Spooky And All Together Kooky: Behind the Addams Family

They were some of the most mysterious and kooky characters on television, but even after 50 years off the air, The Addams Family is still considered one of the most memorable shows of all time. This feat is even more impressive when we consider that it was only broadcast for two seasons! On ABC’s network, the show had a total of 64 episodes aired between September 18, 1964, and April 8, 1966.

Carolyn Jones and John Astin / The Cast of the Adams Family TV show / Christopher Llyod and Raúl Juliá / Christina Ricci
Source: Getty Images

A short-lived run by today’s standards has not lessened this family’s cultural influence. From comics to TV shows to Broadway productions, the Addams family has found success in nearly every type of media that exists. With such a large following that continues to grow with each additional revival, these lesser-known facts might surprise even the biggest fans!

The Addams Family Cartoon Strip

Many of us know this kooky family through TV reruns or movie adaptions, but their story far precedes those productions. The New Yorker was, and still is, a magazine that features memorable, original, and hilarious comic-style artwork. In February 1938, a freelance illustrator named Charles Addams cemented his professional relationship with The New Yorker when he sent in his first Addams Family cartoon.

A cartoon drawing of the Addams family taking public transportation.
Source: Pinterest

The recurring comic depicted a family clad in black and obsessed with all things macabre. They were drawn as if trapped in Victorian-era dress and leaned into their gothic tendencies. The odd family and their quirky hobbies made for a successful comic strip, even though there were only 24 total cartoons published that featured the family.

What’s in a Name?

One reason for the longevity of The Addams Family is the cast of strange characters. But did you know that they were unnamed until they began developing the comic into a television show? That’s right, Addams never named his characters when he was drawing his New Yorker cartoons.

Charles Addams and his wife.
Charles and Barbra Addams. Photo by Bettmann/Getty Images

So, when it was announced that they were making a series based on his comic, Addams was called in by the show’s producer and writer, David Levy, to help brainstorm some character names. This proved to be a process since even the comic itself was unnamed!

Naming the Characters for Television

For the patriarch of the family, Addams suggested the names Repelli and Gomez, and production ended up choosing Gomez. The oldest child, whom we now know as Pugsley, was almost called Pubert. Addams suggested the moniker for the boy but changed it to Pugsley after considering how inappropriate Pubert was for ’60s television.

The cast of The Addams Family TV show.
Source: Moviestillsdb.com/Copyright: ABC

However, as an ode to this original suggestion, the name was given to their baby in the 1993 film Addams Family Values. The name for the matriarch, Morticia, was inspired by “mortician” since she loved death so much.

Drawing Inspiration From Nursery Rhymes

The name that might have the most niche backstory is definitely the solemn daughter of the family, and the source of inspiration is as intriguing as the name itself. Monday’s Child was an old nursery rhyme that gave different characteristics to kids based on which day of the week they were born on.

Lisa Loring and Ken Weatherwax, as Wednesday and Pugsley Addams.
Source: Moviestillsdb.com/Copyright: ABC

According to the nursery rhyme, children born on Wednesdays are “full of woe.” It seems like a nearly perfect description to us! And the show’s producers thought so as well, as they agreed to name Gomez and Morticia’s menacing daughter Wednesday Addams.

Who Played Lurch on The Addams Family?

Lurch was written as a background character, but once Ted Cassidy was cast, he became a breakout star of the show. Cassidy, standing 6’5″ tall, with his memorably deep voice, became a fan favorite. The character of Lurch gained so much traction and popularity that Cassidy ended up recording a song!

Ted Cassidy, as Lurch, stands over a guillotine.
Source: Moviestillsdb.com/Copyright: ABC

The actor, in character as Lurch, recorded “The Lurch” in 1965. The song made a much more notable impact in the dancing world. This led to Cassidy performing the song on Shindig, a music-focused TV program for teens. Funnily enough, he also played the disembodied hand, Thing!

