wanting a crash course in all things Montgomery.
The book is divided into seven acts detailing Montgomery’s work on television, the theater, film (both television and feature-length), game shows/variety shows, and voice-over performances. If you’re interested in one particular facet of Montgomery’s career you don’t have to wade through various sections to find them, although if you are looking for a straight-forward biography be sure to read Twitch Upon a Star. The book itself is large enough to act as coffee table book and has one of the best covers I’ve seen in a while with a smiling, angelic Montgomery on the cover. The two sections of photos included are amazing and prove to me Montgomery couldn’t take a bad picture if she tried.
Each entry includes synopsis of the series/episode, the cast list, as well as notes, comments from Pilato, and any applicable research. When the book switches to focusing on Bewitched, Pilato charts the trajectory of changes within each season. This is where the book soars and almost turns into a scholarly analysis of the series itself. Pilato takes note of cast changes, transitions in film techniques, and the reason behind any relevant divergences. It’s an insider’s look at the series which remains unchallenged. As for Montgomery herself, it’s amazing to read about the various work she did; many of her movies were considered ground-breaking at the time – particularly her star role in the TV movie, A Case of Rape. I wish we had more Elizabeth Montgomery’s in today’s TV landscape!
If anything, it’s worthwhile to read The Essential Elizabeth Montgomery alongside Twitch Upon a Star; the two go together, obviously and give readers the full expanse of Montgomery’s life and significance to popular culture – although the basic information in this book can sound repetitive if reading the biography and vice versa. As a standalone book, The Essential Elizabeth Montgomery lives up to its title with its expansive encyclopedia of Montgomery’s career, from the smallest theater performance to the biggest feature-length film. Pilato continues to be the foremost authority on Montgomery, and his two works have given me Halloween joy for the last two years!
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