Dick Sargent was born on April 19, 1930 in Carmel, CA with the birth name of Richard Cox. His mother was silent film actress Ruth McNaughton (who performed as Ruth Powell), and his father was Colonel Elmer Cox (who served in WWI). His father was a strict man, who found his calling as business manager to such Hollywood players as Douglas Fairbanks and director Erich Von Stroheim. Sargent's grandfather was John McNaughton, who founded Los Angelesís Union Stockyards.
Richard attended the San Rafael Military Academy and the Menlo School in California. He concluded his academic career at Stanford University, where he studied acting and performed many plays getting a taste for live theater. After college, Dick, as he chose to be called, pursued his acting career and held many odd jobs, one of which was digging ditches. Sargent had a tough start to his acting career and tried many odd jobs to make ends meet. At one point, he was living in Mexico and ran and import/export business. He carried his love of Mexican art and culture with him when he went back to California. It was not until Dick won a bit part in 1954's Prisoner of War (with Ronald Reagan) that he changed his last name from Cox to Sargent (not Sergeant).
Sargent made the successful transition from live theater to television and feature films. Before starring on Bewitched, Sargent was in several other shows. He made appearances in such shows as Gunsmoke, Wagon Train, I Dream of Jeannie, and Adam-12. He played a lead role in One Happy Family (1961) and Broadside (1964). Sargent starred in some successful feature films, as well. He shared the screen with Cary Grant in Operation Petticoat (1959) and That Touch of Mink (1962) and even Elvis Presley Live a Little, Love a Little (1968).
Sargent and Jeffrey Hunter in The Private Navy of Sargent O'Farrell in 1969
Dick Sargent and Tammy Grimes were said to have successfully auditioned for the original roles of Darrin and Samantha Stephens during the initial casting of the pilot episode of Bewitched. Sargent became unavailable because he was under contract to Universal for a TV show called Broadside. Later, Sargent went on to play Tammy Grimes's brother on her short lived series The Tammy Grimes Show, where the lead character's name was Tamantha. In yet another cosmic coincidence Maudie Pricket, who later guest starred on Bewitched (as several of Tabitha's teachers), was also on this show with Sargent. Grimes was also under contract and unable to play the part of Samantha. Sol Saks, the creator of Bewitched, was such a fan of the elf-like Tammy Grimes that he was willing to wait a year for her to be free from her pending contract. However, ABC was not. When Bill Asher and Elizabeth Montgomery were approached about the series, the production schedule was escalated and Dick York was cast as Darrin.
Dick Sargent's Role As Darrin Stephens Was Postponed Until 1969
In the sixth season of Bewitched, Dick Sargent was welcomed in to the cast to revive the role of Darrin Stephens, the Earthbound clod married to to the ever-bewitching Samantha. Fans of the show for the past 5 seasons were not expecting or wanting a new actor in this popular role. To prepare viewers for the switch, ABC ran all of the shows in which Dick York did not appear during the summer 1969.
Fans Saw a New Cartoon Darrin as the Only
Mention of the Switch at the Start of Season 6
Sargent did not have an easy time stepping in to this top show. He often appeared nervous and uncomfortable in his first season. In fact, the first show that he filmed was # 185, "Samantha's Better Halves," which was a remake of the York episode # 69 entitled "Divided He Falls." "Samantha's Better Halves" was shelved because of the subject matter of there being only one Darrin and because it was not one of Sargent's better performances. Instead, they chose to replace it with # 171 "Samantha and the Beanstalk," in which there was no mention of a change in Darrin as the storyline focuses on Tabitha's reaction to the impending birth of the second Stephens child.
Samantha and Her Two Darrins
Because the show had been running for so long, scripts began being recycled with Sargent performing the same dialogue that York had previously done. There was a major difference in the reactions of the two "Darrins" to the outlandish situations put upon them by Samantha and her witchly relatives. The crew maintains even to this day that the part of Darrin was never written differently and that the two actors simply had a different interpretation of the role. Both Sargent and York have said that there was little room for improvisation and that the characters on Bewitched always stayed true to the script.
Sargent in Shackles in #208
Viewers of the entire run of Bewitched may criticize Dick Sargent's portrayal of Darrin as being rather dry or emotionless, but in The Bewitched Book, Elizabeth Montgomery explains her view on the change in Darrin over the years:"By the time Dick Sargent came on the show, Darrin and Samantha's relationship was five years old... And Darrin's objections to witchcraft would have mellowed anyway, whether it was Dick Sargent or Dick York."
