Though The Addams Family only existed for two seasons on television in the mid-'60s, it captured the macabre imagination of America, due in no small part to its incredibly catchy theme song. Rarely have any four chords been given so much instant recognition as those that open this melody, always followed by the requisite and iconic finger-snaps.
In the era of golly-gee wholesomeness of Leave it to Beaver and I Love Lucy, The Addams Family provided an eccentric version of the All-American family. There was oddly charming patriarch Gomez Addams, his vampire-like wife Morticia, their giant butler Lurch, and their depraved children Wednesday and Pugsley. Their antics would inspire a Halloween special and three films in the '90s, and their catchy theme song would find its way into the very soundtrack of pop culture with commercials and covers. Here's ten "Things" you didn't know about it!
A popular composer for film and television in the '50s and '60s, Vic Mizzy also had radio hits going back as far as the '30s and '40s. He's known for composing Les Brown Doris Day's smash hit, "My Dreams Are Getting Better All The Time," and for composing the theme songs for Shirley Temple programs. Given his aptitude for catchy, feel-good songs, it's curious that he chose to work on arranging the Addams Family theme.
It's perhaps that experience arranging earworm melodies that helped him create the beloved classic. Using primarily a harpsichord and the "finger-snaps," he also had Ted Cassidy (Lurch) punctuate the lyrics with rhyming words like "neat," "sweet," and "petite."
Though he pushed to have everything about The Addams Family theme done electronically and added in later, the producers of the television series wanted Vic's input on the introduction and opening credits. They urged him to direct the main title, down to everything from positioning the cast to explaining how best to get their finger-snaps perfectly in sync.
Mizzy had a very specific way he wanted every cast member to respond to the finger-snaps, too. He wanted Gomez and Morticia (John Astin and Carolyn Jones) to look completely lackadaisical as they were making the motions. Mizzy even went with the prop master to pick out the props for the set and worked to capture the whimsical and macabre vibe of the show.
Almost a decade after The Addams Family went off the air, Halloween with the new Addams Family was released, a made-for-tv special featuring almost all of the original cast. They are joined by Gomez's brother Pancho (who's staying with them for Halloween), as well as Wednesday Jr. and Puglsey Jr, two new little additions to the Addams brood.
The film involves crooks trying to steal the family fortune, a case of mistaken identity, a lover's quarrel, and a fabulous Halloween bash. You'll notice some aspects of the film make it into the 1991 Addams Family film. It's a zany, entertaining addition to the franchise's canon, and features a different take on the classic theme song.
Vic Mizzy was astonished to hear that Paramount had no interest in using the finger-snapping diddy in the 1991 film The Addams Family starring Anjelica Houston and Raúl Juliá. Producers actually felt that his melody was too dated for its time, and wouldn't fit with the dark comedy they had in mind. They were going in a darker direction than the campy television series and wanted a theme that fit that vision.
However, for immediate audience recognition, they test screened the 1991 film with the accompanying theme from the television series, and it was a huge hit. That convinced producers that they shouldn't tamper with something that's already proven to be a timeless classic.
For the 1991 film's release, producers wanted an updated version of the classic, something that would attract both fans of the television series as well as new fans. They enlisted the vocal stylings of M.C. Hammer and tasked him with coming up with an amalgamation. He wrote "Addams Groove," which plays during the closing credits of the film.
The Hammer version features his rap verses, which directly tie into the plot of the film, accompanied by the familiar rifts from the theme song. It was also used in the sequel Addams Family Values. It was popular for films of the day to create a theme song named after the film it pertained to, see also Ghostbusters and even Speed.
Famous recording artists like Kasabian and Mannheim Steamroller have covered the Addams Family theme song for their Halloween-themed albums. Both of the songs alter the original significantly but retain enough of its recognizable melody and whimsy to register with fans.
The Kasabian version changed the name to "The Meighan Family Values," but it retains the harpsichord and finger-snaps, with the singers singing the classic lyric and adding a few of their own. They've also recorded a Ghostbusters theme. The Mannheim Steamroller version is an instrumental and has an extended solo with a pop-funk vibe.
For the third Addams Family film, Addams Family Reunion, R&B group Strate Vocalz recorded a version of the theme song, though it didn't receive much positive attention. The film, in general, didn't receive much praise, as it featured an entirely different cast (Tim Curry replaced Raoul Julia as Gomez, and Daryl Hannah replaced Anjelica Houston), and was generally made on a much smaller budget.
The Strate Vocalz theme was accompanied by a music video that appeared only on the VHS release of the film but would gain wider recognition when it was featured as the promo music for The New Addams Family on the FOX Family network.
Though several different television and film versions of The Addams Family existed by the time it was made into a stage play, the Broadway version was the first of its kind and a new way to experience America's favorite spooky family. The original cast included Nathan Lane as Gomez and Bebe Neuwirth (Lilith on Frasier) as Morticia, but only from 2010 to 2011.
When describing the overall feel and look of the production, producers asked themselves, "If Uncle Fester was directing a Broadway show, what kind of a Broadway show would he do?" It features a number of original songs, as well as the classic theme song. The production won the Drama League Award as well as the Drama Desk Award. It continues to tour nationally and in the UK.
With such a recognizable theme song, it's no wonder that various brands over the years have decided to use it to add instant nostalgia. In the mid-'90s, the melody was used as the theme for Nestle's "Buncha Crunch," and in the mid-'00s, M&M's company used the theme for a series of Addams Family TV commercials for their chocolate candies around Halloween.
The Simpsons have used an amalgamation of its theme song combined with The Addams Family rift for various introductions of their Treehouse of Horror series of Halloween specials. Elvira, the Mistress of the Dark herself, has used a jazz-lounge version of the tune on her album Elvira Presents Monster Hits.
The Addams Family will once again enjoy a romp on the big screen with a new movie coming in 2019. This film will be completely computer-animated, featuring the vocal talents of Oscar Isaac as Gomez, Charlize Theron as Morticia, Chloe Grace Moretz as Wednesday, Finn Wolfhard as Pugsley, and Bette Midler as Grandma. It will also feature a new take on the classic theme song.
This time, the Addams clan will have to go toe-to-toe with the host of a reality television series, hoping to cash in on the eccentricities of their family life. The Addams must grapple with the complexities of the 21st century, rooted in greed, avarice, and self-promotion. Will their family values prove strong enough to meet the challenge?