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The Cast of "The Addams Family" (1964)
There may be no fictional family more admirable than the Addams Family. This comic strip turned TV show turned movie franchise showed audiences that being macabre doesn’t necessarily mean being evil and that having an unorthodox family is perfectly acceptable as long as you stick together. It features strong female characters, fun-loving men, and a collection of misfits that all bring something to the table in their own unique ways. This franchise has evolved seamlessly over close to a century since its inception while still maintaining its classic gothic Victorian look and timeless dark humor. Below are 26 facts about the Addams Family from A to Z.
Addams Family creator Charles Addams
A – Charles Addams
The creator of The Addams Family was born in Westfield, NJ in 1912. His dark sense of humor was injected into the cartoons that he drew over the course of his lifetime as well as in his every day interactions.
He was known for spreading misinformation about himself in order to give the illusion that he lived much like his famous characters. Rumors range from him sleeping in a coffin to having been born in Transylvania.
When a reporter once said she described him to people as “very nice,” he responded, “Lord, you’re going to ruin my reputation. Why don’t you describe me as having the faint scent of formaldehyde?” In this way, he is exactly like his characters, having a creepy outward persona but essentially just a funny guy under the surface.
B - Barbara
Addams was married three times with his first two wives sharing the name Barbara: Barbara Jean Day and Barbara Barb. Day’s look resembled that of family matriarch Morticia Addams, though she did not inspire the look. He published his first Addams cartoon in 1938 and met Day in 1942.
However, Morticia was Addams’ ideal physical type which may have drawn him to Day. The two divorced eight years later. More about Barbara Barb below.
The Addams Family cartoon theme song.
C - Cartoons
The Addams Family have also been represented in numerous cartoons over the years. The first was pilot for a 1972 show called The Addams Family Fun-House which never made it to series. However, they did make a successful appearance on The New Scooby-Doo Movies later that year with the episode Meet the Addams Family.
The following year, NBC aired Hanna-Barbera’s take on the family which was modeled after the original comic strip and voiced by most of the cast of the live action TV series. It ran for two years on Saturday mornings. The series was revived by Hanna-Barbera in 1992 after the success of the first film, and it ran for three seasons on ABC.
D – Debbie Jellinsky
Though not taken from the original source material, one of the stand out roles in 1993’s Addams Family Values is Joan Cusack’s Debbie Jellinsky, the gold-digging psychopath who marries Uncle Fester in order to inherit his fortune upon his untimely death. While most visitors to the Addams residence are put off by the grim atmosphere and dangerous instruments that strike without warning, Jellinsky seems to take it all in stride.
She wears bright colors and maintains a cherry demeanor throughout her con, making her stick out like a sore thumb, but underneath she is more sinister than every member of the Addams Family combined. This helps to illustrate that despite their gruesome taste and dark humor, the Addams Family are good people who may appreciate the evil in others but never stoop to their level.
E - Episodes
While the look of the characters came from the comic strip, many of the popular characteristics of The Addams Family were created through the original live action TV show which ran from 1964 to 1966. There, the characters each received a name, a theme song, and iconic imagery such as Lurch playing the harpsichord, Gomez’s obsession with trains, and Morticia cutting the blooms off of her roses. However, the show also marked the end of the comic strip, which no longer ran after the series became a hit.
F - Festivals
Each year, Charles Addams’ hometown of Westfield, New Jersey hosts AddamsFest, a festival honoring the late cartoonist. This three day event takes place each October and includes both family friendly and adult-only events inspired by the title characters.
The Charles Addams Cartooning for Kids Festival is another event inspired by Addams’ work. Created by the Charles Adams Foundation, children ages seven and up learn drawing techniques in order to nurture future generations of cartoonists who will one day carry on his legacy.
Gomez Addams in the Broadway show based on the famous characters.
G - Gomez
Gomez Addams is the hyper patriarch of the Addams household. He made his first appearance in the comic strip on November 14, 1942 as simply the partner of the “witch woman” who had previously appeared in their haunted house.
He was given the profession of lawyer on the TV show and comically referred to as a “hopeless layabout, a shiftless dreamer” in the 1991 film. Gomez is a proud family man with endless enthusiasm, particularly in the adoration of his wife, Morticia for which his affection is very publicly displayed.
His film counterpart, played by the late Raul Julia, can toss out one-liners with the best of them in humble brags of being acquitted of murder while also performing elaborate dance numbers with his beloved brother, Fester. However, he tends to fall to pieces when disaster strikes, causing him to lean on his family, particularly Morticia, for support.
H - House
The Addams Family lives in a rundown Victorian-style mansion inspired by two nearby homes near Charles Addams’ childhood home in Westfield along with a building on the University of Pennsylvania’s campus where Addams earned his college degree. Meant to resemble a haunted house, the TV show used redressed sets from the film The Unsinkable Molly Brown for the interiors. Their address is 0001 Cemetery Lane.