Ted Cassidy in the Entertainment Industry

Ted Cassidy was able to book several other television projects thanks to his memorable voice and stature. During the last year that the original series was on the air, Cassidy booked a side job as the announcer for the opening credits of The Atom Ant Show.

The cast of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.
Timothy Scott, Robert Redford, Ted Cassidy, Paul Newman, Dave Dunlap, Charles Dierkop Photo by John Springer Collection/Corbis/Getty Images

After The Addams Family, Cassidy booked jobs like Frankenstein Jr. and the Impossibles series (1966-1967) and The Incredible Hulk show (1977-1979). Cassidy also starred in films like 1969’s Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. In 1979, Cassidy underwent tumor removal surgery on his heart. There were healing complications, and he died in the hospital.

We Almost Had a Different Lurch

Lurch, the Addams family butler, was such a memorable character thanks to Ted Cassidy’s tall stature and deep voice. But he wasn’t the only person who auditioned for the part and ended up in the show! Enter John Astin, the man who would go on to land the part of Gomez Addams.

A portrait of John Astin as Gomez from
Photo by Bettmann/Getty Images

Originally, he went into auditions to read for the part of the family’s butler. Astin’s brother told him that he was much better suited for the role of Gomez since their personalities were more aligned. Astin returned to audition for Gomez, and the rest is history.

The Cast Didn’t Reap the Rerun Benefits

Many of us have caught The Addams Family reruns. It seemed like they were always on television. For how often the show was replayed on TV, the cast didn’t get close to any money for it. John Astin, who played Gomez Addams, confirmed that the cast members didn’t receive any notable financial compensation for the reruns of their show.

John Astin as Gomez Addams and Carolyn Jones as Morticia Addams
Photo by Bettmann/Getty Images

He said that they received payment for approximately five reruns. For Astin, at least, it wasn’t as disappointing as we would assume since he has said that he was in it for the opportunity to perform rather than the money.

The Actual House of the Addams Family

Like most media productions, the original Addams family set was located in Los Angeles on a sound stage as most of the scenes were shot inside of their home. However, during the title sequence at the beginning of each episode, there was a house shown as part of the opening.

An exterior view of the Addams family home.
Source: Pinterest

That house was an actual house located in Los Angeles, California. When the showrunners were developing an opening sequence and found this house, they wanted to include some finishing touches to make it extra spooky. Utilizing their special effects team, they added a third floor and a tower.

One of a Kind Set

The original set of the Addams Family television program from the ’60s had one of the most iconic and special sets in the history of television. The title sequence house’s exterior was only a preview of what the inside held.

A view of the Addams family living room.
Source: Reddit

Their house was filled with rare and unique trinkets from across the globe adorning the walls. In addition to their wall decorations, they filled the house with living bearskin rugs, monster plans, and other creepy things to complete the aesthetic. The set design team must’ve had a blast putting that interior together!

Inspired by the Addams’ Actual Apartment

The interior of the house was imperative since the Addams family rarely left their house. We think it probably had something to do with wanting to stay in darker places. They preferred to spend their time knitting, fencing each other, playing with their pet lion, and setting up train crashes.

Charles Addams sits at his desk drawing; Crossbows hang on the wall behind him.
Source: Twitter

These activities and elements of their personalities weren’t fleshed out in the original comic from 1938. These details were created specifically for the television series by taking inspiration from Addams’ actual apartment in Manhattan. The man even repurposed an embalming table into a coffee station!

Reduce, Repurpose, Recycle

In a more literal sense, the set design took inspiration from what the production team could find lying around the studio. The sets were repurposed old ones from an MGM production of the musical film The Unsinkable Molly Brown. And they were incredibly colorful!

A view of the Addams family living room.
Source: Reddit

So, although The Addams Family was filmed in black and white, the physical set was very colorful. Set designers had to be very intentional when picking colorful pieces to ensure that the color palette was consistent on screen. They ended up painting a lot of things in shades of red and pink.

What are the Addams Family?

