When The Addams Family series was in preparation, an ABC televite gleefully described the show as “happy-ghoullucky.” This brought forth an immediate response from David Levy, the creator and executive producer of the series, seen Friday evenings over the ABC-TV network.
“Let us keep the record straight. The Addamses are not ghouls, monsters or outer space types. The Addams Family may seem unique by YOUR standards of living, but this is merely because you may not conform to THEIR concepts of culture and customs.”
Levy says, “We may assume that at one time the entire world was populated by Addams-type people. Our characters are the last remaining members of this once-proud clan. Their traditions will be handed down and sustained through “The Addams Family” and their offspring.
“They are a happy family, full of love and sentiment; a glowing example of good living and togetherness seldom matched in modern society.
Based on a cartoon
“They are financially secure. As Charles Addams expresses it, a distant forbear apparently made a substantial ‘killing’ and the family has since used the fruits of this windfall to its best advantage.”
Levy, a long-time admirer of Addams himself, spent more than two years working on the television project before it developed into the 12-minute “presentation” film that sold ABC executives on optioning the projected series.
After Levy got Addams’ consent to base a video series on the cartoon characters, he then prevailed on him to give them names.
So for the first time, the wife and mother was given identity as Morticia; the father, Gomez. Morticia’s uncle was dubbed Fester; the little girl, Wednesday; the boy, Pugsley, and the butler, Lurch. Granny became Grandmama so she wouldn’t be confused with Granny of “The Beverly Hillbillies,” another Filmways production. The cartoonist is also giving names to assorted relatives as they are written into the scripts — such as Morticia’s homely cousin Melancholia, and a sister named Pyromania.
Charles Addams reserved the right of cast approval and has, without exception, registered his delight in the performances of Carolyn Jones as Morticia, John Astin’s Gomez; Jackie Coogan as Uncle Fester; Lisa Loring, Wednesday; Ken Weatherwax, Pugsley; Ted Cassidy, Lurch; and Blossom Rock, Grandmama.
The family home
The Addams home, gabled and turreted, is a gingerbread mountain of mid-Victorian splendor occupying a plot of considerable acreage. It is one of a kind… impressively Addams in every detail.
The contemporary suburban neighborhood offers a striking contrast to the Addams abode.
There is every evidence that the family is making a great effort to create a natural way of life. They are extremely devoted to their home and to one another.
The landscaping is Addams right down to the bed of quicksand. The weeds are always full-blown and bushy to prevent growth of unsightly grass, and the roses are renowned for an abundance of long thorns and a minimum of buds.
The spikes atop the wrought iron fences are kept manicured by Gomez to sharp, well-honed points… because that’s the way he likes them.
Actress Carolyn Jones as Morticia Addams
Carolyn Jones had the Morticia role sewed up from the outset. The dark-haired actress bears quite a resemblance to the character she interprets; chic, elegant and haughty — until her sense of humor overcomes her.
“I suppose I had an unfair advantage over anyone who might have been considered for the role,” she says, “because I had known Charles Addams for some years. He is a delightful and forgiving man. ‘Forgiving’ because, on one occasion, my poodle, Contessa, chomped Charles right where cartoonists picture dogs biting people.
“Yet when he heard I had signed for the television series, he wired me: ‘I know you will make a darling Morticia. But please leave Contessa home!’
“I had my misgivings taking on a series — especially in such an offbeat role.
“I even argued with myself that I was not yet ready to play a mother. Strangely enough, I was talked out of that objection by Aaron Spelling. I trust Aaron’s judgment implicitly in business matters. I finally settled for the series. It was a happy decision. Every facet of Morticia’s character and the surprising subtleties in thought process fascinates me.”
Actor John Astin as Gomez Addams
John Astin, who costars with Miss Jones, says that the character of Gomez grew over a year’s time in deep conversations with David Levy.
“At one point,” he declares, “I was the only Addams in the projected series, and this helped me to shape the character as I worked in the some 77 tests made in one day for the other roles.”
Astin has played such a variety of roles on television and in the movies, it cannot be said that any one of them suggested his Gomez to Levy.
“From thin cigar and pinstripe suit to the sneering moustache, flashing teeth and heavy eyelids, Gomez struck me as a man composed of equal parts pixie and mystery, with a touch of fire and ice. What more could an actor ask for!”
Former child actor Jackie Coogan as Uncle Fester
Jackie Coogan, celebrating his 50th birthday and almost as many years of picture-making and television pioneering, said to friends at the outset of “The Addams Family, “If the series doesn’t click or I fail to score as spooky Uncle Fester, I’ll give up acting for good — and turn to directing.”
Happily for televiewers, “The Kid” is destined to play with his dynamite caps for some time to come. The series is a hit, and Jackie is registering strongly as Morticia’s incorrigible relative who is wired AC and DC under his monklike robe.
Other cast members
The series also marks a drastic turning point in the career of Ted Cassidy, 6 feet 9, the actor playing Lurch, the butler. He uprooted himself and his family of three from a pleasant and profitable existence in Dallas, Tex, on the long chance that Lurch would establish him in the Hollywood television and/or movie business.
At home, he was production director of ABC’s television affiliate WFAA.
Ted evidently is firmly entrenched in television, if for no other reason than his deep-throated “You rang?” has become a nationwide slogan. And he has shown a deft sense of comedy, as in the recent Addams segment, “Lurch Learns to Dance.”
The cast includes delicately beautiful Lisa Loring, whose “Wednesday” is a delight because she plays it with a detached, unconcerned unawareness that is deceiving. Her mother, Judith Callies, says Lisa knows what she’s doing all the time.
Then there is Ken Weatherwax (related to the Lassie Weatherwaxes) whose cherubic countenance makes his doings so funny to watch because of his complete lack of guile.
Then there’s The Thing, a functional, disembodied hand.
The “forgotten man” in this Addams operation apparently is the producer, Nat Perrin, a reticent man with large movie credits who quietly pulls the strings at General Service Studios, Hollywood, which, once upon a time, reverberated to the antics of Harold Lloyd.
Top images are of cards from the 1965 Addams Family board game, by Milton-Bradley