Agnes Moorehead is still best known for playing Endora on the television series Bewitched, although she delivered countless unforgettable supporting performances in classic movies long before she appeared on the small screen. Moorehead died on April 30, 1974, at age 73 from uterine cancer. Moorehead's long career actually stretched back to the early 1930s when she performed on radio, and she finally made her film debut in Orson Welles' Citizen Kane.
By 1964, when Bewitched began, Moorehead had already earned Oscar nominations for her supporting roles in The Magnificent Ambersons (1942), Mrs. Parkington (1944), and Johnny Belinda (1948), and had made dozens of appearances on television in guest-starring parts. Moorehead also earned an Oscar nod for Hush...Hush, Sweet Charlotte (1964). When she was offered the part of Elizabeth Montgomery's mother on Bewitched, she was apprehensive at first, author Charles Tranberg told Closer Weekly. Once the show started though, Endora quickly became Moorehead's most famous role. She earned six Emmy nominations between 1966 and 1967 for the role, although never won. (She did win an Emmy for her supporting role on The Wild Wild West in 1967, though.)
"If she hadn’t done Bewitched, she would still have continued on as a respected character actress, but with a popular series like that one, she was able to achieve something she always wanted: genuine stardom and becoming a household name," Tranberg, who wrote I Love the Illusion: The Life and Career of Agnes Moorehead, told Closer Weekly. "It also provided her for eight years with a consistent and fairly lucrative income that she was able to supplement with other projects. She might have complained about the rigors of doing a series, but in the end she loved it and what it did for her career."
However, as author Mark Dawidzak noted, Moorehead's part overshadowed her versatility as a performer. "It’s a bit ironic, too, since her early movie roles, from the distant mother in Orson Welles’ Citizen Kane to the villain making trouble for Humphrey Bogart in Dark Passage, tended to type her as cold, forbidding women," Dawidzak told Closer Weekly. "Bewitched let her play that for laughs in a broad comic style. Between those extremes, however, was a deceptively versatile and durable talent."
Moorehead's death has a tinge of speculation surrounding it. There was speculation that her cancer might have something to do with filming The Conquerer on atomic bomb test sites. Other members of the film's crew, including John Wayne, Susan Hayward, and director Dick Powell all died from cancer or had cancer-related deaths. In 1980, PEOPLE estimated that 91 members of the film's crew developed a form of cancer. However, author Brian Dunning cast doubt on the idea in a 2010 podcast and traced the speculation to a 1979 tabloid article that only pointed out the coincidences without real research. Moorehead was married and divorced twice, and had no children.