Many new fans think of the Addams family as simply the spirit of Halloween personified, but true fans know that the symbolism is much deeper than that. The creator of the comics originally framed The Addams Family as a satirical commentary about the ideal American family.

A group photo of The Addams Family cast.
Source: Moviestillsdb.com/Copyright: ABC

They are wealthy and quirky people who genuinely enjoy gruesome things. Their inability to recognize that other people think they’re strange or scary makes them all the more hilarious to watch. With a father, mother, and two children, the Addams family represents an odd version of the nuclear family.

Are the Addams Family Human?

Short answer – yes, the members of the Addams family are human. Gomez, Morticia, Pugsley, Wednesday, and Fester were all undoubtedly humans, though enthusiasts have had theories about a couple of the secondary characters not being fully human.

Carolyn Jones, John Astin, Lisa Loring, Ken Weatherwax
Source: Moviestillsdb.com/Copyright: ABC

They suggest that Fester is a zombie, Lurch is a Frankenstein, and Cousin Itt (“Cousin It” in the films) is definitely something. Additionally, Thing is a human hand but is it considered human if there isn’t technically a body to go with it? The internet seems pretty divided about these four characters, and show creators haven’t publicly addressed these claims.

Once a Witch, Always a Witch

The Addams Family was one of the biggest jobs for many of the actors, but one cast member had already starred in an exceptionally successful project. More famously known as Almira Gulch, Margaret Hamilton played the Wicked Witch of the West in 1939’s The Wizard of Oz.

Carolyn Jones, Jackie Coogan, and Margret Hamilton in a scene from The Addams Family.
Source: Moviestillsdb.com/Copyright: ABC

After the film, she was cast as Granny Frump (or Hester) in The Addams Family. Whether she’s Gomez or Morticia’s mother changes with each project, so it’s slightly ambiguous. Specifically, with the television series, Hester’s character development pointed to her being a witch, like Hamilton’s previous role.

Fondly Remembered Though Not Very Successful

The Addams Family television series is one of the most frequently run – and fondly regarded – shows from the 1960s. Given how many projects it has inspired, you’d assume that it was as much of a success when it first aired as it is today. That is not at all the case.

John Astin, as Gomez Addams, is sharpening the spikes of his front fence.
Source: Moviestillsdb.com/Copyright: ABC

It debuted in 1964, and after only 64 episodes, the show was canceled in 1966. It also wasn’t a huge hit when it came to ratings. During its first season, it managed to rank among the top 30 but promptly fell from that level for its second season.

The Addams Family vs. The Munsters

All shows on television compete against each other for viewers and ratings. This is made even more difficult when you have two shows that are somewhat similar to each other. Back in September 1964, two shows premiered: The Addams Family and The Munsters. Both of these shows followed unique families living in spooky homes.

The cast of The Munsters.
Source: Moviestillsdb.com/Copyright: CBS

The most noticeable difference between the two shows was that the Addams family was based on a comic, and the Munsters were developed specifically for television. The Addams family were human, and the Munsters were inspired by old-school, horror film monsters.

The Star Power of Batman

Between the two shows, The Munsters seemed to pull in better numbers than The Addams Family during the two-season battle. However, that didn’t make much of a difference, as both shows were no match for the power of Batman. During its second season, the Batman series premiered opposite The Munsters and became the new must-watch series.

Gomez and Morticia Addams are fencing.
Source: Moviestillsdb.com/Copyright: ABC

The programming staff thought they were essentially the same program because of the similarities between The Munsters and The Addams Family. With the emergence of Batman, both shows had a drastic decline in ratings, which encouraged the networks to take them off the air.

Canceled After Two Seasons

Between the casts of both shows, The Addams Family and The Munsters, there were plenty of theories as to why both programs were taken off the air. Some believed that viewers were simply tired of the monster storylines and were eager for something outside of that box.

Jackie Coogan, as uncle Fester.
Source: Moviestillsdb.com/Copyright: ABC

The introduction of the Batman TV series certainly didn’t help their cause. It was truly unfortunate since The Addams Family staff had a number of very talented writers who were able to combine satire and lighthearted comedy and present them in an accessible way.

