By Adam Gerace
For Bewitched fans, Melody McCord is a well-known member of the cast in spite of being, for the most part, Elizabeth Montgomery’s stand-in on the series. This is to a large extent due to the regular appearances of Samantha’s cousin Serena in the series. In scenes where both cousins are required, Melody would be the stand-in for the character not seen directly (i.e., face-on or prominent close-up) in the shot (see the Sam and Serena page). Of course, this would not usually lead to a person being well-known, especially by face. However, Melody – like another Bewitched stand-in who is only known as Herbie (but who, for many years, has been believed to be an actor by the name of Gerald York) – often also appeared in scenes requiring extras, most notably as Sleeping Beauty in Episode # 129. These regular appearances have given rise to fans trying to spot Melody in episodes (see Melody Moments). As such, Melody has come to be seen as both an important member of the Bewitched team, as well as an enjoyable diversion for the astute fan.
Melody Joyce McCord was born on July 27, 1946 in Independence, Missouri. While she was still young, Melody’s father felt that the family needed a change of scenery, and so the McCords (her father Frederick, mother Margit, and slightly older brother Jeri) uprooted and moved to Northridge (Los Angeles), California. As a child in the San Fernando Valley, Melody started to learn trick roping (techniques for spinning a rope/lasso and performing various acts). She would become very skilled at this and would soon begin performing her tricks at recreational parks in the local area.
One of Melody’s trick roping teachers encouraged Melody
to head to Corriganville Movie Ranch and, at around age twelve, Melody
got a job there. From the late 1930s, Corriganville was the backdrop
to some of the most memorable Western movie and television series towns
and locales (for example, the ranch was used in the series The Lone
Ranger and The Adventures of Rin Tin Tin), with owner
and Western-star Ray “Crash” Corrigan opening the ranch
to the public as a weekend amusement park during the late 1940s. Working
at the amusement park, Melody essentially wore two hats. She would perform her trick roping (doing so on the Corriganville Auction
Stage). Recalls Stephen Lodge, who first met Melody in late 1958 when
he was sixteen years of age and a stuntman-gunfighter at the park, “She
would do her act while Tommy Bresh played ‘Under the Double Eagle’
on his guitar.” In addition, Melody would appear in the scripted
Western stunt shows that were staged throughout the day. Certainly,
the work of the juvenile Melody and the cast cannot be undermined; the
stunt shows were staged several times a day from morning until close
of the park, and the shows themselves were based on several different
scripted stories (researcher Jerry Schneider suggests that there were
at least forty scripted shows over the life of the stunt show). Lodge
recalls that Melody’s parents were often at the park (given her
young age) and would even appear in some of the shows (Melody’s
brother also worked at one point at the park). The McCord family would
become good friends with Corrigan, a friendship that would continue
after Melody’s days at the park. Of the young Melody, Lodge remembers,
“She was bright, cheerful, always wore a smile, and got along
quite well with adults. She was a professional.”
It was at the park that appearing guest Dale Robertson (then of Tales of Wells Fargo) encouraged Melody to join the Screen Extras Guild. This suggestion paid off for, shortly thereafter, Melody began getting extra and stand-in work on a number of series and would move from the park to television. Among the series she worked on were the ABC sitcoms Leave it to Beaver (Melody’s work on this show was regular and the hours long; she and her brother would become good friends with co-star Ken Osmond) and My Three Sons. In fact, her old Corriganville cast mate Stephen Lodge (who left the park in 1959) would cross paths with her again here: “In 1963, I worked as an actor on My Three Sons, and was quite surprised when I heard my name being called from a group of teenaged extras who were working on the same show. It was Melody who shouted out my name. I didn’t recognize her, and when she told me who she was, I was quite surprised – because she had turned into such a beautiful young lady in those intervening four years.”
It was around this time that Melody also became quite successful on the modeling and pageant circuit. Melody had started appearing in pageants in her junior high days (even before Corriganville) but came to particular notice in the mid 1960s in and around the San Fernando Valley, as well as greater California. She was, for example, the queen of the Salton City 500, a three-day boat race held in November 1964 in Salton City (in Imperial County), and would again be queen for Mickey Thompson’s Auto Hot-Boat and Speed Show held at the Great Western Exhibit Center (on Atlantic Avenue in Los Angeles) in December of that year. Following this, in January, 1965, 18-year-old Melody was voted Miss Sepulveda by the Sepulveda Chamber of Commerce’s board of directors. The beauty pageant was organized by none other than Melody’s old boss, Ray “Crash” Corrigan, who was at the time honorary mayor of Sepulveda (and who was also the organizer of many of the pageants that Melody appeared in prior to Corriganville). She subsequently entered the San Fernando Beauty Pageant which was held in May of 1965 in Granada Hills (Corrigan served as pageant advisor). Melody also entered into the Queen of Queens contest in Las Vegas, Nevada after her Supulveda win.
