The Addams Family are an eccentric and rather macabre fictional family. They were created by the American cartoonist Charles Addams and first appeared in a series of single-panel cartoons in The New Yorker magazine in 1938.
The extremely wealthy family live in a mansion that has become somewhat run down, giving it the appearance of a typical haunted house. The family consists of a husband and wife, their two young children and two older relatives. They have a butler who resembles Frankenstein's monster (as played by Boris Karloff in the 1931 movie Frankenstein) and various other family members have visited them from time to time.
The characters are unnamed in Charles Addams' cartoons. When a TV comedy series based on the characters was developed in 1964, Charles Addams was asked to provide names for them. He named the butler "Lurch", the husband and wife "Gomez" and "Morticia", the two older relatives "Uncle Fester" and "Grandmama Frump" and the children "Wednesday" and "Pubert". The name "Pubert" was rejected by the show's producers and the character was named "Pugsley" instead. The name "Pubert" was later used as the name of Gomez and Morticia's third child in the 1993 movie The Addams Family Values. "Grandmama Frump", whom Addams had presumably intended to be Morticia's mother, was named "Grandmama Addams" in the TV series and made Gomez's mother instead. The precise nature of the relationship of Grandmama and Uncle Fester to Gomez and Morticia has varied over the years. One character had been named "It" in Charles Addams' cartoons but was renamed "Cousin Itt" by the show's producer David Levy.
In addition to the sitcom which ran from 1964 to 1966, other media in which the Addamses have appeared include animated cartoon series from 1973 and 1998, two live-action theatrically released movies from 1991 and 1993, another live-action series called The New Addams Family from 1998 and a 3D computer animated film from 2019.
The Addamses first appeared in a series of one-panel cartoons by Charles Addams that appeared in The New Yorker magazine in 1938. Cartoons featuring the characters continued to appear occasionally in The New Yorker and other publications until Charles Addams' death in 1988.
At first, the only recurring characters in the cartoons were a creepy woman dressed in black (later named Morticia) and her creepy Frankenstein's monster-like butler (later named Lurch). The first published cartoon shows a traveling salesman attempting to sell a vacuum cleaner to Morticia, apparently unaware that someone who lives in what looks like a haunted house, complete with bats, is not in the market for such an item. The cast of characters was later expanded to include the woman's husband, son and daughter (later named Gomez, Pugsley and Wednesday) and other members of the extended family.
Much of the humor in the cartoons is derived from the Addamses' likes and dislikes being the exact opposites of those of most people. For example, one cartoon shows Gomez looking out of the window at a violent storm and commenting to his family, "Just the kind of day that makes you feel good to be alive!" The characters are sometimes shown apparently about to commit acts of violence against other people. One cartoon from 1947 shows Wednesday and Pugsley apparently about to throw a boulder at a passing car. A famous cartoon from December 1946, which was later adapted as the opening sequence for the 1991 movie version of The Addams Family, shows the family apparently about to pour boiling oil on a group of carol singers.
1960s TV series
A comedy series based on Charles Addams' cartoons ran on ABC for two seasons from September 18, 1964 to April 8, 1966. A total of sixty-four episodes, all of them in black and white, were made. The series' original run largely coincided with that of a similar sitcom, The Munsters, which had slightly higher ratings, on CBS.
The series starred John Astin as Gomez, Carolyn Jones as Morticia, Ted Cassidy as Lurch, Jackie Coogan as Uncle Fester, Lisa Loring as Wednesday, Ken Weatherwax as Pugsley and Blossom Rock as Grandmama. Felix Silla made several guest appearances as Cousin Itt.
Gomez is an extremely wealthy man who owns numerous companies and has shares in many others. He gives away large amounts of money freely but that does not appear to affect his wealth. His favorite hobby is crashing toy trains and he is deeply in love with his wife Morticia, becoming very excited whenever she says anything in French.
Morticia is a beautiful and cultured woman. She dabbles in the arts and plays the Japanese stringed instrument the shamisen. She prunes roses by cutting the heads off them and has the magical ability to light candles with her fingers and emit smoke at will.
In the TV series, Uncle Fester is Morticia's uncle. He has the ability to make electric lightbulbs light up simply by putting them in his mouth.
The family butler Lurch is summoned when the family ring a bell with a rope like a hangman's noose. He always responds by saying, "You rang?" Otherwise, he speaks very little, usually responding to each request with a grunt. He has superhuman strength and plays the harpsichord.
In the TV series, Grandmama is Gomez's mother. She appears to be a witch, taking an interest in spells and potions. She also fraudulently claims to predict the future.
Wednesday is Gomez and Morticia's six-year-old daughter. She enjoys raising spiders, practicing ballet in a black tutu and cutting the heads of dolls.
Pugsley is Wednesday's older brother. He appears to be the most normal member of the family but he enjoys playing with explosives and has a pet octopus.
Cousin Itt is a short figure entirely covered by hair. His speech is a high-pitched, fast-paced stream of gibberish but it is perfectly comprehensible to the other members of the family.