Gomez Addams’ Smoking Habit

The character of Gomez Addams was known for his passion, affinity for all things creepy, and his chain-smoking habit. But he wouldn’t just smoke anything – he was a cigar man. John Astin, the actor who portrayed him in the original television series, constantly smoked cigars in his real life and thought that Gomez would also smoke cigars.

Astin, as Gomez, holding a cigar.
Source: Pinterest

Astin was also the one who thought that growing a mustache fit his character’s personality. He was able to convince the show’s producers and writers that both of these suggestions were best for the character, and they made it into the series.

A Cigar Sponsored Show

What started as an idea very quickly became classic Gomez behavior. Throughout filming, Gomez would be seen lighting a new cigar as if he had forgotten where he’d placed the one he had been smoking earlier. This practice was one of appearance and consistency since they never wanted Gomez to be smoking a shorter cigar.

Gomez comes down the stairs smoking a cigar.
Source: Twitter

They thought he looked better smoking longer cigars. If they did more than four takes, Astin would have to light up a new cigar. One of the show’s sponsors was Dutch Masters cigars, so they never had to worry about running out of cigars.

The Introduction of Cousin Itt

The main cast of The Addams Family was all based on characters that Charles Addams had included in his comics. However, Gomez’ Cousin Itt was an original character created by David Levy’s producer. After Levy suggested the addition of this character, Addams went ahead and featured Itt in a comic to introduce him to the fanbase before his on-air debut.

Gomez, Morticia, and Cousin Itt in a scene from The Addams Family.
Source: Moviestillsdb.com/Copyright: ABC

Cousin Itt is known for his hair covering his entire body, gibberish speech pattern, and Casanova charm. Since the 1991 movie, The Addams Family, Cousin Itt was renamed to Cousin It, though no reason was given.

A Law Named After Uncle Fester

Not the character, but the actor! Jackie Coogan, who played Uncle Fester in the original television series, inspired the name of an actual law in the United States. Before he was Uncles Fester, Coogan was a child actor who starred in The Kid, a movie with Charlie Chaplin.

Uncle fester getting his arm twisted by little Wednesday.
Source: Moviestillsdb.com/Copyright: ABC

Sadly, his parents completely mishandled the money he earned from the film. By the time Coogan was 21 years old, he was essentially broke. His legal case inspired the Coogan Law, legislation that made it mandatory to put 15% of all minors’ earnings into a Coogan Account (or a protected trust fund).

The New Yorker Wanted No Connection

Charles Addams had been drawing the spooky characters of what we now know as The Addams Family for The New Yorker since 1938. But, when it was officially announced that a TV show inspired by the comic was in production, the magazine wanted no connection whatsoever to the television program.

A Charles Addams cartoon of a woman knitting a two-headed sweater on the subway.
Source: Pinterest

Nevertheless, Addams was sometimes able to stealthily put them into other comics that he provided the publication. The New Yorker never released a statement as to why they didn’t want any association between the two, nor did they ever catch on to Addams’ sneaky cartoon tricks.

Making an Iconic Theme Song

Vic Mizzy was the mastermind behind the simple and catchy theme song that preceded every episode of The Addams Family. He was a songwriter who focused on making music for TV, specifically theme songs. Only one year after writing The Addams Family theme, Mizzy struck gold again with the opening song of Green Acres.

The cast of The Addams Family poses with a stuffed turkey.
Photo by Silver Screen Collection/Getty Images

Mizzy credits The Addams Family opening as his crowning professional achievement between the two iconic opening themes. Who knew you could become so rich and successful just by incorporating two-finger snaps into a song?!

Part of Every Subsequent Project

The combination of silly finger snaps and its slightly troubling organ riff was the most fitting opening for the TV sitcom’s 1964 debut. Even after the show ended in 1966, the song and snaps followed the Addams family to each and every project that developed from the series.