Cousin Itt Cosplayer
I - Itt
A common childhood impression is for a kid with long hair to comb it in front of their face and speak in high-pitched gibberish like The Addams Family’s Cousin Itt. Itt made appearances in the comic strip in 1963 as simply “It” who spoke plain English before he was credited as one of the many distant relatives of the Addams clan on the series. He was portrayed by 3’11” tall actor Felix Silla on the TV show and 5’ tall John Franklin in the 1991 and 1993 films.
J - John Astin
Actor John Astin has made several appearances as Gomez Addams in both the original TV series and lent his voice to the cartoons. Originally given the choice between Gomez and Rapelli for his character’s moniker, Astin chose the former, and the name stuck. He even occasionally played Thing on the show when Thing actor Ted Cassidy was required to be on screen as Lurch.
Speaking about his most notable performance, Astin has said, “The feedback that I get from my association with Gomez is heartwarming. It is very difficult for me to take anything but a positive view of the Gomez phenomenon.”
The original Addams Family TV show theme song.
K - Kooky
Kooky is just one of several words used to describe The Addams Family in their TV show theme song, one of the most recognized in television history. Written by Vic Muzzy, the theme is still widely used to this day, being played at Halloween and during sporting events to energize the crowd.
Legend has it that the idea to produce a feature-length Addams Family film came when producer Scott Rudin was riding in a van with several company executives when Fox’s marketing chief, Tom Sherak’s son, started singing the theme song, inspiring everyone in the van to sing along with him. The next day, the executives all agreed to adapt the show into a film.
L - Lurch
The Addams’ faithful servant showed up in the very first comic strip alongside Morticia, sporting a dark beard and broad shoulders but posing in his familiar Frankenstein-like stance. He has since been portrayed as a gentle giant, more likely to murmur a groan than to speak a full sentence.
His housekeeping skills are something to be desired to the average household, but his neglecting of the cobwebs and dust suit the family just fine. As a live action character, Lurch supplies the nightly entertainment with his eerie harpsichord music.
"Addams Family" and "Addams Family Values" double pack DVD.
M - Morticia
Morticia Addams (maiden name “Frump” according to the TV show) is the gentle but sturdy backbone of the family. She always wears an even temper with a form-fitting black dress in which she gracefully glides around. Her hobbies include gardening and walks in the graveyard.
In her memoir, A Story Lately Told, actress Angelica Huston writes about how as a child she used to portray Morticia when she played The Addams Family as a make believe game. Years later, she would put that practice to use playing her again on screen in the two 90’s films.
For the film, Huston wore a metal corset, gauze eye lifts, and fake nails applied daily. She was also lit separately from the rest of the cast so that her eyes were always illuminated while the rest of her body stayed in the shadows of their dark mansion. When the going gets tough, Morticia jumps into action, standing up to the villain of each film and protecting her family from harm, even though they'd probably enjoy it.
N - New Yorker
Charles Addams’ famous comic strips first appeared in The New Yorker in 1938, but before that, he was a struggling artist who first submitted an illustration to the magazine which was used as a filler in a book review in their 1932 issue. The sale earned him $7.50.
At that time, Addams was working for True Detective magazine, retouching crime scene photos while continuing to submit to The New Yorker regularly. By 1935, his work was appearing in every issue, and he always signed his work "Chas Addams." The New Yorker paid him $85 for this first Addams cartoon. Prints of his comics now run up to $230 on Charles Addams’ website.
The Addams Family (1991) opening.
O - Orion Pictures
The 1991 film was produced by Orion Pictures before they merged with MGM in 1997. Orion owned the rights to the TV series but were in serious financial trouble and couldn’t finish production. Paramount Pictures then bought the film rights, finished the movie, and produced Addams Family Values.
That was not the only glitch in the filmmaking process. Original producer of the TV series David Levy sued Paramount for using characteristics created by the TV show in the movie. The movie went through two Directors of Photography before director Barry Sonnenfeld, who was making his directorial debut, took over the duties himself. Sonnenfeld too suffered from health issues while making the film as did Raul Julia who even burst a blood vessel in his eye while performing a scene.
P - Pugsley and Pubert
Pugsley is Gomez and Morticia’s oldest child, a rambunctious boy of few words, faithfully clad in horizontal stripes, who likes to steal traffic signs and play dangerous games with his little sister. Originally named Pubert, this became the name of the Addams’ third child who was introduced in the 1993 film: Addams Family Values.
Pugsley is a watchful observer and the quiet one in the family. He takes things as they come and isn’t afraid of a little torture for fun. He is rarely seen without his sister by his side, though she often takes charge.
The Addams Family pinball machine - one of many pieces of merchandise based on the franchise.
Q - Fester's Quest
As with all successful franchises, merchandising is a key component in keeping the characters popular and relevant. The Addams Family has been featured as toys, Halloween costumes, greeting cards, pinball machines, and video games. One of the most popular games was Fester’s Quest, a 1990 game made for the Nintendo Entertainment System where the beloved uncle battles aliens with weapons provided by various family members.