The Addams family are also assisted by the Thing, a disembodied hand which emerges from various boxes around the house. The Thing was usually portrayed by the hand of Ted Cassidy (who also played Lurch) but sometimes by that of assistant director Jack Voghn. The character was always listed in the show's credits as being played by itself.
The family have a pet lion called Kitty Kat, two piranhas named Tristan and Isolde and a man eating plant called Cleopatra. The family's mansion is located between a graveyard and a swamp. Their address is 0001 Cemetery Lane. However, as the theme song says, their house is more like a museum than a haunted house, it is full of antiques and works of art and appears to be clean and well maintained.
Much of the humor in the show derives from the culture clash that exists between the Addamses and everybody else in the world. The family consider themselves to be perfectly ordinary and everyone else to be strange. They are always surprised when other people are shocked at their "normal" behavior. However, when other people come to their home, usually with the intention of fleecing the wealthy family, the Addamses invariably treat them with great courtesy. Most episodes end with Gomez and Morticia discovering through the newspaper or by a phone call that their recent visitor has changed jobs, left the country or been admitted to a hospital for the insane. The Addamses always interpret that as being a good thing for the person involved.
Subjects which are spoofed in the series include the legal system (in the episode "The Addams Family in Court"), the music and movie industries (in "Lurch: The Teenage Idol" and "My Fair Cousin Itt") and politics (in "Gomez: The Politician" and "Gomez: The People's Choice").
1970s animated series
The first appearance of an animated version of the Addamses was in Hanna-Barbera's The New Scooby-Doo Movies in an episode called "Scooby-Doo Meets The Addams Family" (also known as "Wednesday is Missing") which first aired on CBS on September 23, 1972. All of the actors who had played the main adult characters in the 1960s TV series voiced the animated versions of the characters in the show. The characters were drawn in immitation of the style used by Charles Addams in his New Yorker cartoons.
Hanna-Barbera responded to the popularity of the episode by giving the characters their own series. A total of sixteen half-hour episodes of The Addams Family cartoon series were made. It aired on NBC between September 8, 1973 and May 11, 1974. Jackie Coogan and Ted Cassidy reprised their roles as Uncle Fester and Lurch from the 1960s live-action series, but the rest of the voice cast was different. Lennie Weinrib voiced Gomez, Janet Waldo voiced Morticia and Grandmama (called "Granny" in the series) and Cindy Henderson voiced Wednesday. A young, and not yet famous, Jodie Foster voiced Pugsley. In the series, the Addams family tour the USA in a strange vehicle which resembles a haunted house on wheels. The relationship between some of the characters is different to that in the 1960s TV series. Uncle Fester changes from being Morticia's uncle to being Gomez's brother and Granny is the mother of Morticia instead of Gomez. The series also introduced two new family pets; an alligator named Ali and an octopus named Ocho.
A Halloween-themed TV movie, Halloween with the New Addams Family, aired on NBC on October 30, 1977. With the exception of Blossom Rock, who due to illness gave up her role as Grandmama to Jane Rose, all of the main cast members from the 1960s TV series reprised their roles in the special. Lisa Loring and Ken Weatherwax, who had played Wednesday and Pugley as children, return to play the parts as young adults. Two new child characters,Gomez and Morticia's younger daughter and son Wednesday, Jr. (played by Jennifer Surprenant) and Pugsley, Jr. (played by Ken Marquis), are added. Elvia Allman appears as Grandmama Frump, Morticia's mother, and Henry Darrow appears as Gomez's brother Pancho. The special was intended as a pilot for a series that was never made.
The movie The Addams Family was released in 1991. It stars Raul Julia as Gomez, Anjelica Huston as Morticia, Christina Ricci as Wednesday, Jimmy Workman as Pugsley, Judith Malina as Grandmama, Carel Struycken as Lurch and Christopher Lloyd as Fester. The hand of Christopher Hart appears as Thing. The movie is the first version of The Addams Family in which Thing appears not as an arm that emerges from a box but as a fully mobile hand with no arm, or any other body parts, attached. As in the 1973 animated series, and unlike in the 1960s live-action series, Uncle Fester is Gomez's brother rather than Morticia's uncle in the movie. Grandmama appears to be Morticia's mother because there are references to both of Gomez's parents being dead.
A sequel featuring the same cast, except for Judith Malina who was replaced in her role as Grandmama by Carol Kane, Addams Family Values, was released in 1993. Gomez and Morticia's baby son Pubert is played by Kaitlyn and Kristen Hooper. The humor in the sequel is rather more macabre than in the 1991 movie. A third movie was planned but was abandonned after the sudden death of Raul Julia.
