Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Happy Birthday Poe Actor & Gomez Addams John Astin

John Allen Astin (born March 30, 1930) is an American actor who has appeared in numerous films and television shows, and is best known for the role of Gomez Addams on The Addams Family, and other similarly eccentric comedic characters.

Early years

Astin was born in Baltimore, Maryland, to Margaret Linnie (née Mackenzie) and Dr. Allen Varley Astin, who was the director of the National Bureau of Standards (now the National Institute of Standards and Technology).[1] He graduated from Johns Hopkins University in 1952, after transferring from Washington and Jefferson College. He initially studied mathematics at Washington & Jefferson then became a drama major at Johns Hopkins; he was a member of the Phi Kappa Psi fraternity at Johns Hopkins.


Astin started in theater, doing voice-over work for commercials. His first big break came with a small part in West Side Story in 1961. At this time, he also guest starred on the ABC sitcom, Harrigan and Son, starring Pat O'Brien. In 1962–1963, he starred with Marty Ingels in the sitcom I'm Dickens, He's Fenster, which aired thirty-one episodes in a single season. From 1964–1966, he starred in The Addams Family as Gomez Addams, the head of the macabre family. He appeared in the TV show The New Addams Family as Grandpapa Addams in 1998, with the role of Gomez Addams played by Glenn Taranto.

Astin also played the Riddler on ABC's Batman during Frank Gorshin's second season departure. (Gorshin came back for the third and final season.) He played submarine commander Matthew Sherman in the 1970s TV series Operation Petticoat. He also made a notable appearance in popular mystery show Murder, She Wrote, as the villainous Sheriff Harry Pierce. He had a recurring role on the sitcom Night Court as Buddy, eccentric former mental patient and the stepfather of lead character Harry Stone. He also played the regular role of Ed LaSalle in the short-lived Mary Tyler Moore sitcom Mary during the 1985–86 television season. He guest starred on numerous television series too, including a Gunsmoke appearance in 1967 as Festus's cousin Henry, Jack Palance's ABC circus drama, The Greatest Show on Earth and Duckman.

Astin received an Academy Award nomination for Prelude, a short film that he wrote, produced, and directed. He was nominated for an Ace Award for his work on Tales from the Crypt, and received an Emmy nomination for the cartoon voice of Gomez on ABC-TV's The Addams Family. He also voiced the character Bull Gator on the animated series Taz-Mania. Astin served for four years on the Board of Directors of the Writers Guild of America, and has been active in community affairs in Los Angeles and Santa Monica.

He has continued to work in acting, appearing in a string of Killer Tomatoes films as Professor Gangreen and as Professor Wickwire in The Adventures of Brisco County Jr.

He also has toured the one-man play Edgar Allan Poe: Once Upon a Midnight, written by Paul Day Clemens and Ron Magid. In a December 2007, Baltimore Examiner interview, Astin said of his acting experience:

“We all struggle, and I had plenty of that, but I've had a great time. I've done hundreds of TV shows and 30 to 40 movies, and I love acting. I'm very happy having done the Poe. That's been really terrific.[2] ”


Astin currently teaches method acting and directing in the Writing Seminars Department at Johns Hopkins University, his alma mater. Commenting on his dual career, he said in 2007, "I don't know one major university that has a known actor teaching every day."[2] He hopes to re-establish a drama major at the university, noting that he is one of only a handful to earn a drama degree from Hopkins. Astin can be seen singing and playing cowbell in a music video from JHU released in December 2009.

Personal life

He has five sons, three (David, Allen, and Tom) by his first wife, Suzanne Hahn, and another (Mackenzie Astin) by his second wife, actress Patty Duke. John also legally adopted Sean Astin, Duke's son from a previous marriage. John Astin is currently married to Valerie Ann Sandobal and lives in Baltimore. He is a practicing Buddhist.[2]

His younger brother, Alexander Astin, is a professor emeritus at UCLA. He has five granddaughters: Alexandra, Elizabeth, Isabella, Sedona and Jaya.


