Many years before comic book adaptation feature films were a dime a dozen, screenwriters writing for the small screen often turned to the pages of daily newspapers for inspiration. In the mid-20th century, comic strips like Buck Rogers, Blondie, Dick Tracey, and Dennis the Menace were often transformed into weekly television series.
Hazel, a Saturday Evening Post comic strip, became a hit television program on NBC, and the Peanuts got a whole slew of animated Charlie Brown specials – speaking of, it’s just about time to brush off your DVD copies of It’s The Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown and A Charlie Brown Christmas.
One of the most beloved adaptations of an iconic comic strip from the 60s was the black comedy television series The Addams Family. This lighthearted, macabre sitcom based upon the comic strip created by Charles Addams for The New York debuted in 1964. The creepy, kooky brood has been with us ever since.
Cartoons were made in the 70s, The Addam’s cast reunited for a Halloween Special later that decade, and then a trilogy of films featuring a new cast breathed new life into the franchise in the 90s. In 2019, The Addam’s Family was rebooted once again as a computer-animated comedy film, thus introducing the characters to a new generation of viewers. On October 1, 2021, the sequel to that film, The Addams Family 2, hit theaters.
Looking back on the last half century, the Addam’s Family franchise has certainly come a long way. While the New Yorker comic strip definitely got the ball rolling, arguably the best-received representation of the family was their portrayal in that 1964 ABC television series.
One of the factors that made that series so memorable was it’s phenomenal cast. Who could forget Carolyn Jones as Morticia or John Astin as Gomez? Sadly though, many of the actors that portrayed these whimsically morbid characters are no longer with us. Join us we pay our respects to The Addam’s Family cast members who have since passed away. We’ll start off with some of the more minor characters and then work our way up to the main cast. Let’s get started, shall we?
Allyn Joslyn – Sam Hillard
Throughout his somewhat prolific career in television, radio, film, and theater, Joslyn often played snobbish wealthy aristocrats. On The Addam’s Family, he played Sam Hilliard, a truant officer who was extremely frightened of the family. He also ran a private school that employed Gomez for a spell. In one episode, it’s revealed that his middle name is Lucifer. His name given itself when shortened to ‘Sam Hill’ is also seen as a euphemism for the Devil.
Joslyn died of a heart attack in Los Angeles on January 21, 1981. He was 79.
Parley Baer – Arthur J. Hansen
Baer is best known for his portrayal of Chester in the syndicated radio version of Gunsmoke. He also notably played the mayor of Mayberry in The Andy Griffith show. Throughout his career, he appeared in dozens of television, film, radio, and theatrical productions.
On The Addams Family, Baer played Arthur J. Hansen, an insurance executive and politician that lives in the town where the Addams Family lived.
After suffering a stroke, Baer passed away at the age of 88 on November 22, 2002, in Los Angeles.
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Eddie Quillan – Joe Digby
After making a name for himself as a child actor on the vaudeville stages and appearing in numerous silent films, actor Edward Quillan went on to have a pretty thriving career in television, primarily doing bit parts and supporting roles.
On The Addams Family, Quillan portrayed an insurance clerk named Joe Digby, who worked for Arthur Henson. Eddie later played another minor character named Clyde Arbogast, Arthur Henson’s assistant in the episode ‘ Gemez, the People’s Choice’.
Quillan died of Cancer in Hollywood on July 19, 1900, at the age of 83.
Margaret Hamilton – Granny Hester Frump
The character Granny Hester Frump, the mother of Morticia and Ophelia and grandmother of Pugsley and Wednesday, was a witch and an old friend of Grandmama Addams. She was played by Actress Margaret Brainard Hamilton, who was best known for her iconic role as the Wicked Witch of the West in the 1939 film The Wizard of Oz.
Before she was an actor, Hamilton was a schoolteacher. After working as a character actor in films for several years, she finally landed her career-defining role in Oz. She went on to make frequent cameo appearances in television shows and commercials.
She continued to work as an actress until the early 80s. Her last credited role was in the made-for-TV film called Pardon Me For Living in 1982.
Hamilton died in her sleep after having been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease on May 16, 1985, in Salisbury, Connecticut. She was 82.
Felix Silla – Cousin Itt
Silla was born in Abruzzo, Italy. After training as a circus performer, he relocated to the United States at the age of 18, where he joined the Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circuses. He was a man of many talents and was quite agile. His work as a trapeze artist, tumbler, and bareback horseback rider eventually led him to Hollywood, where he found work as a stuntman, first appearing in the 1963 film A Ticklish Affair.