Addams Family Reunion was released straight-to-video in 1998. Although Christopher Hart and Carel Struycken reprise their roles as Thing and Lurch in Addams Family Reunion, it is not a sequel to the two previous movies. The movie was intended as a reboot of the franchise and a pilot for a new TV series, proving that it was possible to create visual effects similar to those in the 1991 and 1993 movies on a much smaller budget. It stars Tim Curry as Gomez, Daryl Hannah as Morticia, Nicole Fugere as Wednesday, Jerry Messing as Pugsley and Patrick Thomas as Uncle Fester. It features Estelle Harris as Grandmama and Phil Fondcaro as Cousin Itt. A TV series based on the movie, The New Addams Family, was made but Nicole Fugere was the only member of the movie's cast to appear in it.
A 3D computer animated film called The Addams Family was released in the United States on October 11, 2019. It was directed by Conrad Vernon and Greg Tiernan. It features the voices of Oscar Isaac as Gomez, Charlize Theron as Morticia, Snoop Dogg as Cousin It and Bette Midler as Grandmamam.
1990s animated series
Following the success of the 1991 movie version of The Addams Family, Hanna-Barbera began the development of a second animated series based around the characters. The series ran for two seasons on ABC between September 12, 1992 and November 6, 1993. A total of twenty-one half hour episodes were made, most of which are made up of three different self-contained stories. John Astin reprised his role as Gomez from the 196os TV series. Morticia was voiced by Nancy Linan, Uncle Fester by Rip Taylor, Grandmama by Carol Channing, Lurch by Jim Cummings, Wednesday by Debi Derryberry, Pugsley by Jeannie Elias, Cousin Itt by Pat Fraley, Norman Normameyer by Rob Paulsen, Normina Normameyer by Edie McClurg and NJ Normameyer by Dick Beals.
In the series, the Addamses live in a normal suburb in the town of Happy Dale Heights and regularly face threats from people who want to force them out of their home or capture one of them for villainous purposes. The principal antagonists in the series are the Addamses' neighbors the Normameyers. Norman Normameyer, the owner of a company which makes underwear, and his wife Normina hate the Addamses and are constantly trying to either persuade them or force them to move out of the suburb. Their son, NJ, however, is a friend of Pugsley and Wednesday. As a consequence, there is often friction between NJ and his parents and between the two families. Most stories end with the conflict between the Addamses and the Normameyers being temporarily resolved. Gomez suggests that everyone joins in a family dance. Fester points out that it is impossible to do the dance that Gomez suggested because it requires some strange equipment that they do not have to hand. Gomez suggests another dance which is performed instead.
Cousin Itt is reimagined as a government agent who is constantly pursued by two spies.
As in the 1991 movie and unlike in the 1970s cartoon, in which it appears as an arm in a box, Thing appears in the 1990s cartoon as a fully mobile disembodied hand.
The characeters' appearance was redesigned for the series, although they still bear some resemblance to Charles Addams' original New Yorker cartoon characters.
The New Addams Family
The New Addams Family ran for two seasons between October 19, 1998 and August 28, 1999. A total of sixty-five episodes were made. The series was made in Canada and originally aired on YTV in that country and Fox Family in the United States. The series stars Glenn Taranto as Gomez, Ellie Harvie as Morticia, Michael Roberts as Uncle Fester, Betty Philips as Grandmama (given the name of Eudora Addams), Nicole Fugere as Wednesday, Brody Smith as Pugsley, John De Santis as Lurch, Paul Dobson as Cousin Itt and the hand of Steve Fox as Thing. John Astin makes a guest appearance as Gomez's grandfather.
The episodes' scripts are based on those of the 1960s TV series but updated to include appropriate references for a 1990s audience. The character of Wednesday more closely resembles the slightly menacing girl from the 1991 and 1993 movie versions than the quiet child from the 1960s sitcom.
A musical based on Charles Addams' New Yorker cartoons, rather than on the TV series or the movies, was first performed in Chicago in 2009 before transferring to Broadway in 2010. The book is by Michael Brickman and Rick Elice and the music and lyrics are by Andrew Lippa. The original Broadway cast included Nathan Lane as Gomez, Bebe Neuwirth as Morticia, Kevin Chamberlin as Uncle Fester, Jackie Hoffman as Grandmama, Krysta Rodriguez as Wednesday, Adam Riegler as Pugsley and Zachary James as Lurch. The show toured the US and Canada and has also been performed in Australia and Brazil. The plot deals with disruption that is caused in the family after Wednesday falls in love with a "normal" boy named Lucas Beineke.
Two novels based on the TV series were published in 1965. The characters have also appeared in television commercials in the United States and Japan and in numerous video games. A pinball game based on the 1991 movie was the best selling pinball game of all time.
- Entries for the 1964, 1973, 1992 and 1998 TV series of The Addams Family on the Internet Movie Database.
- Entries for the 1964, 1973, 1992 and 1998 TV series of The Addams Family on TV.com.
- The Addams Family (1937) and The Addams Family (1973) on Don Markstein's Tooonopedia.
- The Addams Family on the Big Cartoon Database.
- The Addams Family on TV Tropes.
- The Addams Family Wiki.