'Bewitched' Star Dick York: Why the Actor Who Played Darrin Stevens Exited the Series

If you're a fan of the original Bewitched series, which aired from 1964 to 1972, you would know that the original actor who portrayed Darrin, Dick York, left the show after five seasons. Darrin's role was later recast with actor Dick Sargent, who played the character for the last three seasons of Bewitched. There was plenty of speculation surrounding why York departed Bewitched. Some theorizing he had a dispute with the network, clashes with his fellow cast members, or a difference of opinion with the showrunner. According to Biography.com, the reason behind York's exit ties back to a previous injury that he sustained and subsequent addiction problems that he reportedly dealt with.

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York made a name for himself in the entertainment industry long before he nabbed a role on Bewitched. He signed a contract with Columbia Pictures shortly after appearing on Broadway with Deborah Kerr in Tea and Sympathy. While under contract with Columbia Pictures, York starred in films such as They Came to Cordura, which premiered in 1959 and Inherit the Wind, which came out in 1960. During his time on They Came to Cordura, York sustained a back injury that would influence the rest of his life and career. York and Gary Cooper were propelling a handcar along the rail tracks while filming a movie scene. When the director yelled cut, one of the extras in the scene on the base of the car grabbed the rail that York was pumping and pulling, leading to his injury.

"Now, instead of lifting the expected weight, I was suddenly, jarringly, lifting his entire weight off the flatbed—180 pounds or so. The muscles along the right side of my back tore. They just snapped and let loose,” York explained in an interview with FilmFax magazine that was published in 1992. “And that was the start of it all — the pain, the painkillers, the addiction, the lost career. I didn’t attend to the problem then. I continued to work through it.” While York later accepted Darrin's role on Bewitched, he dealt with lingering back problems during his tenure on the show.

To deal with the chronic pain he was experiencing due to the Cordura accident, York was prescribed several painkillers, including codeine, muscle relaxants, and sleeping pills (he stressed that he avoided drugs while working). He ended up developing a reliance on painkillers, which ended up affecting his physical abilities. The actor explained to PEOPLE in 1989, “I had a board in my trailer where I would flatten out. And on the set, the crew would help me. They would plant someone on the other side of a door in case it was too heavy for me to open by myself.” York became addicted to his prescriptions by 1968 and, in 1969, he passed out on the Bewitched set and had to be hospitalized. Because his health was continuing to worsen during the course of filming, producers decided to recast Darrin's role for the remaining three seasons of the show.

York did release a statement to The Sacramento Bee in March of 1969 about his departure from the series, which read, “Five years as Liz’s husband on Bewitched; there are no hard feelings. I just want a chance to do other stage and movie roles.” The actor reportedly continued to take his medications, but he quit cold turkey in 1971. He died in February 1992 at the age of 63.