Friday, November 30, 2012

An Addams Family Collaboration

When my blog buddy, Maynard, of Maynard Morrissey's Horror Movie Diary, suggested we collaborate on a post chock-full of Addams Family goodness, of course I agreed to the idea! My contribution is a little background on the Charles Addams cartoons and the sixties TV series, while Maynard, an awesome Austrian horror review blogger and a super nice guy, has reviewed the two Addams Family movies made in the early nineties.

In 1933, at the age of 21, Charles Addams' first published work appeared in The New Yorker magazine. He went on to become one of their major contributors for nearly 60 years, producing thousands of artworks, some of which included characters who would come to be known collectively as The Addams Family. Prior to 1964 however, these characters were undeveloped, appearing in one-panel gag cartoons. It was only upon his collaboration with David Levy, after the producer approached him with the idea of using some of his cartoons as the basis of a television show, that Charles Addams set about creating names and backstories for the characters who would thereafter be known as Morticia, Gomez, Uncle Fester, Wednesday, Pugsley, Grandmama, Lurch, Thing and Cousin Itt.

The television series, which ran for two seasons on ABC from 1964 to 1966, starred Carolyn Jones as Morticia, John Astin as Gomez, Jackie Coogan as Uncle Fester, Ted Cassidy as Lurch, Blossom Rock as Grandmama, Lisa Loring as Wednesday, Ken Weatherwax as Pugsley, and Felix Silla as Cousin Itt. It was not quite as dark or macabre as either the cartoons or the 1991/1993 films, but it was remarkable in its own way. As John Astin, who played Gomez Addams, put it, in his forward to The Addams Chronicles, by Stephen Cox, the show was:
"A celebration of the unconventional in a world of conformity."
Watching reruns of The Addams Family television series is one of my fondest childhood memories. Back then, I was too young to understand the meaning of the word "irony", but I was still very aware that even though the family was strange, and did peculiar things, like Morticia cutting off the heads of roses and tossing them away, they were also loving, generous, polite and loyal. The show's so-called normal characters, on the other hand, were invariably rude, nasty and often out to swindle the family. Even psychologists and psychiatrists of the era took note of how functional the seemingly dysfunctional family was. As John Astin also wrote:
"They said we were, in fact, the healthiest family on the air."
My father owned a few paperback collections of Charles Addams' cartoons, which he has since given to me, that I endlessly scrutinized as a small child. One of my favourite cartoons showed the Addams clan, standing on the roof of their home, about to pour boiling oil on Yuletide carollers below and I was so pleased when that made it into the opening scene of the 1991 film The Addams Family.

The television series also had examples of cartoons being directly translated to the screen, like the scene where Wednesday and Pugsley assiduously tend to the fireplace with a pair of bellows in order to ensure that a trip down the chimney by Santa would be nice and toasty.

One of the most significant differences between the cartoons and the TV series was the character of "Thing". In Charles Addams' cartoons, Thing was depicted as some sort of shy creature seen peeping behind objects in the background of the drawings. On television, and later in the movies, Thing became a disembodied hand who performed small everyday tasks for the family, like retrieving the mail.

There were a few slight changes made to the family when they made the leap from the small screen to the movies too. In the television series, Uncle Fester is Morticia's uncle whereas in the movies he is portrayed as the older brother of Gomez, while Grandmama was Gomez's mother on TV but became Morticia's mother in the feature films.

In the sixties series, Morticia's mother, Granny Frump, was a recurring character played by Margaret Hamilton, who was famous for her portrayal of the Wicked Witch of the West in the 1939 film The Wizard of Oz. Another recurring character from the series, who did not appear in the two movies, was Ophelia Frump, Morticia's older sister. She was played by Carolyn Jones in a blonde wig.

Charles Addams had originally suggested "Pubert" for the name of Gomez and Morticia's son, but it was rejected in favour of "Pugsley". "Pubert" eventually resurfaced however, in the form of the family's third child, a mustachioed baby, in the 1993 film, Addams Family Values.

I have to confess that I have an extra special place in my heart for the television series, but I also adore Charles Addams' original cartoons and I think the Raul Julia/Anjelica Huston movies are absolutely wonderful. I hate to compare the three separate manifestations of the clan because each is a fabulous art form in its own right and each has added a unique layer to the darkly delightful phenomenon that is The Addams Family.

And now over to Maynard...

German Title: Die Addams Family
Release Date: 1991
Director: Barry Sonnenfeld

Next to The 'Burbs and Gremlins, one of the very first "horror"- themed comedies I've ever seen, and also one of my all time favorites: Barry Sonnenfeld's directorial debut The Addams Family, a delightfully entertaining and visually awesome update of the 60s TV series, which was based on Charles Addams' funny New Yorker cartoons.

 With a wonderful script by Caroline Thompson (Edward Scissorhands) and Larry Wilson (Beetlejuice), and an absolutely stellar cast, Men In Black - mastermind Sonnenfeld created a marvelous and super-witty movie that never fails to amuse me. Fun and diverting from beginning to end, and packed with the coolest set designs and most beautiful costumes outside of a Tim Burton film, all wonderfully captured by Owen Roizman's (The Exorcist) great cinematography and accompanied with a playful score by Marc Shaiman (Misery). 

