Origins: The Addams Family

Let’s get one thing out of the way first:

You’re welcome. Good luck getting it out of your head (chuckles fiendishly).

theaddamsfamily
IMDb

So yeah, there’s a new Addams Family movie coming out. Among the many voices bringing the characters to life this time around are Poe Dameron as Gomez, Will from Stranger Things as Puggsley, Snoop Dogg from Compton as Cousin Itt, and Charlize Theron from, well, everywhere as Morticia. And of course, it wouldn’t be an Addams Family movie or Addams Family anything without that loveable (or annoying, depending on who you ask) earworm of a song.

But how did this comically fiendish family start? It wasn’t with the TV series. Oh, no, the Family’s origins go back much futher.

Before we look at all that, though. here’s the trailer for the new movie:

I think it looks cute, quite honestly. It also looks like they took some style cues from Tim Burton, but I digress.

charlesaddams
Neatorama

The Addams Family is the brainchild of Charles Addams, who first dreamed up the characters in 1938. Addams was a talented artist whose first cartoon of a window washer was published in the New Yorker in 1932, which, according to Neatorama, earned him seven dollars and fifty cents. Addams struggled as an artist for a few years, working as a touch-up man for True Detective.

Addams moved into designing covers for the New Yorker, painting sixty-eight over his lifetime. He also was a prolific cartoonist for the magazine, contributing around 1,300 panels over his career. Addams was a fun guy with a fascination with mixing the mundane and the macabre. When the Addams Family started, they were a lot of standalone, one-off single panel cartoons. The characters didn’t even have names, but they were all there.

drawing-addamsfamily-02
The first Addams Family cartoon, published in the New Yorker on February 6, 1938. (The Paley Center For Media)

The cartoons got popular enough for Addams to be considered what we nowadays would call a meme. His characters were studies in ironic absurdity, treating what the average person would consider Gothic and abnormal as mundane and everyday. During the nineteen-forties, his work was compiled into an Addams Family anthology, and there was talk about turning the comic into a play, but it fell through.

TV was the natural next step, but first Addams’s characters had to be named. Morticia was a no-brainer, as was Uncle Fester, but Gomez was originally named Rappelli and Pugsley started out being called Pubesy, a name which was rejected for obvious reasons. This was when The Thing and Cousin Itt were added to the lineup. Other than the naming of the characters, Addams didn’t have much control over the TV show. He did have some say in the casting, however.

addamsfamilytvcast
Little Gothic Horrors

Unfortunately, the reasons for this were personal. By the late nineteen-fifties, Addams had divorced his first wife, Barbara and married Barbara Barb (yes, that was her real name. As far as I know, she wasn’t Welsh). Legend has it Barb was so into The Addams Family that she had a Morticia-inspired rhinoplasty. She may also have been the one to push Addams into putting his characters on TV, forcing him to sign away most of the legal rights. The marriage didn’t last long; Addams and Barb divorced in 1956, two years after their wedding.

The Addams Family premiered on September 18, 1964. It ran for two seasons and sixty-four episodes. Addams didn’t care for it because he thought it was too much camp and not enough of his trademark black humor, but the public loved it. It has been run and rerun countless times in syndication and as of this writing is currently available to stream on Amazon.

vicmizzy
Ain’t It Cool News

And what of the notorious theme song? It was written and performed by a guy named Vic Mizzy, a prolific singer and songwriter. Among his other works are the themes for Green Acres and The Don Rickles Show. A record of the Addams Family song was released to the public on a 45 RPM record, but few people bought it. Can’t imagine why, although it’s a catchy tune.

Even though the show ended pretty quickly, the Addams Family wasn’t done on the small screen. In 1972 the characters guest-starred on a Scooby Doo special, and like certain shows from that era, there was an attempt to give the Addamses their own variety hour, entitled The Addams Family Fun-House. Neither effort was successful. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, folks.

AddamsFamily1990
MSN

Then in 1991, The Addams Family became a feature film. It’s been ages since I’ve seen it, but I remember the casting being genius. Raul Julia, Angelica Huston, Christina Ricci, and Christopher Lloyd were awesome. It’s full of the sly fun and tasteful black humor the original was so famous for.

The movie was followed two years later by Addams Family Values, which didn’t generate nearly the buzz of the first film. A 1998 movie went straight to video and there was also an ill-fated TV reboot, which went nowhere as well, and that brings us up to today. I hope the new film is a return to what makes Addams’s characters great in the first place, because we need more of these types of stories.

addams prelim
Von’s Hollywood

Sadly, Addams didn’t live to see his characters hit the silver screen. In 1988, he died of a heart attack at the age of 76, and true to his out-of-the-box personality, his ashes were buried in his own private pet cemetery, the Charles Addams Estate Grounds.

John Astin recently said:

“{The Addams Family} will go on and on unless they intentionally try to screw it up…The show is really about the joy of life. It’s about family love and sometimes passion. It’s about really good stuff. It has this mask on of horror, but it’s not. It’s really more like You Can’t Take It With You…People are scared, they’re gonna run away, but we’re not gonna hurt ’em. Ever. One thing the show says is it doesn’t matter what you’re like outside. It’s inside that counts.

Thanks for reading, everyone, and see you on Sunday. We’re going to Philadelphia, y’all…


The Addams Family original TV show are available to own on DVD from Amazon–here are Volumes One, Two, and Three. The 1991 and 1993 feature films can also be found on DVD.

8 thoughts on “Origins: The Addams Family

  1. Well done! As a long-time fan of the TV show (I once had just about every episode recorded on VHS tapes), I really enjoyed your post. Astin’s quote about the show celebrating the “joy of life” will stick with me. So true. I think that’s why, in a world overflowing with dark and cynical characters, the Addams Family is still a big favorite.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I love the Addams Family movies! I also enjoyed the brief animated series they had in the 90s – John Aston even returned to voice Gomez! There was also a musical on Broadway a couple of years back. I saw it in its early previews and it was pretty good.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Many years ago now when my eldest daughter was very young, her dance team performed a musical theatre number using a song from The Addams Family Broadway show. She played Uncle Fester in a bald cap and she worked hard to have a slightly mad look in her eyes at all times. It was great.

    Like Astin alluded to, the Addams Family is at its best when they are weird, and creepy, yet loving and kind at the same time. They do things a little differently and enjoy the macabre but there is no malice in their nature. I worry the new film has focused on celebrity actors rather than proper voice actors but I still hold out hope for a fun picture.

    Liked by 1 person

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