R - Ross, Harold
Harold Ross was the founder and editor of The New Yorker when the first Addams Family comic strip ran. It was he who asked Addams for more cartoons based on these characters. He referred to them as “the tasty little family.”
A comic strip drawn by Charles Addams featuring his famous family.
S - Sudden Death
Charles Addams died on September 29, 1988 at the age of 76. He was sitting in his car parked out front of his New York City apartment located on W. 54th St. behind the Museum of Modern Art when he suffered a fatal heart attack.
Addams was rushed to St. Clare's Hospital and Health Center where he died. A wake was held instead of a funeral per his final wishes, and he was cremated and his ashes buried in his pet cemetery at his home in Sagaponack, NY known as “The Swamp.” His third wife, Marilyn Matthews Miller, remarked to reporters after his death that, “He's always been a car buff, so it was a nice way to go.”
T - Thing T. Thing
Most American families keep a dog or cat as a pet. The Addams Family has a pet severed hand, though he can also be considered another partially human member of the family.
Thing was hinted at in the comic strip in the form of a sign in the front yard warning visitors to “Beware of The Thing.” On the TV show, Thing would often emerge from a box on a table to hand objects to various family members.
Evolving special effects allowed movie Thing to roam freely around the house, roller skating, lighting candles, and perching on characters’ shoulders. He even pulled his weight during tough times in the first film, working as a courier in a busy office. Thing is proof that a gag as simple as a disembodied hand can be effective in the Addams' brand of humor.
Uncle Fester in his purist form.
U - Uncle Fester
Uncle Fester frequently popped up in the comic strip as an unnamed character seen out in public or in the Addams’ front yard, almost like one of the pets. His fondness for dynamite and mischief dates back to this origin as well.
Fester's place in the Addams' Family varies. He first appeared on the TV show as Morticia’s uncle. He then became Gomez’s brother in the movies, making him Wednesday and Pugsley’s uncle.
Actor Christopher Lloyd had to hunch down on his 6’1” frame in order to appear a foot shorter than his adult co-stars and maintain the short stature synonymous with the character. Charles Addams was said to have closely resembled to Fester.
V - Vacuum Cleaner
The very first Addams Family comic strip featured “witch-woman” Morticia and her “servant,” who became Lurch, watching a demonstration from a vacuum cleaner salesman who seems oblivious to the fact that he is trying to sell a cleaning product to an owner of a haunted house. This joke is characteristic of Addams’ dark humor, mixing old time gothic imagery with modern situations.
The Addams Family remains timeless because they can adapt to any era. The 1964 TV show included scenes of Wednesday teaching Lurch the latest dance craze, and the Barry Sonnenfeld films incorporated 90’s humor, referencing current celebrities and notable cultural phenomena to keep the story relevant to a modern audience.
Movie Wednesday's best moments.
W - Wednesday
Wednesday Addams is an unlikely but beloved heroine to many young girls, and her witty humor, iconic braids, and headless doll make her one of the most recognizable figures in the franchise. It’s the part that launched Christina Ricci to stardom and inspired Melissa Hunter’s popular web series “Adult Wednesday Addams” which lent a dark humored perspective of today’s world. TV and cartoon Wednesday was a little more girlish, lacking the deadpan line delivery but still fitting in as the creepy, darkly dressed child of Gomez and Morticia.
X - eX-Wife
Charles married Barbara Barb in 1954. When they divorced in 1956, she inherited some rights to his characters, and when the TV show became a hit in 1964, she received 10% of Addams’ royalties.
The next time you watch the 1991 film, look for a “thank you” to a “Lady Colyton” in the opening credits. This is a shout out to Barb who became Lady Colyton after she married Henry Hopkinson who was 1st Baron Colyton, a British Diplomat.
Morticia and Gomez spending a quiet evening at home.
Y – “Yes, Completely”
This line is said by Morticia in response to Gomez asking if she is unhappy in one particular comic strip. This moment was re-enacted in Addams Family Values during a scene where Gomez and Morticia relax in the graveyard after a long day.
In fact, many moments in the two films were inspired by the comic strip. Scenes of the family pouring a hot liquid from a cauldron onto some Christmas carolers, the children attending summer camp, and a man staring out the window from one of Gomez’s model trains are just a few of the homages that appear on film.
Zelda the vulture was one of many of The Addams Family’s pets on the TV series, this particular pet belonging to Morticia. They also had a lion named Kitty Kat, a tarantula named Homer, an Octopus named Aristotle, and a lizard named Isolde to name a few.
These creepy and sometimes dangerous pets show how the things that many people fear are beloved to The Addams Family. They live comfortably in their own little world.
This dark humor dates back to a comic strip panel of Fester laughing at a movie screen while the rest of the audience looks horrified. It continues into the films where the adults give a standing ovation to the children after pulling off a gory battle from Hamlet which results in them spraying the audience with gallons of fake blood.
The family sees beauty in the disturbing, giving them a fresh perspective and surprising humor that has allowed them to exist in their many forms and through the decades. It has earned them loyal fans and a lasting place in the history of American entertainment.
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