Tuesday, May 19, 2009
The Addams Family
This classic still rates as one of my favorites, perhaps because I have been referred to as Morticia numerous times over the years, as well as I have had some odd looks when non friends have come calling to the house. And then there is the way my Grandpa used to refer to me as Wednesday. Mostly though its the wonderful cast of characters, lovable and zany.
The Addams Family is an American television series based on the characters in Charles Addams' New Yorker cartoons. The 30-minute series was shot in black-and-white and aired for two seasons in 64 installments on ABC from September 18, 1964 to April 8, 1966.
The Addamses are a close-knit extended family with decidedly macabre interests. They all have supernatural abilities, although no rationale for their powers is ever explicitly given.
The very wealthy, endlessly enthusiastic Gomez Addams is madly in love with his refined wife Morticia. Along with their two children, Wednesday and Pugsley, Uncle Fester and Grandmama, they reside in an ornate, gloomy, Second Empire style mansion, attended by their servants, Lurch, the towering butler, and Thing, a hand that usually appears out of a small wooden box. Occasionally, episodes would feature relatives or other members of their weird subculture, such as Cousin Itt or Morticia's older sister, Ophelia.
Much of the humor derives from their "culture clash" with the rest of the world. They invariably treat normal visitors with great warmth and courtesy, even though their guests often have evil intentions. They are puzzled by the horrified reactions to their good-natured, if extremely bizarre behavior, since they are under the impression that their tastes are shared by most of society. Contrarily, they view "conventional" tastes with generally tolerant suspicion. For example, Fester once cites a neighboring family's meticulously maintained petunia patches as evidence that they are "nothing but riff-raff."
Gomez Addams (John Astin). Gomez is passionately in love with his wife, often referring to her as "Cara Mia". His ardor is greatly intensified when she speaks French (a quirk that first appears in the eleventh episode, "The Addams Family Meet the V.I.P.s") - before then it was "Bubele". A (German-Bavarian, & Yiddish ) expression referring to someone as something like "my little boy", "little girl", "grandmother", "darling", "honey", "sweetie". He is very wealthy, due to owning numerous companies, as well as stocks in yet others (although mostly not knowing that it is so) and mostly charming, but doesn't seem to have money itself as "a priority" in life; indeed, he tends to squander his huge fortune quite cavalierly, yet somehow still manages to remain wealthy after all. He does, however, spend a great deal of time with his family. His own family background is referenced as "Castilian," and he occasionally uses Spanish words and phrases. He can perform rapid and complicated calculations in his head; on one occasion, when Fester swung his blunderbuss too close to Gomez's head, the gun barrel knocked against Gomez's head with the sound of metal upon metal. He is remarkably acrobatic and can easily dismount from a hanging position upon a chandelier.
Morticia Addams (Carolyn Jones). A cultivated and beautiful -- but strange -- woman, Morticia dabbles in art, raises flesh-eating plants (often recalled as hamburgers), and trims her roses by clipping off the buds (or just turning them upside-down on occasion) and saving the stems in a vase ("Oh, the thorns are lovely this year"). With her aristocratic detachment, she remains the cool, calm center in the middle of the chaotic events that continually swirl around the family. She can light candles with her fingertips and emit smoke directly from her person.
Uncle Fester (Jackie Coogan), Morticia's kind and kind of "electric" uncle. His standard gag is to place a lightbulb in his mouth, where it lights up. When angered or disgusted by outsiders, he may grab for a blunderbuss and announce that he will shoot the offender in the back.
Lurch (Ted Cassidy) is the household butler. Morticia and Gomez summon him by means of a bell pull in the form of a hangman's noose, which rings the massive bell located in the mansion's bell tower; the resulting gong shakes the entire house when the noose is pulled. When Lurch appears (usually immediately or within seconds thereafter), he responds with an extremely deep-voiced and drawn-out "You rang?" According to IMDb, Lurch was intended to be a non-speaking part, as the Charles Addams cartoon character was silent; however, Cassidy improvised the line during his audition, and it was so well-received that it became a feature of the character. When questions are posed to him, Lurch's primary response is a deep throaty rumbling and, at times, tremendously annoyed sound, which the family nonetheless interpret as spoken words. Superhumanly strong (he cleans the family car by simply lifting it and shaking it out like a rug), Lurch often plays the harpsichord. Lurch is very high-minded about visitors; when a plainclothes policeman visited the family, Lurch patted him down and regarded him suspiciously when he found his gun. Neise showed Lurch his badge, whereupon Lurch returned the gun. Lurch occasionally regards his employers' activities with some dubiousness, but only as any servant might regard the idle rich, not because he does not share their macabre tastes.
Grandmama Addams (Blossom Rock), Mother of Gomez, (who occasionally calls her "Mamacita"). She is a witch who conjures up potions, spells and hexes. She also dabbles in fortune-telling, though it is obvious that, in this respect, at least, she is a charlatan. Her given name is never revealed in the series.
Wednesday Friday Addams (Lisa Loring), Gomez and Morticia's daughter - who has the middle name of Friday. She is the youngest member (six years old) of the family, she is a strange yet sweet-natured little girl who pursues such hobbies as raising spiders, beheading dolls (called "Marie Antoinette", "Mary Queen of Scots", and "Little Red Riding Hood"), and practicing ballet in a black tutu. Her favorite pet is a black widow spider named Homer, although she also has a lizard named Lucifer. She is strong enough to bring her father to his knees in a judo hold.
Pugsley Addams (Ken Weatherwax), Gomez and Morticia' son and Wednesday's older brother. Kind-hearted and smart, occasionally conforming to "conventional" standards contrary to his family, he still shares nevertheless a close bond with his parents and sister, the latter whom he often plays with. He also enjoys engineering various machines (sometimes with Gomez), playing with blasting caps, and his pet octopus, "Aristotle". And he switches his electric trains onto the same track; when they collide he says things like, "Swell wreck!" Despite his pudginess, Pugsley is, like his father, exceptionally agile, able to out-climb a gorilla and hang from branches by his teeth.
Thing T. Thing (Ted Cassidy, except in scenes where both Thing and Lurch appear, when assistant director Jack Voglin would perform this service), a disembodied hand (or, more accurately, a disembodied arm, since at times he is visible down to his elbow) that appears out of boxes and other conveniently placed containers. While never explicitly explained throughout the series, Thing apparently has the ability to teleport from container to container, almost instantly, as seen when Thing appears in different containers within seconds of each other, sometimes within the same scene.
Cousin Itt (Felix Silla; and played by Roger Arroyo for two episodes). Gomez's cousin, a short entity completely hidden by his almost head-to-floor-long hair. He speaks in rapid unintelligible gibberish which the family has no difficulty understanding. Gomez once asks him what is under it all; Itt answers, "Roots." In one episode, Itt is said to have "the eye of an eagle...plus a few of his own". Nevertheless, he wears conventional sunglasses, supposedly so people will not pester him for autographs.
Ophelia, Morticia's sister. Gomez was originally engaged to her in an arranged marriage, but when he saw 22-year old Morticia (dressed in a grown-up version of Wednesday's clothing), he was smitten and fell in love with her; when she spoke French, he claimed that for the first time in his life, his sinuses were cleared and his Bronchitis was gone. Ophelia was played by Carolyn Jones in a blonde wig (a staple of 1960's sitcom twins). One quirk of Ophelia's is that the flower growing in her hair had roots that travelled down into her foot; another is her love of judo, with which she can hurl men (usually Gomez) several feet.