Every single character is just wonderful, every single actor delivers a top notch performance, most notably Raul Julia as hyper-hilarious Gomez Addams 
("We danced the Mamushka while Nero fiddled, we danced the Mamushka at Waterloo, we danced the Mamushka for Jack the Ripper."), Anjelica Huston as his stunningly beautiful wife Morticia 
("Last night, you were unhinged. You were like some desperate howling demon. You frightened me. Do it again!"),
 a fantastic Christopher Lloyd as Gomez' brother Fester ("Children, look! Great aunt Lavinia. She was beheaded by her own children!"),
 the gorgeous Christina Ricci as grumpy daughter Wednesday ("I'm a homicidal maniac. They look just like everyone else.")
, Carel Struycken as Lurch, Jimmy Workman as Pugsley and Judith Malina as Grandmama.

Other brilliant dialogue lines:
"It's Gomez I'm terribly worried about. He won't eat. He can't sleep. He keeps coughing up blood." - "He coughs up blood?" - "Well, not like he used to..."
"Remember that fateful night?" - "You smoked your first cigar." - "What? Come on, old man! I've smoked since I was five. Mother insisted!"
"When we first met years ago, it was an evening much like this. Magic in the air. A boy." - "A girl." - "An open grave. It was my first funeral." - "You were so beautiful. Pale and mysterious. No one even looked at the corpse."

The Addams Family is undoubtedly one of the coolest movies of the 90s. A modern classic, I love it!

German Title: Die Addams Family in Verrückter Tradition
Release Date: 1993
Director: Barry Sonnenfeld

Addams Family Values is one of the rare cases of a sequel that's almost as great as the original. Sonnenfeld delivers the goods and created a wonderfully hilarious follow-up, based on a script by Paul Rudnick (In and Out). The story may be a bit predictable, but who cares when everything else is just awesome?

 Part 2 is really crammed with great ideas, superb plot points / twists and highly memorable scenes, such as Gomez and Morticia's amazing dance sequence, the outrageous Thanksgiving massacre or the electric-chair finale. Cinematographer Donald Peterman (Planes, Trains & Automobiles) gives the movie a bright and epic look, while Marc Shaiman comes up with another excellently enjoyable soundtrack.

The cast is simply stunning (again!), at times even better than in the first one, especially Raul Julia ("My name is Gomez Addams and I have seen evil!"), Anjelica Huston ("You have placed Fester under some strange sexual spell. I respect that."), Christopher Lloyd ("When he was asleep, I opened his skull and removed his brains!") and Christina Ricci who delivers so many terrific one-liners, it's insane ("Hello Polly. I'll clean my room... in exchange for your immortal soul." / "I have decided to scalp you and burn your village to the ground." / "Be afraid. Be very afraid!").
New to the cast: Joan Cusack as fantastic serial-killer-nanny, Peter MacNicol and Christine Baranski as super-annoying "Kumbaya My Lord"- singing summer-camp-owners, and Carol Kane (replacing Judith Malina) as Grandmama.

More brilliant dialogue: 
"We don't hug." - "Oh, they're just shy." - "We're not shy. We're contagious." 
"I dreamed that when I met him, that we would wait until our wedding night to give ourselves to one another, to make the ultimate sacrifice." - "A goat?"
 "Wednesday's at that very special age when a girl has only one thing on her mind." - "Boys?" - "Homicide." 
"Hi, I'm Debbie Jellinsky from the agency." - "The agency? But they claimed no one else was available. They suggested a Doberman."

Addams Family Values is everything a great sequel is supposed to be. Kudos to everyone involved!
 Sad fact: Raúl Juliá died in 1994 after suffering a stroke, and with him died the hope of a possible third installment. Um... ok, there WAS another Addams-film in 1998, called Addams Family Reunion, but we don't talk about it.

Thanks for joining forces with me on this Addams Family extravaganza, Maynard! And if you haven't discovered the fabulous Maynard yet, head on over to Maynard Morrissey's Horror Movie Diary.


  1. As a lifelong lover of The Addams Family I just want to say that this was a GREAT post. You two did a wonderful job "We should have...ugly girls!" Those two movies are so rich in quotes it's amazing! And I love to see the original series get the respect it deserves. (Mega bonus points for not getting into Addams Family Reunion)

    1. Hi Claymation Werewolf,

      Thank you so much! I'm completely besotted with the Addams Family, so it's a total pleasure for me to write about one of my favourite subjects, and teaming up with Maynard made a good thing even better!

      Haha. Yes, the less we say on the subject of 'Addams Family Reunion' the better! ;)

  2. To quote the above comment, as it suits myself perfectly, 'As a lifelong lover of The Addams Family, I just want to say that this was a GREAT post'!

    I haven't seen either of the two films. I guess I have to rectify that as soon as possible!

    1. Hi Chris,

      Thank you!! It's wonderful to know that there are other Addams Family devotees out there!

      Yes, you must see the films. The 1991/1993 movies do have a slightly different tone to the TV series, but they're fantastic in their own right!

