M is for The Munsters

Remembered by Kerry E.B. Black


Family sitcoms ruled the airwaves in the 1960’s, and the creative team that produced “Leave it to Beaver” had an interesting idea. It ran a black and white series espousing popular family fare, but with a twist. The Munster family were friendly ghouls unaware of their “differences” from the rest of society.

Fred Gwynne starred as Herman Munster, hard-working head of the family. He stomped around in platform shoes and sported the classic “Frankenstein’s Monster” squared-off makeup. Although sometimes clumsy and prone to stomping temper tantrums that left the house in shambles, Herman did his best to be a good father and husband.

Yvonne De Carol portrayed Lily Munster who ran the household with kindness and a firm hand. One of her running gags involved “dusting” her furniture with an Electrolux that spewed dirt over the surfaces. She and her father, Grandpa, appeared as classic vampires. Grandpa (Al Lewis) enjoyed toying with potions and meddling.

Herman and Lily parented their son, werewolf Eddie (Butch Patrick) with indulgence and understanding. He often carried a little werewolf doll and kept a dragon as a pet. Because of their macabre sensibilities, the family viewed niece Marilyn as plain or even ugly, though she resembled the curvy, platinum-blonde Hollywood ideal of the time. Poor Marilyn grew convinced her “hideous” appearance kept boys from being interested in her and blamed herself when an antic from the family sent a potential suitor running.

Jack Marshall composed the catchy “beach-tune” type music, The Munster’s Theme. Because of the series’ association with Universal, Bud Westmore could invoke the classic Universal monsters in the character’s makeup creations. Filming took place on Universal’s back lot, where 1313 Mockinbird Lane provided a marvelous foil to the other “neighborhood” houses. Sound stages provided other filming settings. For his birthday, Lily commissioned a Munster Mobile which combined a hearse and a sports car. Grandpa drove a coffin drag racing vehicle.

With its mixture of corny humor and slapstick, the Munsters managed to include precursory looks at society. For instance, it examined the stigmas of appearances. The family worked through every day problems, believing themselves an average American family.

The original show ran for two seasons, and about 70 episodes on CBS from 24 September, 1964 until May, 1966 and did well in syndication. It garnered a fan base and inspired a number of spin off series, reprisals, and a movie.