ATLANTA — Almost four decades after the Wicked Witch of the West plagued Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz, the green-skinned, bushy-browed one lost her broom on, of all places, Sesame Street. Actress Margaret Hamilton reprised her famous role in an episode of the children’s TV series that aired on Feb. 10, 1976, writes Heather Greene in her new book Bell, Book and Camera: a Critical History of Witches in American Film and Television (McFarland, April 2018, 234 p). “With the exception of Big Bird and Oscar the Grouch, the inhabitants of Sesame Street are visibly frightened of Hamilton’s character,” Greene writes. The Wicked Witch also scared the hades out of young viewers, just as she had done for decades since the release of Oz in 1939.
We were recently informed that Lord Shawnus, High Priest of Pennsylvania’s Coven of the Catta has passed away. Born in 1951, Lord Shawnus, also known as Gary Lee Hoke, was an initiate of Lady Phoebe Athene Nimue. He met her in 1981 and, through her teachings, pursued his degrees within that tradition. After seven years, he earned his third and stayed on with Lady Phoebe. He eventually took over the role of High Priest.
It has been a several months since the last installment in my series on Hollywood’s witches. Last May I explored the period from 1939 to 1950. During that time the witch evolved from a cartoon hag into a signifier of the empowered, sexualized woman (Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs 1937 and I Married a Witch 1942). Now I will pick back up in 1950 just as television enters its Golden Age. During the subsequent eighteen years, the American film industry undergoes radical changes affecting its structure and product. The period ends in 1968 with the death of the Production Code and the birth of an entirely new Hollywood.