The Twilight Zone: "A Hundred Yards Over the Rim" (1961)
West Side Story (1961) – Glad Hand, Social Worker Leading Dance
That Touch of Mink (1962) - Mr. Everett Beasley
Move Over Darling (1963) - Clyde Prokey
The Addams Family (1964–66) (television) – Gomez Addams
Batman: "Batman's Anniversary/A Riddling Controversy" (1967) (television) – The Riddler (#2)
The Wild Wild West: "The Night of the Tartar" (1967) (television) – Count Nikolai Sazanov
The Flying Nun: "Flight of the Dodo Bird" (1967) (television) – Father Lundigan
Candy: (1968) – Mister Christian
Viva Max! (1969) – Sergeant Valdez
Bunny O'Hare (1971) – Ad
Night Gallery: "Pamela's Voice" (1971) (television)
Night Gallery: "The Girl with the Hungry Eyes" (October 1, 1972) (television) - Mr. Munch
Evil Roy Slade (1972) – Evil Roy Slade
The Partridge Family (1973) (television) - Sydney Rose in The Mad Millionaire
Get to Know Your Rabbit (1972)
Freaky Friday (1976) – Bill Andrews
Operation Petticoat (1977) - Lt. Cmdr. Matthew Sherman
National Lampoon's European Vacation (1985) - Kent Winkdale (host of "Pig in a Poke")
Mr. Boogedy (1986) – Neil Witherspoon
Teen Wolf Too (1987) – Dean Dunn
Return of the Killer Tomatoes (1988) – Professor Gangreen
Killer Tomatoes Strike Back (1990) – Professor Gangreen
Killer Tomatoes Eat France (1991) – Professor Gangreen
Eerie Indiana (1991) (television) – Radford
The Adventures of Brisco County, Jr. (1993) (television) – Professor Albert Wickwire
Night Court (1986) – Former Mental Patient Buddy Ryan (revealed later in the series to be Judge Harry Stone's father)
Gremlins 2: The New Batch (1990) – Janitor
Taz-Mania (1991) (television) – Bull Gator (voice)
The Addams Family, animated series (1992) – Gomez Addams (voice)
The Silence of the Hams (1993) – The Ranger
Duckman (1994) – Terry Duke Tetzloff (voice)
Mad About You: "Up All Night" (1994) (television) – himself
Super Password – Himself
The Frighteners (1996) – The Judge
The Nanny (1996) - The Plastic Surgeon (episode - Tattoo)
School of Life (2005) – Stormin' Norman Warner


1.^ "John Astin Biography". filmreference. 2008. Retrieved 2009-01-17.
2.^ Jessica Novak (28December 2007). "Johns Hopkins' leading man". The Baltimore Examiner.

The Addams Family (TV series) 1964-1966 - Starring John Astin

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. It is often compared to its working-class rival, The Munsters, which ran for the same two seasons and achieved somewhat higher Nielsen ratings. The Addams Family ranked 23rd in its first season, with a 23.9 rating.[2] The show is the first adaptation of the characters to feature The Addams Family Theme.

It was originally produced by Filmways, Inc. at General Service Studios in Hollywood, California. Successor company MGM Television (via The Program Exchange for broadcast syndication, 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment for home video/DVD) owns the rights to the show. At one point, distribution rights were licensed to Worldvision Enterprises.


The Addamses are a close-knit extended family with decidedly macabre interests. They are humans with supernatural abilities. No explanation for their powers is explicitly given in the series.

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 (to them) good natured and normal behavior since they are under the impression that their tastes are shared by most of society. Accordingly 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." Ironically, many of the things that the Addams family was in favor of that seemed laughable in the mid-1960s have become mainsteam. Homeschooling, protection of swamps (now Federally protected as wetlands), banning of toy guns, and banning of classic fairy tales in schools were all plotlines in the show that were comic fodder at the time. A recurring theme in the epilogue of many episodes was the Addamses getting an update on the most recent visitor to their home, either via something in the newspaper or a phone call. Invariably, as a result of their visit to the Addamses, the visitor would be institutionalized, change professions, move out of the country, or have some other negative life-changing event. The Addamses would always misinterpret the update and see it as good news for that most recent visitor.

The tone was set by series producer Nat Perrin, close friend of Groucho Marx and writer of several Marx Brothers films. Perrin created story ideas, directed one episode, and rewrote every script. Much of the dialog is his (albeit uncredited). As a result, Gomez, with his sardonic remarks, backwards logic, and ever-present cigar (pulled from his breast pocket already lit), has been frequently compared to Groucho Marx. In addition, the series often employed the same type of zany satire and screwball humor seen in the Marx Brothers films. It lampooned politics ("Gomez, The Politician" and "Gomez, The People's Choice"), the legal system ("The Addams Family in Court"), Beatlemania ("Lurch, The Teenage Idol"), and Hollywood ("My Fair Cousin Itt").


Main characters

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 that his ardor was aroused when she called him "Bubele" a German-Bavarian, and Yiddish [3][4] word meaning "darling" or "sweetie." Gomez is very wealthy, due to owning numerous companies and stocks. He doesn't seem to regard money itself as a priority and squanders money cavalierly while remaining wealthy. Gomez spends a great deal of time with his family and does not go out to work. He refers to Spain as his "ancestral home" with his family background referenced as "Castilian," and he occasionally uses Spanish words and phrases. He can perform rapid and complicated calculations in his head. He is remarkably acrobatic and can easily dismount from a hanging position upon a chandelier.

