If you grew up watching “The Addams Family” on TV, snap your fingers. It only ran for two seasons in the 1960s before being canceled, but its popularity grew later in syndication. (Coincidentally, it aired at the same time as “The Munsters,” which also lasted 2 seasons.)
When I recently made a reference to the show and my kids had no idea what I was talking about, I immediately rented the first season and made let them watch it.
I was surprised to see how well the show has held up. It’s still fresh and funny, and my daughter loved it. She showed it to a friend of hers who was here for a sleepover, and they begged to keep watching more episodes late into the night. Like me, they were fascinated by the Addams Family’s wonderfully “ooky” house.
The show was based on a series of one-panel cartoons by Charles Addams that were published in The New Yorker.
The family lives at 001 Cemetery Lane, advantageously located beside both a cemetery and a swamp.
For the sitcom’s pilot, they filmed the exterior of an old house on Adams Boulevard (no kidding) in Los Angeles. The house has since been torn down.
Starting with the second episode, a painting based on that house was used for the show:
The front gate, with the sign, “Beware of the Thing:”
The Thing was a bodiless hand that appeared out of various boxes throughout the house to help the family whenever needed–answering phones, disarming burglers, etc. In the cartoons, Thing was a bodiless head, but they changed it for the TV show.
The hand belonged to Ted Cassidy, who also played the butler Lurch. (When Lurch and Thing were in the same scene, an assistant director’s hand filled in.)
Cassidy was 6’9″ tall and looked pretty imposing on the show. The actors who played Pugsley and Wednesday said they were never afraid of him, though, because he was such a “gentle and eloquent man–very kind to us.”
Lurch was never supposed to speak, but when rehearsing the pilot Cassidy reportedly improvised the now-famous, “You rang?” in his low voice, and it stuck.
A front yard and porch set was used for close-ups:
The show would have gone to color if it had been picked up for a third season.
I always loved their front door:
The wonderful John Astin played Gomez Addams, the patriarch of the family. He was originally asked to play the butler, but they (thankfully) went a different direction, casting Cassidy as Lurch instead.
That was a real stuffed polar bear looming over the living room. The set designers painted it black. There was also a polar bear skin on the stairs that growled when visitors stepped on it:
I believe this giraffe in the portrait was referred to as a family ancestor in one episode (does anyone remember?):
The mounted fish with a leg sticking out of its mouth always generates a startled response from visitors:
Gomez leads the visitor through the living room, unaware of how freaked out he is by everything:
Lurch plays the harpsichord for the family (or pretends to play it, anyway–it was just a prop):
Gomez and Morticia chat in his and hers chairs beside the two-headed turtle. Those wicker chairs with the wide, rounded backs, became popular for awhile and were often referred to as “The Morticia Chair.”
In the first season’s Halloween episode, Pugsley and Wednesday dress up like “normal people,” and Morticia finds their costumes to be “a little too startling.” Uncle Fester advises them not to frighten the neighbors too much: “When you knock on peoples’ doors, you’d better say, ‘Do not be alarmed. We are only little children.’”
“Kitty Cat” was played by a retired circus lion. They loved to play this footage of him coming down the stairs whenever guests stopped by.
Wednesday’s favorite toy was her headless Marie Antoinette doll. Lisa Loring, the actress who played her, says she is frequently asked whether she was allowed to keep it. She wasn’t.
In fact, in the DVD commentary, the cast says that someone broke into the closed set and stole most of the props as soon as the show was canceled. No one knows what happened to most of them.
Morticia (Carolyn Jones) spent a lot of her time tending to her wild plants in the conservatory–especially the meat-eating Cleopatra.
Carolyn Jones was married to Aaron Spelling for about 10 years. He had so little money at the time that he didn’t feel he could ask her to marry him–so she proposed to him. The marriage ended in divorce in 1964 just as his career began taking off and as she started filming “The Addams Family.”
She looked very different in real life without that signature black wig:
When Pugsley finds a puppy to play with, his family is scandalized (they call it the p-u-p-p-y instead of actually saying the word). Morticia worries that he is neglecting his pet octopus, Aristotle:
Gomez loves his trains–blowing them up, that is:
The chemistry between Morticia and Gomez was considered a little shocking at the time for a sitcom, even though they were a married couple. After all, Rob and Laura Petrie were still sleeping in twin beds over on “The Dick Van Dyke Show.”
In one episode, Morticia tells Gomez, “When we’re together, darling, every night is Halloween.”
We only get a glimpse of the kitchen in Season 1, but it looks surprisingly normal–almost like they stumbled onto the set of another sitcom altogether:
Wednesday’s bedroom is more Victorian B&B than spooky:
Pugsley’s original name was Pubert, but the network made them change it. His room is described by Morticia to a visitor as “The door at the top of the stairs with the baby vultures painted on it.”
Gomez tries to talk Pugsley out of being a (gasp!) boy scout:
Uncle Fester worries that the kids are spoiled, asking, “What other boy has a playroom like this?”
You can read more about the show and the cartoons by Charles Addams here and in Stephen Cox’s book The Addams Chronicles: An Altogether Ooky Look at the Addams Family. A fan created a floorplan of the house that you can see here.