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The Untold Truth Of The Addams Family

Not only are they creepy, kooky, mysterious, and spooky, but Gomez, Morticia, Wednesday, Pugsley, and Fester are also altogether ooky. They are, after all, the Addams Family. From comic strips to TV to movies to Broadway to games, there isn't much media the delightfully dark family of loving and lovable outcasts hasn't conquered since making their debut in the 1930s — and as a result, this quirky clan has delighted generations of fans around the world for decades, and they show no signs of slowing down now. Whether you're a lifelong fan who's enjoyed every type of Addams Family content or you're just starting out on your journey with this delightfully morbid crew, we're here to entertain you with an assortment of little-known trivia and behind-the-scenes information that even hardcore enthusiasts might be surprised by. Here's a look behind the shroud at the untold truth of the Addams Family.

It started off as a comic strip

In 1938, eccentric cartoonist Charles Addams started sending his work to The New Yorker — which then, as it still does, featured notable, original, and witty comic art. Addams' recurring strip featured a family of gothic spooks, seemingly trapped in the Victorian era, dressed in black and obsessed with death. From its origin until Addams' death in 1988, the strip never had a name, but the characters were noticeable enough that Addams earned a following for his weird family.

The characters didn't have names (at first)

Not only was Charles Addams' strip unnamed, but so were the characters. Writer and producer David Levy developed television's Addams Family series and asked Addams to come up with some options to call each of the Addams family members, and he contributed to the process, as did Levy

For the tall, black-clad mother character, they came up with Morticia, an obvious play on "mortician." Acting on a suggestion from his friend, poet Joan Blake, Addams named the menacing, headless doll-loving daughter Wednesday (after the old line of poetry, "Wednesday's child is full of woe"), and for the mischievous father, Addams suggestions two options: Gomez and Repelli, and left it up to the people working on the show to make the final decision. They went with Gomez, naming the character throughout the future Addams canon. For the other Addams child, Addams almost approved Pubert, but they changed it to Pugsley because "Pubert" sounded too sexual, and inappropriate for '60s television. The name "Pubert" was ultimately used in the Addams universe, however — that's the name of the new baby in the 1993 movie Addams Family Values.

The set was one of a kind...

The 1960s Addams Family TV show has one of the most memorable and unique sets in television history, with priceless and macabre artifacts from around the world lining the walls, and monster plants, living bearskin rugs, and other spooky things filling in the gaps. Luckily it was a decent set, because rarely did the Addams family ever leave their house, preferring to spend their days fencing, knitting, crashing trains, and playing with Kitty Cat their pet lion. These elements were underdeveloped in the cartoons; all of this was created for the TV series, but based on the actual Manhattan apartment of Addams himself. He even owned an embalming table he used as a coffee table.

Another big influence on the look of the show was whatever the production company had lying around. The show's interior sets were reused and redressed ones left over from the recent production of parent company MGM's big movie musical The Unsinkable Molly Brown.

...and looked very different in real life

Also created for the TV series: the color palette of the set. While the show was taped in black and white, like much of television at the time, the set itself was in color, of course. But to get just the right tones of black and gray, set decorators painted it various shades of pink and red.

The original TV series wasn't that all successful

While the Addams Family TV series is one of the most fondly remembered—and frequently run—shows of the 1960s, it didn't run for all that long. Debuting in 1964 and cancelled just two years later, only 64 episodes of The Addams Family were produced. Nor was it a massive hit, ranking in the top 30 in its first season, and falling out of that upper echelon the next year.

The show's most obvious competitor was The Munsters, which looked a lot like The Addams Family in that it concerned a misunderstood family who lived in a spooky house. Both shows even premiered in the same week in September 1964. The big differences were that the Addams clan was based on well-known comic characters and were essentially human; those Munsters were made just for TV and based on old horror movie monsters. The Munsters drew slightly more viewers than The Addams Family throughout the two-season standoff, and both would be canceled for the same reason — the campy, comical Batman, starring Adam West, became the new weird, must-watch TV show. "Batman had come on opposite The Munsters, and a lot of the programming people thought of Addams and Munsters as the same kind of show," John Astin (Gomez Addams) told the Television Academy Foundation, "and they thought [Batman] would" kill off the horror sitcoms — whose ratings had taken a steep decline — entirely if left on the air for a third season.