Sargent and Montgomery in a Bewitched Publicity Shot
As hard as it must have been for Dick York to leave the show due to his back problems and dependency on painkillers, he had praise for the continuation of the show and of Sargent's portrayal of Darrin. York, in The Bewitched Book, said, "Dick's a marvelous actor. He had a job to do and he did it well." One of York's biggest regrets in life was that he let people on the set of Bewitched down during his illness. Had they not replaced Darrin, many members of the cast and crew would have been left without jobs. Replacing Darrin also provided fans of the show three additional color seasons Bewitched.
The Stephens Family in the Final Season of Bewitched
Of his role as Darrin Stephens, Sargent once told interviewer Milton Rexford, "Occasionally, I wonder about Bewitched. But I guess we all wonder about something or other. Most working actors don't get a role where they become household faces. They may not know my name, I may be Darrin to people out there, but if people see you and smile at you and act like you're an old friend, I think that's a pretty swell accomplishment."
Sargent Reflects on Being the New Darrin on Bewitched
Unlike Dick York, whose career went downhill along with his health after Bewitched, Dick Sargent went on to guest star in many popular sitcoms throughout the 70s and 80s. The list includes such TV classics as Taxi, Alice, Charlie's Angel (he played Hugh in the cult classic "Angels on Wheels" episode), Diff'rent Strokes, Fantasy Island, The Dukes of Hazzard, The Waltons, The Love Boat, Three's Company, Family Ties, The Six Million Dollar Man, Murder, She Wrote, and L.A. Law.
Similar to Elizabeth Montgomery's dramatic roles in TV movies after Bewitched, Sargent had roles in Melvin Purvis: G-Man (1974), Rich Man, Poor Man (1976), The Gossip Columnist (1979), The Power Within (1980), and Columbo: Uneasy Lies the Crown (1990).
Sargent in The Gossip Columnist in 1979
Sargent also went back to feature films, most of which went straight to video. He starred in Parts: The Clonus Horror (1978), Hardcore (1979), Body Count (1987), Murder by Numbers (1990), Twenty Dollar Star (1991), Frame Up (1991), and his final role as Mr. Randolph in 1993's Acting on Impulse. Sargent also did voice work for commercials and went back to performing live theater when he had the chance.
Sargent with George C. Scott in Hardcore
Sargent worked on two projects after Bewitched that had a similar theme to the role that made him famous. He starred in the movie Teen Witch, and also starred as the father in the TV series Down to Earth, which ran from 1984-1987.
Unfortunately, Sargent was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 1989. Knowing that he was ill, Sargent became what he called a "retroactive role model" for for the gay and lesbian community. After keeping his personal life out of the media's scrutiny throughout a long-standing and successful acting career, Sargent publicly came out in 1991 after an article ran in a tabloid. He found the article to be seedy and inaccurate, and wanted to set the record straight. In what was Darrin and Samantha's final public appearance together, Sargent called upon his old friend Elizabeth Montgomery to assist him as grand marshall at a Los Angeles gay pride parade in 1992. Montgomery told the press, "In or out of the closet, I love him. He's a super guy and a good friend. I'm happy for him and proud of him."
So fans of Bewitched learned that Samantha wasn't the only one with a secret. Sargent's ABC press biography and the few interviews he had done during his years as Darrin Stephens had manufactured an ex-wife to avoid speculation about his sexuality. Sargent was never married, but had a long-time companion whom he was with for 20 years before the man's death in 1979. Sargent personally felt great relief in finally being open about his lifestyle, and professionally felt that he was doing a great service to other homosexuals who could gain the courage to come out to their friends and family. As a life-long advocate of the Special Olympics, and now for gay rights, Sargent focused on educating teens on coping with their differences and being proud of who they are. By revealing that a gay man could successfully portray an advertising executive with a beautiful wife and two children, Sargent hoped to raise consciousness that gay men were out there and leading productive and successful lives. Being different and facing prejudice was a central theme of the Bewitched TV show, and certainly something that Sargent could relate to in his own life. In a time when he was terminally ill, he reached out to others and comforted them. Despite radiation therapy and regular treatment for his cancer, Sargent passed away on July 9, 1994. This was less than a year before Elizabeth Montgomery's passing in 1995 from colon cancer.
1930 - 1994
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Yahoo Biography: http://shopping.yahoo.com/shop?d=d&id=1800039577
Sargent obituary: http://davidbrady.com/times/latsargent.html
Rare Sargent Interview: http://members.tripod.com/~bewitchvic/sarge96.html
Bewitched Summary: http://www.hergeneration.com/60s/favtv.shtml?clkd=iwm
Herbie J Pilato The Bewitched Book: The Cosmic Companion to TV's Most Magical Supernatural Situation Comedy. Dell Publishing, 1992.