By David Pierce
Up until the end of the third season of Bewitched , Samantha relied on her mother or Aunt Clara to diagnose her illnesses or even provide her a cure. However, a professional witch doctor (“We call him a warlock doctor”) popped in, strangely enough to cure Darrin of a cold, and over the next five seasons he would be called on again by the infamous call “ Calling Dr. Bombay ! Emergency! Come right away!”
With the “bedside manner of an orangutan,” he delighted us with his corny jokes and far out contraptions. Dr. Bombay's out of this Cosmos ways were made endearing and enjoyable by the great talents of Bernard Fox.
Bernard Fox as Dr. Bombay on Bewitched with Elizabeth Montgomery and Dick Sargent
Bernard Lawson was born in South Wales on May 11, 1927, the second child of Queenie and Gerald Lawson. Acting was in his blood as his parents were stage actors, as were three generations before them. His first appearance on stage was at 18 months old and he began acting at 14 while also being a stage hand. At one point he changed his surname from Lawson to Fox.
Bernard Playing the Guitar
He joined the Royal Navy during World War II and resumed his acting career joining the York Repertory Company and, later, the London Whitehall Farce Players. His screen debut came in 1956 and in 1958 he appeared in “A Night to Remember”, as the man in the crow's nest who first spots the iceberg that hit into the Titanic. Almost 40 years later, Bernard would again board the famous ship in James Cameron's “Titanic” as Colonel Archibald Gracie. He landed a role on a BBC-TV series and was told by producer Ray Saffian Allen that if he ever wanted to go to Hollywood , he had connections there.
In 1959, while doing a play in Rome called The Amorous Prawn , he met the love of his life, a California girl named Jacqueline Holt. Jackie would come to visit him in England and eventually they decided to marry. Bernard packed up and moved to California and they were married in 1962.
Bernard and Jackie on Their Honeymoon in 1962
In the United States , his first acting role was that of bully Charlie Sturlock in the play Write Me a Murder and when word reached Ray Allen that Bernard was in Hollywood , phone calls were made and Bernard got a role on The Danny Thomas Show . As that show filmed on the same lot as The Andy Griffith Show and Bernard was such a great character actor, the role of the America-loving Brit, Malcolm Merriweather , was created for him, a fan favorite who returned two more times. Many more television roles started rolling in including The Dick Van Dyke Show , The Man from U.N.C.L.E . , and in 1966 he was cast in the role of witch hunter Osgood Rightmire on Bewitched . Elizabeth Montgomery and William Asher enjoyed him so much they had a recurring character written for him, that of the wacky warlock Dr. Bombay, who would pop in 18 times the first in Episode #107: “There's Gold in Them Thar Pills.” Bernard decided to base Bombay on a Naval Officer that was hard of hearing and assumed everyone else was, so he yelled everything. Whenever Samantha, or even one time Endora , was sick, Dr. Bombay was called in to diagnose, usually with disastrous, but comical results, aided by a myriad of outlandish contraptions. It was also during this time that Bernard was also given another recurring character, that of the bumbling idiot Colonel Crittendon on Hogan's Heroes, which Bernard cites as his favorite role, though he only appeared on the show eight times.
Bernard Fox and Werner Klemperer on the Set of Hogan's Heroes
It was also during this time that Bernard and Jackie were blessed with two beautiful daughters, Amanda and Valerie. Even while busy with his girls and his recurring roles, Bernard appeared on many other TV series.
Bernard Fox and Family in the 1970s
During the 70s, he would voice the Chairman in Disney's The Rescuers and, in the 90s , its sequel The Rescuer's Down Under . There were many other film roles during the 70s including another Disney favorite Herbie Goes to Monte Carlo .
The Fox Plays a Mouse: Bernard Is the Voice of the Chairman in The Rescuers
In 1977, he dusted off Dr. Bombay's medical bag to return on the Bewitched spin-off Tabitha, starring Lisa Hartman as Samantha's cute witch daughter all grown up. He appeared twice on the series, which lasted only one season. In this show, Dr. Bombay's first name is revealed as Hubert.
The 80s and 90s were filled with other TV appearances and stage appearances including shows in Reno and on the Queen Mary. It was also in the 90s that Valerie gave birth to Bernard's two beloved grandchildren, David and Samantha. Surprisingly, Samantha wasn't named after Dr. Bombay's most famous patient. Valerie wanted to name her after Amanda, but felt that aunts on the other side of the family would be upset so she came up with a name she felt most similar – Samantha. Bewitched fans were again surprised by the return of Dr. Bombay on the NBC daytime soap Passions for two episodes at the turn of the millennium. Bombay is the only character on Bewitched to appear more than twice after the series.
Bernard's last acting gig was on Dharma & Greg when Bernard decided to retire to enjoy gardening with his wife and oil painting.
Jackie, Bernard, and Daughter-in-Law Lisa at Home
In 2004, production began on a big screen version of Bewitched starring Nicole Kidman playing a witch who was playing Samantha on a new Bewitched TV show. Dr. Bombay was written into one of the drafts and Bernard was invited in for a meeting with the producers about possibly returning. After that initial meeting, he never heard back and the character did not appear in the movie.
Tragedy struck the Fox family when his daughter Valerie suffered a blood clot and passed away suddenly in 2006.
In 2010, Bernard Fox was honored in Los Angeles at the Bewitched Fanfare for being the Favorite Recurring Character with a tribute given by his biggest fan, David Pierce.
Lisa, David Pierce, Amanda, Bernard, and Jackie Fox in 2010
Today Bernard enjoys gardening and spending time with his family.
Bernard in His Beautiful California Garden