Ah, The Addams Family! Although this show lasted only two years -- 1964 through 1966 -- it has endured as a pop culture phenomenon, spawning movies, cartoons, revivals, and comics. Let's take a look at some things you might not know about that show.
1. The show was preceded by the one-panel cartoons of Charles Addams, which made their debut in The New Yorker in 1937. These works of dark humor featured the same characters that would later grace the show. Addams was known as a man of ghoulish if playful interests, and his house was filled with instruments of torture and medieval weapons, particularly crossbows. He hoped to someday put his crossbow collection to practical use:
“I have this fantasy,” he said, smiling, “A robber breaks into my apartment and just as he comes through the door, I get him -- right through the neck. Always through the neck.”
2. John Astin, who played Gomez Addams, was initially offered the role of Lurch.
3. Astin’s crazed, maniacal look as Gomez Addams had prior service. While living in a rough neighborhood of New York City, he would get between his apartment and the subway station safely by acting a bit deranged. No one bothered him.
4. Fans sometimes stop Astin, speak French to him, and expect him to react as Gomez did when Morticia spoke the language of love. Ringo Starr from The Beatles once grabbed Astin’s arm and started kissing up its length before Astin stopped him from going past his elbow.
5. Ted Cassidy released a 45 rpm single consisting of a dance song called “The Lurch”. Here he is demonstrating it on a 1965 episode of the variety show Shindig!
6. The Thing was also played by Cassidy, except for the rare shots in which Lurch and Thing appeared together.
7. Cassidy sang/spoke the line “Neat, sweet, petite” in the opening theme.
8. Lurch's “You rang?” line was initially ad-libbed by Cassidy. Lurch was originally planned as a non-speaking part.
9. Jackie Coogan was a fan of the cartoons and knew quite well who “Uncle Fester” was. So he showed up to audition for the role after shaving his own head, doing his own makeup, and creating his own costume. He got the job.
10. Younger audiences may know Coogan as Uncle Fester, but he was an acclaimed child star of the silent film era. Most notably, he worked alongside Charlie Chaplin in The Kid (1921). Coogan was ruthlessly exploited by his parents and saw very little of the money that he earned. His subsequent litigation against them led to the passage of the “Coogan Act”, a California law which was designed to protect the interests of child actors.
11. At one point during the shooting of an scene with Coogan, Ken Weatherwax (Pugsley) was being ill-attentive to the script. Coogan poked him and said, "Hey, kid, pay attention. I made a law for you."
12. Cousin Itt was played by Felix Silla, a little person from Italy who stood 3’10”. He also played the robot Twiki on Buck Rogers in the 25th Century.
13. The Addams Family gained a reputation as a family values-oriented show. During its run, one psychiatrist who had a newspaper column praised them Addamses as a model family. Stephen Cox summarizes why:
There wasn’t any bickering. There wasn’t the making a fool of the father or the mother. There weren’t sides drawn between the children and the parents. There was all love, and they still managed to be funny.
14. The Addamses returned to the screen in a 1973 animated cartoon. Although some of the live action show's actors provided voice work, the cartoon's style was modeled after the original comics of Charles Addams. A few years later, in 1977, the cast reunited for a live-action TV reunion movie . Everyone attended except Blossom Rock (Grandmama) who was, by then, in her eighties.
Cox, Stephen. The Addams Chronicles: Everything You Ever Wanted to Know about the Addams Family. New York: HarperPerennial, 1991.
Van Hise, James. The Addams Family Revealed: An Unauthorized Look at America's Spookiest Family. Las Vegas: Pioneer Books, 1991.
The New Yorker, Hanna-Barbera, Filmways, Warner Bros., NBC.