They may have been mysterious and spooky, but even after half a century off the air, The Addams Family is still one of the most beloved sitcoms of all time. If the theme song still has you snapping your fingers, read on for a few facts about the creepy clan.
1. THE SERIES WAS BASED ON A NEW YORKER CARTOON.
Freelance illustrator Charles Addams began his relationship with The New Yorker on February 6, 1932, when they paid him $7.50 for a cartoon about a window washer. The first cartoon with Addams Family-style characters appeared in 1938—one of only about two dozen cartoons featuring the macabre clan.
2. THE CHARACTERS DIDN’T HAVE NAMES UNTIL THE TV SHOW.
Addams didn’t name the characters in his New Yorker cartoons, but did suggest a few monikers for those in the series. When it came to the head of the family, Addams preferred “Repelli” to Gomez. He also suggested “Pubert” for the name of the son, but it was rejected for sounding too dirty. The name was later used in the movie Addams Family Values (1993). Addams didn’t come up with “Wednesday,” however; that was left to a company that was making toys to go with the launch of the show. They created the name based on “Monday’s Child,” an old nursery rhyme that assigned attributes to children based on the day of the week they were born. Wednesday’s child is “full of woe.”
3. JOHN ASTIN WAS ORIGINALLY CONSIDERED FOR LURCH.
Though John Astin auditioned for the role of the butler, it’s no wonder casting directors assigned him to Gomez, instead—the actor and the character apparently share a lot of similarities. “My brother said that Gomez is the clearest extension of my personality than anything else I’ve done,” Astin said. “That’s really who I am.”
4. THE ACTRESS WHO PLAYED GRANNY FRUMP WAS FAMILIAR WITH PLAYING WITCHES.
Morticia’s seldom-seen mother, Granny Frump, was played by Margaret Hamilton. Hamilton is best known for her role as the Wicked Witch of the West in The Wizard of Oz.
5. LURCH WAS INTENDED TO BE MUTE.
But then actor Ted Cassidy ad-libbed the line, “You rang?” and Lurch was given a voice. He still wasn’t one for much conversation, but he did spit out a few words here and there—and even had a brief side career as a rock star:
6. JACKIE COOGAN, A.K.A. UNCLE FESTER, HAS A LAW NAMED AFTER HIM.
Coogan was a child actor who played the title role in Charlie Chaplin’s The Kid. Unfortunately, his parents grossly mishandled his earnings, and by the time he was 21 years old, he was practically penniless. His case inspired the Coogan Law, legislation in certain states (including California) that requires that 15 percent of all minors’ earnings be put into a trust fund, called a Coogan Account.
7. COUSIN ITT WAS INTRODUCED BY PRODUCER DAVID LEVY.
Gomez’s follically blessed cousin wasn’t in the original Addams cartoons; he was added at the suggestion of producer David Levy. Addams drew a cartoon featuring Itt to introduce regulars to the character before the show debuted. The illustration featured the hairy humanoid on the phone, saying, “This is It speaking.”
8. THE CAST DIDN’T GET ANY RESIDUALS FROM THE RERUNS.
According to John Astin, the constant reruns of the series never benefited the actors. “In those days, we got paid for five reruns, and that was it. People ask me, 'Aren't you disappointed?' You know, one is an actor primarily—at least, I am—because he wants to communicate with people. I want to spread whatever feeling or message or encouragement there is. Who can ask for more than that if it continues? That’s much more important than money.”
9. ADDAMS MADE ABOUT $1 MILLION FROM THE SHOW.
Between episode payments, reruns, and residuals, Addams made $141,276—about $1,073,074 in today's dollars. It would have been a bit more, but as part of his divorce settlement, the cartoonist agreed to give 10 percent of his cut of the show to his ex-wife.
10. THE ADDAMS FAMILY'S HOUSE WAS REAL.
The house we see in the opening credits was a real house, located at 21 Chester Place in Los Angeles. To make it a little spookier, special effects technicians added a third floor with a tower. The house was demolished sometime between 1968 and 1972.
11. THEME SONG WRITER VIC MIZZY PENNED ANOTHER FAMOUS TV SONG.
Just one season after The Addams Family debuted, Vic Mizzy wrote the memorable song for Green Acres.
Still, The Addams Family was his bread and butter: “That’s why I’m living in Bel-Air,” he once said. “Two finger snaps and you’re in Bel-Air.”
12. THE NEW YORKER REFUSED TO RUN THE CARTOON WHEN THE SHOW CAME OUT.
Despite the fact that Charles Addams had been illustrating the creepy characters for The New Yorker since 1938, the esteemed publication didn’t want to be associated with the television show. Still, Addams was occasionally able to sneak them into other cartoons he drew for the magazine.
13. THE SHOW WAS CANCELED AFTER TWO SEASONS.
Because The Munsters debuted around the same time The Addams Family did, the public quickly got burned out on monster sitcoms—at least, that’s what the networks believed. Both shows got the axe at the end of their second seasons. “We had good writers. It was a light comedy, but it was well done,” said Felix Silla, the actor who played Cousin Itt. “That year ABC canceled The Addams Family. They canceled The Munsters. They canceled everything!” Carolyn Jones, who played Morticia, probably had the best outlook: “Perhaps the only answer is: That’s television!”