Poster for 1991 film "The Addams Family" (Everett Collection / Paramount)
One hundred years ago today, Charles Addams was born – and with him was born a wonderfully macabre sense of humor. An artist since childhood, Addams began contributing cartoons to The New Yorker in 1932, and soon after that, he created America's favorite creepy, kooky clan: the Addams Family.
Originally a series of one-panel cartoons for the magazine featuring a family full of unnamed oddities, the Addams family went on to become a television and movie smash. The Addamses' Hollywood fame began in 1964, when producers from ABC asked Addams to give his blessing for a TV series – and name his characters for the small screen. Addams' Gomez and Morticia, Pugsley and Wednesday, and other assorted relatives and… things… became beloved fixtures of 1960s television. Though the show ran only two seasons, from 1964 to 1966, it's a classic, remembered among the era's great comedies. (Vic Mizzy's theme song is a classic, too, one guaranteed to make you snap along.)
Such a strange bunch of ghouls seemed destined for animation, where the boundaries of reality could be stretched. Their first animated outing was in 1972, as guest stars on an episode of The New Scooby-Doo Movies.
From that popular spot rose an animated series of the Addamses' own – The Addams Family, a Saturday morning cartoon that ran from 1973 to 1975. The show took the Addamses on the road in an RV, and it featured the voice of a young Jodie Foster as Pugsley.
After the cartoon was cancelled, the Addamses languished in syndication for years. But in 1991, they were revived in a big way – that is, a big-screen way. The movie The Addams Family, starring Raul Julia and Anjelica Huston, was a smash, becoming the seventh-highest grossing film of the year, earning a Golden Globe nomination for Huston and an Oscar nomination for costume design. It also launched the career of another young actress – Christina Ricci played a picture-perfect Wednesday and was nominated for a Saturn Award and a Young Artist Award.
The sequel, 1993's Addams Family Values, was an even bigger hit, but further sequel dreams were dashed with the unexpected death of lead actor Raul Julia – the franchise's Gomez – in 1994. But it wasn't the end for the Addamses. In 1998 the Fox Family Channel debuted a new TV series, The New Addams Family.
Is there still more in store for the Addamses? Well, how couldn't there be? A 2010 Broadway musical was a hit with audiences and is scheduled for tours across the world. And a new movie is in development, with Tim Burton at the helm. Though Charles Addams died more than 23 years ago, his greatest creations live on.
Written by Linnea Crowther