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Watching the colorful caricature of Elizabeth Montgomery as Samantha cross the moon on her broom during the opening theme of Bewitched always made me feel at home wherever I was. Samantha’s house on Morning Glory CIrcle had family members popping in and out, much like at my house, and they almost all expected immediate veneration except for Aunt Clara. The humble scraping and genuflecting reminded me of my own home and how it must have been to walk the fence between Darrin and Endora, Maurice, Aunt Clara, or Uncle Arthur.
The character of Uncle Arthur always appealed to my pun-loving nature, and the practical jokes he loved to play while slyly grinning and ensnaring his latest victim of warlock waywardness appealed to my teenage sense of fun. Paul Lynde’s performances as Uncle Arthur inspired me to make fun if I wasn’t having any, and look for the laughter where there might not be any.
It’s obvious Sammy has hit a pensive note. Could Uncle Arthur be considering reformation?
But his first appearance on Bewitched had nothing to do with Endora’s younger brother, Arthur. The very first time Paul Lynde appeared on Bewitched in 1966, he had to tell Samantha how rotten she was. He didn’t want to, but it was his job.
A publicity photo early in Paul Lynde’s career…
Lynde’s first foray into Morning Glory Circle occurred in the guise of Harold Harold, a haplessly frazzled driving instructor hired by Darrin (Dick York) to help Samantha (Elizabeth Montgomery) navigate the cul de sacs and four-way stops endemic to suburbia in the sixties. Unfortunately, her driving didn’t sail as smoothly as her take-offs into the blue, and Harold Harold explained how his brothers-in-law took turns hiring and firing him, which obviously made him insecure, but Samantha helped Harold Harold to feel a little more stable by the end of the episode.
That signature style of snappy comebacks obviously couldn’t be ignored, and six or seven months later, in October of 1965, Lynde morphed into Uncle Arthur, a man no longer belittled, but empowered. Hailed by Endora (Agnes Moorehead) as the “Clown Prince of the Cosmos,” Lynde’s wisecracking warlock was not long-winded, just lively. His magical powers rivaled Endora’s and they often had round one, round two, and round three before the final bell when the credits would roll. Somehow the endless monikers Endora bestowed on Darrin because she couldn’t bear to use his real name never seemed to inspire Uncle Arthur to rename Endora. But I would have loved to see him try. Endearing? No that can’t have anything to do with Endora. Endymion? Unendurable?Endifferent? Endoscopy?
Lynde’s only album…
Everyone’s favorite warlock punster always must have been a ratings booster, and if he wasn’t, I’d be surprised. “The Joker is a Card” is Uncle Arthur’s first official “pop in” to “Sammy’s” place, and if you weren’t amused by Lynde’s nasally pronunciation of “Sammy” while flashing teeth in that permanently formed smile, you missed part of his initial charm. It wasn’t so much the words or the puns, it was his delivery. He loved to accentuate those plays on words with his signature grin and a twinkle-twinkle-twink in his eyes. I always knew Uncle Arthur was up to something. He always had a gag and a pun, just to put “Sammy” in a good mood.
In the first episode of Bewitched when Lynde’s Uncle Arthur initially appears, Arthur offers to help Darrin teach Endora a lesson by giving him a spell that will make her disappear, and Darrin initially rejects his offer, but not much later Darrin can be heard chanting a song to cast a spell with a cowbell and a duck call, a tune that still reverberates with the lovable silliness in Lynde’s first appearance in the Bewitched saga: “Yaga-Zoozie, Yaga-Zoozie, Yaga-Zoozie-Zam!”
It was supposed to make Endora disappear.
But with Uncle Arthur, there was more raucous fun than retribution as Darrin was just working up some “Yaga-Zoozie” fervor for Uncle Arthur’s own amusement. Later in the same episode, Uncle Arthur, Samantha, Endora and Darrin are having coffee. When Arthur asks Darrin if he wants some cream, Darrin replies “yes” and Arthur materializes a cow with the quip that Darrin could help himself. Of course, Arthur couldn’t help “milking a good joke,” because he was a serial practical joker and a powerful pun-lover.
But I loved Paul Lynde as Uncle Arthur because he was always tempting “Sammy” to give in to her “naughtier” impulses. She always understood his jokes, and she always found something to laugh about with him. They had a familial relationship that made all of Samantha’s other relationships with relatives seem constrained. With Uncle Arthur,
a man for all seasons.
After all, laughter is the best medicine any time of year.
But my favorite image follows…
I think this lovely photo might be how Paul Lynde would want to be remembered professionally. Elizabeth Montgomery is looking adoringly at him in this photo, and it’s apparent that she cherishes him, his humor, and his wit. I think that’s how he would like to be remembered. After all, he would often sign his fan photos with “Love and Laugher, Paul Lynde.”