The cast of The Addams Family TV show snap their fingers to the beat.
Source: Twitter

Everything, from the less than wonderful animated reboots to the two very successful feature films in the early ’90s, had this song tagged onto it. Debatably, it became the most famous part of the franchise because it is just so darn catchy!

Creepy, Kooky, Mysterious, and Spooky

The tune of the song, along with the snaps, is what cemented it as one of the greatest theme songs ever. But the lyrics of the song were just as important, as many sitcoms from the ’60s had intros that explained in detail what the show was about.

Vic Mizzy poses with a framed drawing of Charles Addams’ Addams Family.
Source: Pinterest

Mizzy did such a great job describing the “mysterious and spooky” Addams family because he got a deeper understanding from being there during the show’s development. The show’s creator, David Levy, even brought Mizzy along to help pick out props.

From Songwriter to Interim Director

The lyrics of the theme included allusions to the Addams’ house and its collection of eclectic items with the line “Their house is a museum.” The most heavily featured museum-like artifact was the swordfish head mounted on the wall with a human leg coming out of the mouth.

The swordfish head with a human leg coming out of the mouth hands on the wall.
Source: Pinterest

Executives and showrunners immediately fell in love with the tune and snaps of Mizzy’s opening. They hired a director to shoot the opening theme, though Mizzy’s vision was so confident that the director let Mizzy direct the opening. A man with many talents!

Bringing Back The Addams Family to Television

Even though the original ’60s TV show was on air for only two years, the Addams family has managed to return to the small screen time and time again. There have been a number of attempts to revive the show and reintroduce the characters to new audiences.

A scene from the animated series of The Addams Family.
Source: Pinterest

In the 1970s, there was an animated version of the series (1973) and a made-for-TV movie named Halloween with the New Addams Family (1977). After the success of the 1991 film, they attempted to reboot the cartoon series, The New Addams Family, in 1992.

Setting Trends in the Movie Business

It seems like all the movies to come out in recent years have been remakes or inspired by TV shows. And sure, in the ’90s, there were a slew of movies made that were based on older TV series like Maverick, The Beverly Hillbillies, My Favorite Martian, The Flintstones, Leave It to Beaver, McHale’s Navy, and that’s only a few.

Gomez is kissing his way up Morticia’s Arm.
Source: Moviestillsdb.com/Copyright: ABC

This became a trend because there’s already a built-in fanbase, and it works. But the trend actually started with The Addams Family back in 1986, five years before the movie would be released.

Revival Inspiration From a Child

Scott Rudin, an executive at 20th Century Fox, was riding in a car when he was struck by the idea for a feature-length film featuring the Addams family. Rudin was in the car after a movie premiere with Tom Sherak, Fox’s marketing chief, and his son.

Scott Rudin attends an event.
Photo by Ron Galella, Ltd./Ron Galella Collection/Getty Images

The child began singing the theme song from the show, and soon everyone was singing along. Rudin left that car ride inspired. Granted, there had been a made-for-TV Addams Family movie, but not to the degree that Rudin pictured in his head.

Getting All Necessary Approval

The following day, Rudin pitched his Addams Family movie idea to other 20th Century Fox executives. After getting approval from his peers, Rubin had to obtain approval from Charles Addams, the man behind the Addams world. This proved easier than he anticipated as Addams gave his blessing rather quickly.

Rudin is on The Addams Family set as he watches the shot playback.
Source: Paramount

What wasn’t quite as simple was finding a director for the project. Rudin had his top two options – Tim Burton (Batman) and Terry Gilliam (Brazil) – but they passed on it. He finally got Barry Sonnenfeld to sign on for his directorial debut after being a cinematographer for years.

Cher Almost Played Morticia Addams

The Addams Family TV show was so beloved that the casting directors had no shortage of Hollywood stars who wanted to audition for the 1991 film. Cher, the pop legend who naturally resembles Morticia, tried out for the part but lost to producer Scott Rudin’s top choice, Anjelica Huston.

