Paul Lynde: The Practical-Joking "Uncle Arthur" on TV's "Bewitched"

Herbie J Pilato
[The Classic TV Preservation Society]

[Author's Note: All quotes and commentary that appear in this article were culled from interviews the author conducted with those individuals mentioned.]

Paul Lynde played the outrageous warlock Uncle Arthur on the 1960s classic TV show, Bewitched, which starred Elizabeth Montgomery as twitch-witch Samantha Stephens.

But Lynde, who got his start on Broadway, with live productions like "New Faces," and "Bye, Bye Birdie," first played Harold Harold, a nervous mortal driving instructor an early black and white Bewitched episode, titled, "Driving is the Only Way to Fly." According to producer/director William Asher, then married to Montgomery, "After we used Paul in that first episode, we knew we had to have him back in some regular capacity. Liz loved him. They were crazy about each other."

Montgomery "enjoyed every minute" of performing with Lynde. "When you're working with someone who is as off-the-wall as Paul was, it gives you a lot of creative freedom. His instincts were fascinating. Bill had known him for a long time. They really trusted each other. We all had a great social relationship. Paul and I appreciated each other. We got along very well."

"he was unique," said writer Bernie Kahn, "...flat-out wonderful. He glorified in his own uniqueness."

Lynde was one of six children in his immediate family and the middle of four boys. His older sister Helen Lynde, once explained how he talked with a smiling twang in his voice. "It was a natural ability. But when we were growing up, I didn't think it was that funny, and neither did our mother. She would always tell him, 'Stop being so silly.' She loved him dearly, but she didn't understand his humor."

Helen revealed how much her younger sibling enjoyed working on bewitched:

"He had a great affection for the show. he loved playing exaggerated roles like Uncle Arthur. He knew the appeal the series had for children, and he was always amazed at the reaction he received from Bewitched and Hollywood Squares [the game show on which Lynde appeared as the center square]."

Helen also confirmed her brother's fondness for the Bewitched cast, particularly Montgomery:

"he loved her. He was also very fond of Agnes Moorehead," who played Montgomery's fiery on-screen witchy mother Endora.

David White, who played ad-man boss to Darrin Stephens, Samantha's mortal husband (played by Dick york then DickS argent), recalled a more poignant side to Paul Lynde behind the scenes:

"He brought his dog to the set one day. It was a very exotic-looking animal. I forget exactly what kind. But he used to talk to it all the time like many people do who care for their pets. And I'll never forget it because he used to turn to that pet and says. 'Now, listen - you behave yourself. or I will never bring you down here again. Do you understand?' And that dog would just look at him and look at him. It was a very touching moment."

After Bewitched ended its original run on ABC in 1972, Lynde went on to star in the short-lived Paul Lynde Show, and The New Temperature's Rising Show both produced and directed by William Asher for ABC.

He also became a featured-regular on ABC's popular Donny & Marie Show in the late 1970s.

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Herbie J Pilato is the author of several books about pop culture including the newly-published CONNERY, SEAN CONNERY biography, the revised BIONIC BOOK, RETRO ACTIVE TELEVISION, THE 12 BEST SECRETS OF CHRISTMAS, MARY: THE MARY TYLER MOORE STORY, TWITCH UPON A STAR, and more. He's also a TV writer/producer, and has worked for Reelz, Bravo, E!, TLC, and hosted THEN AGAIN WITH HERBIE J PILATO, the hit classic TV talk show (which premiered on Amazon Prime in 2019).

Los Angeles, CA

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