Some of his most notable roles included that of Litvak, the miniature Hitler in the 1975 comedy film The Black Bird, Twiki in the television series Buck Rogers in the 25th Century, and various other parts in offerings like The Towering Inferno, Battlestar Galactica, and The Hindenburg. Silla also played an Ewok in Return of the Jedi.
On the Addams Family, he played Cousin Itt – a character that was essentially just a giant mop of hair topped with a bowler hat and decked out with a pair of sunglasses. He spoke rapid-fire gibberish that only the Addams Family could understand – although it should be noted that his voice was provided by Tony Magro.
Silla died of pancreatic cancer at the age of 84 on April 16, 2021.
Carolyn Jones – Morticia Addams and Ophelia Frump
The matriarch of the Addams family, Morticia, was played by actress Carolyn Jones. This was without a doubt her most prominent role, but she would go on to take roles throughout the 1970s that were a bit less memorable.
Morticia and Gomez’s chemistry was undeniable. Their dynamic clearly set the mood for the entire series.
When she was young, Jones suffered from severe asthma, which put a damper on what kinds of activities she was able to do. So she often found herself reading, and one of her favorite things to read were Hollywood gossip magazines. That’s how she caught the acting bug in the first place.
Jones landed her first noteworthy role in 1953’s House of Wax. That was also the same year that she got married to her second husband, Aaron Spelling, who was at the time just a budding filmmaker with aspirations of making it big in the industry. Jones and Spelling would divorce 11 years later in 1964.
In 1958, Jones was honored with an Oscar nod for her role in The Bachelor Party. Just a few years later, she landed the role of Morticia in The Addams Family. After that show wrapped up, she went on to play characters like Marsha, Queen of Diamond’s in Batman, and Myrna Clegg in the CBS daytime soap Capitol.
Jones sadly died of colon cancer in Hollywood, California, at the age of 53 on August 3, 1983.
Jackie Coogan – Uncle Festor
Coogan was an actor and comic who got his start in show business as a child appearing in silent films. In fact, when he appeared in Charlie Chaplin’s 1921 film The Kid, he became one of the first child actors in Hollywood history. Not surprisingly, he was also one of the first Hollywood child stars to be exploited by both the industry and his parents. He made history and set a legal precedent when he successfully sued his parents for squandering his earnings. This case led to the state of California enacting the first legal protection for the earnings of child stars, The California Child Actors Bill, which is often referred to as the Coogan Act.
Coogan’s portrayal of Uncle Fester, Morticia’s wingnut uncle on The Addam’s Family, helped bring new life to his career. He went on to continue to make regular appearances in films and television series right up until his death. His last credited role was in the 1984 film The Prey.
Coogan died of heart failure in Santa Monica, California, on March 1, 1984. He was 69 years old.
Ted Cassidy – Lurch and Thing
Known for his immense stature and deep booming voice, Cassidy often found himself playing unusual and offbeat characters in fantasy and science fiction TV shows. His most memorable role, however, was that of Lurch, the family’s loyal butler, on The Addams Family. He also played Thing – or at least his hand did.
Cassidy died on January 16, 1979, at St Vincent Medical Center in LA. Ultimately, he died from complications of the condition acromegaly, which is what caused his immense height, deep voice, and distinctive facial features. Acromegaly often causes heart issues in it’s sufferers. Cassidy was only 46 when he passed away.
Blossom Rock – Grandmama Addams
Rock got her start as an actress on the vaudeville stage before transitioning to film and television. She came from a musical and theatrical family. Her younger sister was actress and singer Jeanette MacDonald. Her most notable role was that of Gomez’s mother, Grandmama Addams, on The Addams Family.
Her character was a witty witch who often whipped up spells and potions and could gaze into the future with her crystal ball.
Rock had a stroke shortly after production wrapped up on the second season of The Addams Family, which left her with a speech impediment that prevented her from rejoining the cast for the 1977 Halloween reunion special.
Rock passed away on January 14, 1978, at the age of 82.
First things first, this actor had one heck of a last name. Weatherwax was an actor who was best known for his role as Pugsley on The Addams Family. Previously he had played Porky on the first few seasons of Lassie. After The Addams Family ran it’s course, Weatherwax joined the Army. He later reprised his role of Pugsley for the 1977 Halloween Addams Family reunion special. He then spent the remainder of his career working as a film studio grip and set builder.
Weatherwax passed away on December 7, 2014, after having a heart attack at his home in West Hills, California. He was 50 years old.
While it’s always sad to learn that a dearly beloved star has passed, it’s nice to know that John Astin, the actor who played Gomez Addams, and Lisa Loring, the actress who portrayed Wednesday Addams are still alive.
Who was your favorite cast member of The Addams Family? Let us know in the comments section below.
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