There have been a bunch of attempted TV revivals

Despite the TV series leaving the air after two years, the Addams brood has never been away from the small screen for long. There have been numerous revival attempts. There was a Saturday morning cartoon version that debuted in 1973, the 1977 TV-movie reunion Halloween with the New Addams Family, a reboot of the animated series in 1992 (in the wake of the success of The Addams Family film), The New Addams Family and Addams Family Reunion, another TV movie (starring Tim Curry and Daryl Hannah as Gomez and Morticia). There was even a variety show version. A pilot for The Addams Family Fun-House was made in 1973, but it didn't get picked up to series.

Ted Cassidy, superstar

Who was the breakout star of the original Addams Family TV show? Vampy, alluring Carolyn Jones, who starred as Morticia? Wisecracking and amiable John Astin, as Gomez? No, it was the hulking, 6'5", deep-voiced Ted Cassidy, who played the Addams' butler, Lurch. He rarely spoke, but when he did, it was a earthquakingly low "you rang?"—a line he improvised during his audition. It became a popular catchphrase, and Lurch grew so popular that Cassidy, as Lurch, cut a pop record. "The Lurch" was a minor hit, as was its accompanying dance craze in 1965. Cassidy even performed the song on the teen music TV series Shindig. That's not all Cassidy contributed: Thing, the Addams' pet disembodied hand who lived in a box, was also played by Cassidy (or at least by his hand, and occasionally arm).

The movies started the small screen-to-big screen fad

There were so many movies in the '90s based on old TV shows—The Flintstones, Maverick, The Beverly Hillbillies, My Favorite Martian, Leave it to Beaver, McHale's Navy, Sgt. Bilko, and lots, lots more. But the trend was started by the 1991 big-screen version of The Addams Family. Twentieth Century Fox executive Scott Rudin got the idea from, of all places, hearing a little kid sing the snap-happy theme song from The Addams Family series during a car ride. After a movie screening, Rudin was riding in a car with Fox marketing chief Tom Sherak and his young son. The kid started singing the song, and then everyone joined in. The next day, Rudin proposed to his fellow executives the idea of an Addams Family movie.

According to the New York Times, that was in 1986, and Rudin had to seek out the approval of Charles Addams, the man who created the Addams universe. He received his blessing and tried to recruit a director, although his first two choices — Terry Gilliam (Brazil) and Tim Burton (Batman) — said no. Rudin then asked Barry Sonnenfeld, a veteran cinematographer looking for his first directorial project, who only signed on after Rudin promised to change the film's initial "jokey" screenplay.

There were a few almost-Morticias

The Addams cartoons, and the TV series, were so beloved that a number of Hollywood stars campaigned to be cast in the big-screen Addams movie. Cher, who with a long face and long dark hair naturally resembles Morticia, tried to get the part but lost out to producer Scott Rudin's first choice, Anjelica Huston. While growing up on her family's estate in rural Ireland, they didn't have many books—but they did have a collection of Charles Addams' cartoons. Huston then based her portrayal not on Carolyn Jones' take from the TV series, but her interpretation of the comic strip matriarch. She was also inspired by Grey Gardens, the cult classic 1975 documentary about relatives of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis who lived in a giant crumbling. mansion.

The cast got the movie's original ending changed

The plot of the first Addams Family movie concerns the long disappearance and sudden return of Uncle Fester (Christopher Lloyd)...or at least a man pretending to be Uncle Fester. The original script ended on a note of ambiguity—the audience would never know if the man really was Fester or an imposter. As rehearsals commenced and filming approached, the main cast felt increasingly uncomfortable about that bummer of an ending, and decided to do something about it: they enlisted one of the youngest and cutest cast members, Christina Ricci, to approach director Barry Sonnenfeld about their concerns. Ricci asked him to please give the movie a happy ending, and the change was made.

Its pinball machine was incredibly successful

Even into the age of video games—and home video game systems becoming so advanced that most arcades have gone out of business—pinball machines continue to be a big moneymaker. A movie tie-in pinball machine was, until recently, part of a Hollywood movie's marketing plan. In 1992, Bally Midway distributed an Addams Family pinball machine featuring images, dialogue snippets, and objects from the film. More than 20,000 Addams Family pinball machines have since been manufactured and distributed, making it the best-selling pinball machine of all time.

There was supposed to be a third movie, and directed by Tim Burton

The Addams Family and Addams Family Values were two massive hits at the box office. Any plans for a third movie were put to rest with the death of Raul Julia (Gomez) from cancer in 1994 at age 54. A completely unrelated crew and cast produced a direct-to-video movie in 1998 called Addams Family Reunion (with Tim Curry and Daryl Hannah as Gomez and Morticia), but in 2010, talks of a third big-screen Addams Family outing were back on — as a stop-motion animated feature. Illumination Entertainment (the studio behind Despicable Me and Minions) acquired the film rights and hired Tim Burton (who declined to work on the 1991 Addams movie) to direct. He was the perfect choice, having overseen spooky stop-animated movies already, such as The Nightmare Before Christmas and The Corpse Bride. By 2013, no progress on the movie had been made, and Illumination quietly pulled the plug and the rights passed over to MGM.

