Dick York

Eternally Darrin
Dick York
Actor Dick York is perhaps best remembered for his stint as Samantha's (Elizabeth Montgomery) husband in the 60s TV show Bewitched. York played the mere mortal -  king of his castle but threatened by his wife's supernatural powers,  pressured at work and belittled by his worldly mother-in-law. In many ways he was the representative male of white, affluent, middle-class America. Not that the average guy is married to a witch but Darrin Stephens was the essence of conservative ordinariness.

Darrin wanted his wife submissive in the kitchen and less powerful than himself -  he longed for normalcy but was surrounded by mayhem. Interestingly, the show was made on the cusp of the feminist revolution, when notions of a wife subverting her natural gifts for the sake of her husband's insecurities would be seriously challenged.

Part of the premise of the show was that the respect Darrin demanded was undermined both by mother-in-law  Endora's (the brilliant Agnes Moorehead) put-downs and housewife Samantha practising witchcraft behind his back when necessary. York played his role well, with just enough comedic expression to be amusing but not so much that he lost credibility as an effective husband. Although he was eventually replaced by the capable Dick Sargent (York left because of a back injury) he remained, for this viewer at least, the preferred Darrin.

Samantha and Darrin negotiating in the kitchen
A Veteran
Dick York's career of course, went way beyond Bewitched and he had already accumulated a long list of acting credits before stepping on the set at the age of 44. In fact the Chicago born York had been working in the industry since he was fifteen, beginning with a gig on CBS radio as That Brewster Boy - a long running serial about a boy who made a habit of getting in and out of trouble. Dick was the third actor to fill the role and many more radio parts followed, as did parts on Broadway, TV and in several films - notably as teacher Bertram Cates in the 1960 classic, Inherit the Wind, which dramatised the famous Scopes Monkey Trial.

Throughout his his middle and later years, York was plagued with severe health problems, exacerbated by a self-confessed addiction to prescription pain-killers. In addition to back problems, the actor suffered from emphysema, a byproduct of having lived through the 'age of smoking', when cigarettes were as common and acceptable as cups of tea. Admirably, through all his personal suffering, he managed to fight for the interests of those less fortunate, launching a private charity to raise funds for the needy and homeless and using a telephone from his hospital bed to garner support,  interest and funds from high profile Americans. York died in hospital in 1992, aged 63.