THE ADDAMS FAMILY - 1964
American Broadcasting Company (ABC: 1964-1966) / Filmways Pictures
Rated: USA: N/A
By the time I was old enough to know anything about THE ADDAMS FAMILY on TV, it was already cancelled and living in syndication. The Addams children, Wednesday (Lisa Loring) and Pugsly (Ken Weatherwax) were grown.
The Addamses live in a palatial gothic mansion, just decrepit enough for character. And it's here where they spend most of their lives, rarely venturing into the outside world. Everything they could want is within the house and when it's not, it arrives by mail in packages personally delivered by Thing: a hand and forearm and nothing more.
"Thank you Thing! If it weren't for you, this place would be a madhouse!"
- Gomez Addams
What Thing can't handle with one hand, is up to their giant and formidable butler, Lurch (Ted Cassidy). Lurch is strong, powerful, mostly silent (with the occasional introduction of the latest house guest or a disapproving "Uhhrrrrgh!"), and bashful around pretty young women. With but a ring of the house-shaking gong, and Lurch is there within the second. But when Lurch gets on his beloved harpsichord to entertain the family, he wigs out: his tombstone face lights up in madness or melts in tears as he surrenders himself to his music.
Grandmama (Marie Blake aka Blossom Rock: I MARRIED A WITCH, GILDERSLEEVE'S GHOST, DARK DELUSION, PHANTOM OF THE RUE MORGUE, SHE DEVIL ) does the cooking and potions and when she can get away with it, is a fraudulent fortune teller on the side.
Uncle Fester (Jackie Coogan: MESA OF LOST WOMEN, THE SPACE CHILDREN, HUMAN EXPERIMENTS, THE PREY) is unemployed but spends most of his time playing with the children and, if the situation demands it, handles home defense.
Uncle Fester: "I'll shoot him in the back!"
Gomez: "Shooting's too good for him!"
Uncle Fester: "Hmmm... No, I think its very good for him."
And think of this, it's 1964 and the mother and father are two sexually charged bohemians who can't keep their hands off of each other. Their urges only contained (when they are contained) by the precipitous foghorn of the doorbell or ringing of the phone. Carolyn Jones (INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS) played Morticia and John Astin (GREMLINS 2: THE NEW BATCH, THE FRIGHTENERS) was truly Gomez Addams.
Everyone else in this TV show looked pretty much like their New Yorker comic counterparts, as created by artist Chas Addams. But resemblances stopped with the moon faced Carolyn Jones (the comic character better resembled the narrow features of Anjelica Huston, who played Morticia in the movie made nearly 30 years later) and the chisel faced John Astin. Gomez in the comic was much shorter than his wife, portly, with a double chin melon head, turned up nose and hair parted in the middle, shaved on the sides.
That look on a human being was possibly too much for television audiences at the time. But in characterization, Jones and Astin nailed their parts. Even better, the on-screen chemistry between the two of them appeared as warm and affectionate as it did salacious and desirous. Not an episode went by where Gomez didn't suddenly find himself overwhelmed by Morticia's charms, ravenously kissing her hand, arm, shoulders, going up to her neck and drowning in her hair before Morticia was compelled to remind Gomez of propriety.
Morticia: "Uh, Dear...
Gomez: "Speak some more French!"
Morticia: "Dear! We have a guest! Business now. Boobala later."
More than a few episodes would have a moment where the two could no longer contain their desires and either rushed up to their bedroom or down to the basement "playroom". By the time the show was cancelled in 1967, the pop-culture of the U.S. entered a period of "Free Love"*. It's safe to say that nobody who engaged in "Free love" experienced the kind of Real love, romance, passion, desire, and eroticism, that was constantly alluded to in the fictional relationship of Gomez and Morticia.
The "Dear children", Wednesday and Pugsly, grew up around this and apparently weren't harmed by it. Though childish and childlike, their home schooling better prepared them to handle adult strangers and outsiders than the grown-up outside world was able to handle them.
All the kids in my neighborhood became addicted to those old Addams Family repeats (at least, all the kids in my neighborhood that mattered ). Growing up, all of my peers wished that THEY had a family like the Addams Family (at least, the peers that mattered ).
Of course, far more than the episodic good feelings was the humor. The novelty of the Addams lifestyle and the repetition of their visitors all getting surprised by the same things week after week would get really dull mighty fast if it wasn't for the Addamses' intrinsic outlook on life.
It's the Addams Family's perspective on the trials and tribulations of urban America that kept and keeps the episodes fresh. From like-minded family coming to visit to issues with service people like plumbers and doctors to dealing with local courts to even locking horns with a federal government intent on spying on the citizens (all real concerns in the Kennedy/Johnson era), the old Addams Family episodes are as hysterical now as they were then. Even friends of mine from other countries, separated by distance, culture, and eras, find themselves cracking up over the unique perspective of THE ADDAMS FAMILY.
Director Sidney Lanfield (THE HOUND OF THE BASKERVILLES ), a one time jazz musician, laid the groundwork for how the Addamses would live and interact with the world. He directed 48 episodes of THE ADDAMS FAMILY, more than all other guest directors combined. Of course, what also kept THE ADDAMS FAMILY on track and for the fans, that made the Homebodies series of Chas Addams books and comics so successful, was...
Writer Charles Addams himself. The comic creator wrote or co-wrote 41 of the episodes, keeping the homebody family true to character. Addams was ably assisted by Hannibal Coons, Harry Winkler, and David Levy. After THE ADDAMS FAMILY was cancelled in 1967, it turned out to be one of the strongest performing series in the syndicated market (where I eventually discovered it), right after Star Trek and alongside THE TWILIGHT ZONE.
Charles Addams and David Levy would go on to create THE ADDAMS FAMILY cartoon series with the voices of many of the actors from the original series, but that wasn't the magic the fans were looking for. A number of color THE ADDAMS FAMILY TV movies were also made throughout the years, but even with many of the original cast (the children were replaced, being adults by that time), the technicolor appearance of THE ADDAMS FAMILY didn't sit well with the fans. The comics were in black and white, and the original series matched that. THE ADDAMS FAMILY wouldn't achieve success again until the advent of the Barry Sonnenfeld THE ADDAMS FAMILY movie with Raul Julia as Gomez and Anjelica Huston as Morticia.
Sometimes lightning only strikes once, but the magic of THE ADDAMS FAMILY is captured on DVD and is a classic treasure for your movie collection.
Five Shriek Girls all the way.
copyright 2009 E.C.McMullen Jr.
sounds better in philosophy than in practice. In reality, "Free Love" meant that guys and gals got straight to the sex without the romance or dating, or giving a shit about each other. Nobody used birth control (the pill) or even disease control (a condom), and when the gal inevitably became pregnant, the guy usually took off. Guys saw nothing wrong with this because how did they know the baby was theirs? That gal has been Free Lovin'!
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