  3. This is so fun! I enjoyed the whole thing. :) I love that picture of you. So pretty.

    1. Hi Jenny,

      It was definitely fun teaming up with Maynard on this post. I'm so glad that you enjoyed it, and thank you, you're so sweet! :)

  4. Wahoo, the awesomeness of the Addams Family, combined with the creative madness of Emma & Maynard - insanity to the max! :D
    Thank you for your hard work, Emma! Really appreciate that. Will post the whole thing later today on my blog.

    1. Hi Maynard,

      Haha. Exactly!!!

      Thank you so much for inviting me to join you in all these fun Addams Family shenanigans! I'll be over to visit you as soon as your Addams post is up. :D

  5. Wow! Emma and Maynard thank you *so much*! I'm dashing out to work just now so flicked through this whole post - looks awesome! Can't wait to read it when I get home this evening, smiling already! PS - nice to see what you look like Emma! xo

    1. Hi Siobhan,

      Thank YOU!!! It's so nice to know that there are other souls out there who love the Addams clan as much as I do! ❤

  6. Great, great post! Love the Addams Family.

  7. I'm so happy that I'm in the possesion of two books of the old cartoons from the 30s to the 50s. :). I also loved the 60s series as a child. Just the frames were Morticia cuts of the roses have sticked in my memory like glue :)

    1. Hi linnea-maria,

      I'm so glad I've got my dad's old Charles Addams books too! The '60s series is like comfort food to me. It truly makes me feel happy when I watch it. :)

  8. Great post! I always did love the Adam's Family.

  9. I absolutely love the Addams Family, this post really makes my day! Even though I wasn't alive back then, I still watch it while my other friends are watching the more current TV shows. Thx 4 the amazing post!

    1. Hi Anonymous,

      Thank you so much! I'm glad you enjoyed it! I'm really happy that the television show continues to attract new generations of fans like you! :)

  10. Bravo to you both on this fabulous post! I adored The Addams Family series and films. They were a staple for me growing up and along with The Munsters let me know that it was okay to be different.

    1. Hi Melissa,

      Thanks so much! This was a fabulous post to put together and working with Maynard made it all the more fun! Yes, 'The Addams Family' definitely made a deep and positive impression on my little psyche, as a child, too.

    i enjoyed it like hell ♥

  12. A truly Great post on one of my Favorite Horror "icons"....
    as a child , watching the Addams Family in the afternoon was something to which I looked forward each school day.... And I have no idea how many times that I checked out the Charles Addams books at the Library back then ... They had a way of lifting our spirits .... So Thank You Dear Lady for this wonderful (and informative) post ...
    your good "fiend" and follower , ...The Doctor

    1. Thank you so much, Dr. Theda! And I know just what you mean. 'The Addams Family' always lifts my spirits. There's just something about the television series, in particular, that makes me feel happy. :)

      I've been enjoying your Christmas posts, by the way! I'll drop by your blog again tomorrow.

  13. What a pretty photo of you! It's funny, I don't think I've ever seen a photo of you before. Not without a kitty mask on anyway. :) I had fun reading this and learning some new trivia! All the Addams Family movie quotes were fun to read over as well. I didn't know that "Thing" was some weirdo creeping around in the cartoon, or that Pubert was the name Charles Addams had in mind for the Pugsley character. That's cool that the Pubert name got to be used eventually, gross as it is!

    I hadn't noticed the switches between whose uncle Uncle Fester was or whose mother Grandmama was. I saw The Addams Family musical a few years ago and I remember a part where Morticia and Gomez both think Grandmama is the other's mother. "I thought she was your mother!" As if she's some weird old lady who just moved into the house and everyone accepted it. :)

    I always liked the Ophelia episodes, even if she was kind of a downer!

    1. Hi Justine,

      Aww... thank you! Photos were Maynard's idea, so I had to really quell my inner introvert and be a team player. Haha.

      Yeah, they probably thought that having Thing be a weird background peeper was a little too much for the TV show. There is one Addams Family cartoon where a pair of hands come out of a gramophone to change a record... that's probably the inspiration for Thing as just a hand. Haha. Yes, "Pubert" is a pretty gross name. I'm not surprised they rejected it back in the sixties, but it is fun that they finally used it in the nineties.

      How funny that they made a joke about the whole Grandmama thing in the musical! And I like the Ophelia episodes too. :)

  14. Hello there beautiful Emma! <3
    This post is just so amazing!!! Such a great job!! Thank you!!!
    Charles Addams was a brilliant cartoonist and a man and thanks to him we have Morticia and Gomez, Wednesday and the Thing, this wonderful family!!

    1. Thank you so much, Magda! I know that you're a huge Addams fan too. I really appreciate your kind words! Yes, thank goodness for Charles Addams and his darkly delightful creations! The world just wouldn't be the same without them... certainly not nearly as much fun! ;)

  15. I have really been enjoying your "Addams Family" posts , Dear Lady...Thank You for the much needed "Smile"....the Doctor

    1. Thank you, Dr. Theda! I'm so glad you got a smile from my Addams Family posts. That makes me very happy. :)


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