With the project seemingly as dead as a resident of the Addams' backyard graveyard, MGM announced that an animated franchise reboot was in the works, with Sausage Party director Conrad Vernon in charge. He also voiced Lurch, joining Oscar Issac and Charlize Theron as Gomez and Morticia, respectively. This computer-animated Addams Family earned more than $200 million at the box office, making it the highest-grossing entry in the franchise. A sequel is scheduled to hit theaters in late 2021.

Why Gomez Addams digs cigars

Gomez Addams' habit of chain-smoking cigars came mostly from actor John Astin, who played the character in the 1960s television series The Addams Family. "I smoked cigars at the time, and thought it would be right for the character, like growing a mustache," Astin told Smoke magazine (via CigarCyclopedia). From that character trait came a quirk, wherein Gomez could be frequently seen lighting up a new cigar, as if the absent-minded goofball kept misplacing the one he'd already half-smoked. 

This was all in the name of continuity and appearances. "We never wanted Gomez to use a short cigar. It wasn't elegant," Astin said. "If we got to take two, three, four, and the cigar ash was getting too long, I would have to light up another cigar." So what would Astin (or Gomez) do with those lit cigars? They went into a suit pocket, which costumers had lined with toxic — but flame-killing — asbestos. Fortunately for producers, Astin could waste all the cigars he wanted to, because Dutch Masters cigars sponsored and supplied the show.

Behind the Addams Family theme song

Songwriter Vic Mizzy specialized in music for television, and he composed many TV theme songs, including two of the all-time most memorable: the ones for Green Acres and The Addams Family. The latter, with its lightly menacing organ riff and fun finger snaps, debuted with the 1964 television sitcom iteration of The Addams Family and the song or its motifs were used in most every subsequent Addams project, as it became so associated with the franchise. 

The lyrics of the theme, like a lot of musical intros to high-concept '60s sitcoms, thoroughly explains the show, particularly how the Addams' are "creepy," "kooky," "mysterious and spooky," which Mizzy said he understood because he'd been around for the show's development. "I went with [creator] David Levy to pick out the props for the set," Mizzy told the Television Academy Foundation. "So I already knew what it was." When he played the melody and did the finger snaps (which Mizzy says just came to him], it delighted Levy and network executives. The composer had such a handle on how the song should represent the show that the director hired to shoot the opening sequence let Mizzy take over. He directed the actors' finger snaps and gave one direction to actors John Astin and Carolyn Jones: "Be lackadaisical."

The TV show creator sued the people who made the movie

The 1991 movie The Addams Family pulled from Charles Addams' old New Yorker cartoons as well as the 1964–'66 TV series. For example, it had a gothic look and macabre feel like the comics, and incorporated the famous theme song and characters introduced on the television series. 

The latter was a big problem for Addams Family TV show rights-holder David Levy. Two months after the film began its successful theatrical run, Levy sued Paramount Studios and Orion Productions for $50 million, according to the Orlando Sentinel. "He named the characters, he put the concept together. He invented the characters Thing and Itt completely," Levy's attorney said. Levy, the credited creator of The Addams Family television series, also asserted that he invented the notions of Gomez loving to fence and obsessively fawning all over his wife, and how Lurch liked to play the organ, none of which was terribly present in Addams' comics. Paramount quickly settled out of court with Levy, so as to avoid any production or release delays for the film's sequel, Addams Family Values.

There's an unauthorized spinoff web series

In addition to all those various Addams Family movies and TV projects came one that examined its subject matter outside of the familiar environs — namely with little Wednesday Addams all grown up and living life as a deeply disturbed woman. That's the premise of Adult Wednesday, a 13-episode comedy series distributed over the internet from 2013 to 2015. Written, produced by, and starring Melissa Hunter, the show finds Wednesday as a young woman in her twenties, living away from her parents and their creepy house in a Los Angeles apartment, giving in to the same dark impulses the character experienced in different Addams media (and still rocking the all-black wardrobe and braids). The show went viral after the episode in which Wednesday thoroughly destroyed some catcallers — and Adult Wednesday also came to the attention of the Tee & Charles Addams Foundation, which vigorously enforces the legacy of the Addams Family creator. Citing trademark infringement, the Foundation ordered Adult Wednesday to be removed from YouTube.