A is for The Addams Family
An Appreciation Written by Kerry E.B. Black
Inspired by American artist Charles Addams’ single panel cartoons, ABC created the television show The Addams Family. They filmed the half hour comedy in black and white, and it ran for two seasons and 64 episodes from September, 1964 until April of 1966. After, syndication made it a favorite show of mine. It focused on a quirky, tight-knit extended family unaware their macabre peculiarities set them apart from their neighbors.
Reserved and level-headed Morticia (Carolyn Jones) served as head of the family. Her impetuous inventor husband, Gomez (John Astin) found their romance irresistible, even after thirteen plus years of marriage. The couple danced sensual tangoes and when Morticia spoke French, Gomez lost all control of his passions. (In fact, as a child, I hoped to find a love like the ardor evident in Morticia and Gomez’s marriage. Cara Mia. Sigh.)
The couple’s actions prove their adoration for each other. Morticia supports her husband’s ambitions, including a run for political office. Gomez protects his wife when a critic gives an unfavorable review of her sculpture. To boost her confidence, he hired a man to purchase her art, nearly bringing the family to bankruptcy.
They also pour themselves into caring for their family. Many episodes focused on their children, Wednesday (Lisa Loring) and Pugsley (Ken Weatherwax). They attend school where thoughts of slaying dragons or vilifying trolls upset them. Classmates teased braid-wearing Wednesday, telling her there were no such things as witches. To cheer her, the family hosted a séance, calling Aunt Singe who was burned in Salem. Pugsley dressed in stripes and shorts and shared his father’s preoccupation with electronics. Grandmama (Blossom Rock) and Uncle Fester (Jackie Coogen) often were accused of spoiling the tikes, yet all of the family indulged the youngest members of the family. In fact, they all dressed as Santa Claus one holiday to make the day special or the children. Uncle Fester even became stuck in the chimney.
As is appropriate for any Gothic-inspired work, the Addams’ house at 0001 Cemetery Lane became a character in its own right. With secret passages, trap doors, and heavy curtains, the Victorian home held mysteries becoming the family. Carnivorous plants inhabited the conservatory. A swamp and a cemetery served as their yard. A growling polar bear rug and “Kitty,” their pet lion, add to the home.
Lurch (Ted Cassidy), their moaning butler, played harpsichord and betrayed his sensitivity by falling in love with Morticia’s old school chum. In one episode, Morticia feared their friend needed a break from all the work at the house, so Gomez created a helper robot. Thing, a disembodied, sentient hand, scampered about offering help.
Frequent visitors reveal the bond of family and the trust bestowed upon Morticia and Gomez. The family buoys each other up when the world would bring them down. Cousin Itt (Felix Silla), covered in hair and possessing an unusual voice, spent much time with the family. When faced with another in a string of failed (or failing) relationships, Morticia’s sister Ophelia called. The couple helped her launch a musical career and nurse her flagging self-belief when a suitor ends up as a con artist.
When faced with a challenge, the Addams pull their resources. Wit and indomitable spirits coupled with seemingly unending coffers help overcome obstacles. When horrified by the reading curriculum at school portraying goblins and witches as evil, the Addams’ purchase a private school. If they like someone, even an unworthy stranger, they help them. For instance, when an insurance adjuster is unjustly fired for filling an Addams’ claim, Gomez bought the man his own company.
Of course, The Addams’ celebrated their favorite holiday, Halloween, with style, but their enthusiasm made every day a celebration of sorts. They appreciated the underappreciated. For instance, when given a bouquet, Morticia snipped the heads from roses, leaving vases filled with thorny stems. They admire the beauty of gray days and appreciate the simplicity of dirges.
Besides, the snappy signature song by Vic Mizzy always makes me smile.
*Photo Credit Addams Family ABC 1964