Morticia Addams (Carolyn Jones) - Morticia is a cultivated and beautiful woman who dabbles in art, raises flesh-eating plants, and trims her roses by clipping off the buds and arranging the stems in a vase ("Oh, the thorns are lovely this year"). She can light candles with her fingertips and emit smoke directly from her person. With her aristocratic detachment, she is often the calm center of the chaotic events of the household.

Uncle Fester (Jackie Coogan) - Uncle Fester is Morticia's exuberant, kind, and electric uncle. He frequently places a lightbulb in his mouth, where it lights up. When angered by outsiders, he may grab for a blunderbuss and announce that he will shoot the offender in the back.

Lurch (Ted Cassidy) - Lurch 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 thereafter), he responds with a baritone "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 well received and incorporated into the show. When questions are posed to Lurch his primary response is a deep annoyed grunt, from which the family glean complex meanings. He is superhumanly strong and often plays the harpsichord (the music is actually played by The Addams Family composer Vic Mizzy). Lurch is very high-minded about visitors; when a plainclothes policeman (played by George Neise) 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 much like a servant expressing disdain for the idle rich. Ted Cassidy made a cameo appearance as Lurch on an episode of the "Batman" TV series.

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. 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 nevertheless shares 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. 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 - A disembodied hand that appears out of boxes and other conveniently placed containers. Thing apparently has the ability to teleport from container to container, almost instantly: Thing sometimes appears from different containers at opposite ends of the room within seconds of each other. Though Ted Cassidy would often portray Thing, assistant director Jack Voglin would often portray Thing in scenes where Lurch and Thing appear together.

Recurring characters

Cousin Itt (Felix Silla in most episodes, 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 (according to Felix Silla's commentary on the DVD release, the voice for Cousin Itt was recorded by a member of the crew in post-production). Gomez once asks him what is under it all; Itt answers, "Roots." In one episode, Itt is said to have "the eye of an 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.

Grandma Hester Frump (Margaret Hamilton) - The mother of Morticia and Ophelia.

Mayor Arthur J. Hansen (Peter Baer) - The mayor of the town that the Addams Family live in.


A reunion film, Halloween with the New Addams Family [5], aired on NBC in October 1977 and starred most of the original cast, except for Blossom Rock (Grandmama), who was very ill at the time and was replaced by Phyllis actress Jane Rose. The picture also featured extended family members who were created specifically for the production and never appeared in the television series, such as Gomez's brother, Pancho (played by Henry Darrow) and two additional children, Wednesday Junior and Pugsley Junior. It was originally intended for a pilot for a sequel, but no other episodes were ordered.

The interior set of the Addams mansion had previously been used for the 1972 film Ben.


As of May 2009, the show can be purchased on iTunes, and can be streamed for free in the US on IMDB, YouTube, Hulu, and Minisodes are available on Crackle You can also watch all the series vol.1-3 on netflix.

DVD releases

MGM Home Entertainment has released The Addams Family on DVD in Region 1, 2 and 4 in three volume sets.


1.^ "David Levy; Producer Created 'Addams Family'". LA Times. January 31, 2000.
2.^ "The 'Addams Family' Tree". LA Times. June 9, 1991.
3.^ Yiddish Expressions
4.^ Reminiscing 'Bout Bubba and others
5.^ – Halloween with the New Addams Family
6.^ The Addams Family DVD news: Volume 3 date and details |
7.^ The Addams Family DVD news: *Snap* *Snap* Complete Series Announced |

The Addams Family - The Complete SeriesCharles Addams: The Addams Family: an EvilutionThe Addams Family - Volume OneThe Addams Family - Volume 2The Addams Family - Volume 3Chas Addams Happily Ever After: A Collection of Cartoons to Chill the Heart of Your Loved OneThe Addams Chronicles: An Altogether Ooky Look at the Addams Family

Edgar Allan Poe: Once Upon a Midnight - Starring John Astin

Edgar Allan Poe: Once Upon a Midnight is a one man play starring John Astin as Edgar Allan Poe. Astin said, of why he wanted to do a play on Poe, "I feel that Poe, through his own tortured existence, gained deep insight into the nature of the universe, along with an intense love and appreciation for life itself. Through this play I want to share that impression with others."

The Play

The story is told through Poe's eyes, as he narrates his own life to the audience. He tells of his childhood, his time in the military and the troubles he caused while at West Point, his marriage and his struggles to make his mark as a poet, publisher and writer. It is peppered with numerous quotes from many of Poe's works, and also includes a complete recitation of Poe's poem "The Raven." John Astin, as Poe, is the only character on stage throughout the play.


Written by Paul Day Clemens and Ron Magid
Directed by Alan Bergmann
Scenery, props and projections by John Boesche
Lighting by Jason R. Beghtol
Sound design by Rob Milburn and Michael Bodeen
Original Music by Ian Freebairn-Smith
Production stage manager - Brian J. L'Ecuyer
Booking by Windwood Theatricals