Surprisingly, The Addams Family was only on air as a TV show for two years from 1964 to 1966, but it’s popularity never really dimmed. Back then, two seasons constituted 64 half-hour episodes, so there was enough fodder there for the show to become a cultural icon with the snappiest theme song in TV history. It ended up spawning movies, cartoons, comics, and a Broadway musical. Here are some facts about the original show that you might not have heard before.
1. Before the show there was actually a print cartoon
Prior to the television show, creator Charles Addams had a single-panel cartoon in the New Yorker that began in 1937. Some of the macabre characters would later make their way into the TV show. The ghoulish Addams had a home full of weapons. “I have this fantasy. 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 was offered a different role
The actor John Astin was originally offered the part of Lurch on the show, but he ended up playing Gomez Addams. John had experience acting a little crazy in real life, which he would do to safely get between his apartment and the subway station in his bad New York neighborhood.
3. Lurch was originally a non-speaking part
Initially the tall, gloomy butler character of Lurch was written to be a non-speaking part, thinking a towering mute would add a creepy element to the show. So when Ted Cassidy first spoke the deep resonating line “You rang” it was totally ad-libbed. Ted also spoke the line “Neat, sweet, petite” in the opening credits.
4. Ted Cassidy also played Thing
Ted Cassidy played Lurch but he also played Thing, the disembodied forearm that emerged from a box. Another hand would step in if Lurch and Thing were to appear in a shot together of course, but that only happened very rarely.
5. Jackie Coogan came very prepared for his audition
Jackie Coogan landed the role of Uncle Fester by showing up in full costume. Jackie was a fan of the preceding cartoon and was very familiar with his look, so he shaved his head and did his makeup to look just like him. No wonder he got the part!
6. Cousin Itt was really very short
Cousin Itt was played by an Italian actor named Felix Silla who only stood at a height of 3’10” (not that we ever saw his face). He also played a robot named Twiki on Buck Rogers in the 25th Century.
7. The show ended up being praised for its family values
Although the Addams family was a bit kooky and borderline creepy at times, the show got a reputation for its positive family values. One psychiatrist named Stephen Cox explained 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.”
8. The theme song was by Victor Mizzy
Hollywood composer Vic Mizzy created The Addams Family theme song, the one we all loved to snap our fingers to. The catchy song was so popular, they actually released it as a single but it failed to hit the charts. He also wrote the theme song to Green Acres plus an anti-jaywalking anthem which was later covered by They Might Be Giants.
9. When the sitcom was airing The New Yorker didn’t publish the cartoon
The New Yorker editor William Shawn refused to run the Addams family cartoons while the show was on the air because it thought it cheapened the publication. When he retired they started printing the cartoons again.
10. The Addams family had a motto
The strange cast of characters that made up the Addams family had a motto, Sic gorgiamus allos subjectatos nunc, which roughly translates to “We gladly feast on those who would subdue us.” Yikes!
11. Charles Addams originally wanted Pugsley to be named Pubert
Initially Charles Addams wanted the name Pubert for the Addams family deviant son, but the producers thought the closeness to “puberty” was a little too risque for the family show. The name however was later used for the third child that was introduced in the movie Addams Family Values.
12. Cousin Itt’s name changes in different countries
In different countries Cousin Itt is referred to by some different names including Tío Cosa (Uncle Thing in Spanish-speaking Latin America), Cousin Machin (Cousin Thing in French), Kuzyn Coś (Cousin Something in Polish), and Hogyishívják kuzin (Cousin Whatshisname in Hungarian).
13. John Astin sort of got to choose his character’s name
When John was offered the role of Gomez he was offered the option of choosing from one of two names for the character, Gomez or Repelli. Gomez has a more romantic ring to it for Morticia, don’t you think? As Astin once said, Gomez and Morticia “were the first married couple on television who seemed to have an actual sex life.”
14. John Astin returned for the reprisals
John Astin who played Gomez in the TV show came back to play Grandpapa Addams (grandfather of Gomez) in The Addams Family Reunion over 30 years later. He also played Gomez in an animated series of the show in the 1990s.
15. The movie idea came from a car sing along
Scott Rudin, who is the head of production at 20th Century Fox, was riding in a van after a film screening when some magic happened. “Everyone was there—(studio chiefs) Barry Diller and Leonard Goldberg and (marketing chief) Tom Sherak—when Tom’s kid started singing ‘The Addams Family’ theme. And suddenly everyone in the van was singing the theme, letter perfect, note for note.” They just new the world was ready for a movie reboot of the TV classic.
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