Melody began working on Bewitched during its first season, as Elizabeth Montgomery’s stand-in and double. Her work on the series spanned the regular work of a stand-in (e.g., certain shots or scenes not requiring Montgomery to be clearly visible), but also the additional feature of playing Samantha or Serena (though not directly to the camera) where both cousins were required, a role that was integral to the characterization of Serena. Melody was also a regular extra in numerous scenes (to see another Bewitched staffer who popped in and out of scenes, see Peanuts: The Lady Behind the Name) and, according to an interview with director Richard Michaels also worked on the lighting. Melody would stay with the series through its run.
Of Bewitched, Melody’s brother Jeri says that she enjoyed working on the series very much, that she liked Montgomery a lot, and that the two “got along very well.” In fact, Montgomery gave Melody a Shetland Sheepdog during the early 1970s. Melody named the dog Samantha. Montgomery and Melody regularly visited during the run of the show and kept in contact after its end. Melody was also close with others who worked on the series. Among them, Jeri recalls two friends both during and after the series: Herbie (in fact, Jeri once worked on his Ford Mustang), and assistant director Maxwell Henry. Of Henry, Jeri remembers him as a “distinguished gentleman” (Henry’s car of choice was a Mercedes) and a very nice man who Melody would remain close to until his death in 1981.
After Bewitched, Melody worked very consistently. Her stand-in work included the detective series City of Angels shortly after Bewitched, and Falcon Crest. Melody worked as a stand-in and extra on the latter series and would achieve her (most probably) first credited appearance of her career in 1988, with the episode “Flying Blind” (Episode #178). She was also credited for the episodes “Last Dance” (Episode #183, also 1988) and “The Return” (Episode #225, 1990), and can be spied (uncredited) in “Life with Father” (Episode #190, 1988). In all these appearances, she would play a maid named Melody.
Melody’s brother Jeri remembers that Melody worked on the series for some time. Although her credited appearances are from the last three years of the show, it is most probable, therefore, that the discerning fan would be able to spot Melody in other earlier episodes. This would also mean that Melody most probably worked with Robert Foxworth, Elizabeth Montgomery’s partner and eventual husband, who was one of the series leads until leaving the show in 1987.
Although predominantly working within television,
Melody was also a stand-in in a number of films. She worked regularly
with Goldie Hawn, including on the films Protocol (1984), Overboard
(1987), and Death Becomes Her (1992). In fact, Jeri recalls
that after their location shoot in Fort Bragg, California for Overboard,
Hawn gifted Melody with a particularly lovely coat.
While Melody worked the often grueling hours of a stand-in from her teen years, she found time for her numerous hobbies, which included shooting, fishing and being, according to Jeri, a “very avid skier.” Not surprisingly, given Melody’s long career on sets, most of her friends were in the business (the siblings were particularly close friends with long-time Western actor Ralph Moody) and much time was spent at get-togethers at their various houses.
On November 7, 2004, Melody passed away from heart failure, at fifty-eight years of age, in Los Angeles, California. She was laid to rest on November 12, 2004, at Forest Lawn Memorial Park – Hollywood Hills.
As Melody’s brother suggests, Melody would like to be remembered as someone who “enjoyed what she did.” For Bewitched fans, Melody’s important contribution to the series has ensured that she has provided fans with more than a few magical moments. And given that there are many unconfirmed appearances of Melody as an extra, and that there are may be many more undiscovered such appearances, it is probable that she will continue to do so.
A Rose by Another Name
For some time, mystery had surrounded the name of Elizabeth Montgomery’s stand-in. Most Bewitched historians agreed that she was in fact named Melody Thomas. However, contributors to the Morning Glory Circle Message Board – the Discussion forum of this site – began to investigate this some years ago when it became hard to find verification of this claim through examination of scripts and other show-related memorabilia. Call-sheets, for example, would list an M. McCord as a stand-in. This led to a focus on the McCord surname, with the result being the location of information about a Melody McCord who had worked at Corriganville, as well as an actress who had appeared on Falcon Crest and as a stand-in on Death Becomes Her. In late 2006, several items from the estate of Bewitched prop-man George “Uncle George” Ballerino were auctioned by various companies, leading to renewed interest in solving the mystery of Montgomery’s stand-in. A following-up of the name Melody McCord through searching vital records and consultation with entertainment historians and those who had worked with the Melodys of Corriganville and Bewitched would led to contact with Melody’s brother, who would confirm that the stand-in was indeed Melody McCord.
It would seem that the surname Thomas most probably resulted from a mistake in researching the series that has been accepted and used since. Given the often lacking records regarding those who worked on series from the time of Bewitched, it is not surprising that such an error occurred. With the work of many of the members of the Morning Glory Circle Message Board, however, the mystery of Melody has finally been solved.
See also: Melody Moments