Cher poses for a publicity Session.
Photo by Harry Langdon/Getty Images

Huston, who grew up in rural Ireland, had a collection of Charles Addams’ work. She based her performance on Charles Addams’ comics rather than the original TV show because that’s what she was exposed to. She was also inspired by the cult classic documentary from 1975, Grey Gardens.

An Initially Ambiguous Ending

The Addams Family feature-length film was released in 1991. But it was originally supposed to have a bit of a different ending…The film follows the Addams family as they’re grieving over the disappearance of Gomez’s brother Fester, who initially left after the two brothers had a falling out.

Christopher Lloyd, as Fester, embraces his brother Gomez, played by Raúl Juliá.
Source: Moviestillsdb.com/Copyright: Paramount Pictures

Suddenly Fester returns, or at least the Addams family believes it to be Fester, but it’s actually a look-alike. The original ending had the audience never knowing if the man was a fake or actually Uncle Fester returning after 25 years away.

The Cast Fought for a Definitive Ending

When the cast started rehearsing, and filming was scheduled to begin soon, the main cast members were becoming more and more disappointed in the lack of a definitive ending. They banded together and came up with a way to convince the writers and director to rework the ending.

Christina Ricci, as Wednesday Addams, plays with her toys as she hides under the furniture.
Photo by FilmPublicityArchive/United Archives/Getty Images

It’s always intimidating to approach the director about an artistic change, so the cast figured that having Christina Ricci (Wednesday Addams) speak to him would give them the best chance. Ricci spoke to director Barry Sonnenfeld about the ending, and he made the change.

Unprecedented Level of Big Screen Success

When there were talks about bringing the Addams family to the big screen, not even 20th Century Fox had any idea just how much success it would bring to the franchise and how big it would be at the box office. The Addams Family was released in 1991, and then two years later, in 1993, Addams Family Values was in theaters.

Morticia, Wednesday, Pugsley, Lurch, and Grandma in a scene from The Addams Family.
Source: Moviestillsdb.com/Copyright: Paramount Pictures

Though there were talks of doing a third installment, that became a moot point when Raul Julia, who played Gomez in the films, passed away from cancer in 1994 at the age of 54.

Tim Burton and The Addams Family

In 2010, they resumed talks of a third feature film but, this time, as animation rather than live-action. Illumination Entertainment, the studio that made the Despicable Me films, was granted the film rights, and they brought Tim on to direct the movie, which was a full-circle moment since he declined the opportunity in 1991.

A still from the animated The Addams Family film.
Source: Moviestillsdb.com/Copyright: MGM

However, three years later and nothing had happened with the movie. Then, MGM said that an animated reboot was being directed by Conrad Vernon. This became the highest-grossing project of the franchise and secured a 2021 sequel.

Trouble in Franchise Paradise

The 1991 film The Addams Family used references from Charles Addams’ old New Yorker comics in addition to the 1964–’66 TV show. For instance, it had a gothic look and gruesome feel, like the cartoons, and included the well-known theme song and characters introduced on the television show.

Morticia is reading a bedtime story to her kids in a scene from The ADDAMS Family Film.
Source: Moviestillsdb.com/Copyright: Paramount Pictures

The latter was a huge issue for David Levy, who held the rights to The Addams Family TV series. Two months after the movie started its successful performance in theaters, Levy sued the production studios that made the movie for nearly $50 million.

Getting the Credit He Deserves

During the case, Levy’s lawyer argued that his client was a key player in what was making the films such a success. He had created several characters from scratch, named existing ones, and combined the entire concept together.

The cast of The Addams Family TV show.
Source: Moviestillsdb.com/Copyright: ABC

David Levy, who is credited with being the creator of The Addams Family TV show, also claimed that he came up with several of the notable characters’ characteristics, like Gomez’s love of fencing, his obsessive fawning over Morticia, and Lurch playing the organ. None of these things were abundantly present in Addams’ original cartoons. Paramount Pictures quickly settled out of court.