Charles Addams

Charles Addams

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Charles "Chas" Samuel Addams (January 7, 1912 – September 29, 1988) was an American cartoonist
Cartoonist
A cartoonist is a person who specializes in drawing cartoons. This work is usually humorous, mainly created for entertainment, political commentary or advertising...

 known for his particularly black humor and macabre
Macabre
In works of art, macabre is the quality of having a grim or ghastly atmosphere. Macabre works emphasize the details and symbols of death....

 characters. Some of the recurring characters, who became known as The Addams Family
The Addams Family
The Addams Family is a group of fictional characters created by American cartoonist Charles Addams. As named by Charles Addams, the Addams Family characters include Gomez, Morticia, Uncle Fester, Lurch, Grandmama, Wednesday, Pugsley, and Thing....

, became the basis for two live-action television series, two animated TV series, three motion pictures, and a Broadway musical.

Life


Charles Samuel Addams was born in Westfield, New Jersey
Westfield, New Jersey
Westfield is a town in Union County, New Jersey, United States. As of the 2010 United States Census, the town population was 30,316. The old village area, now the downtown district, was settled in 1720 as part of the Elizabethtown Tract....

, the son of Grace M. (née
Married and maiden names
A married name is the family name adopted by a person upon marriage. When a person assumes the family name of her spouse, the new name replaces the maiden name....

 Spears) and Charles Huy Addams, a piano
Piano
The piano is a musical instrument played by means of a keyboard. It is one of the most popular instruments in the world. Widely used in classical and jazz music for solo performances, ensemble use, chamber music and accompaniment, the piano is also very popular as an aid to composing and rehearsal...

-company executive who had studied to be an architect
Architect
An architect is a person trained in the planning, design and oversight of the construction of buildings. To practice architecture means to offer or render services in connection with the design and construction of a building, or group of buildings and the space within the site surrounding the...

. He was "known as something of a rascal around the neighborhood" and "there was always a little group of boys at his house, doing things," as childhood friends recalled. Addams was distantly related to U.S. presidents John Adams
John Adams
John Adams was an American lawyer, statesman, diplomat and political theorist. A leading champion of independence in 1776, he was the second President of the United States...

 and John Quincy Adams
John Quincy Adams
John Quincy Adams was the sixth President of the United States . He served as an American diplomat, Senator, and Congressional representative. He was a member of the Federalist, Democratic-Republican, National Republican, and later Anti-Masonic and Whig parties. Adams was the son of former...

, despite the different spellings of their last names, and was a first cousin twice removed to Jane Addams
Jane Addams
Jane Addams was a pioneer settlement worker, founder of Hull House in Chicago, public philosopher, sociologist, author, and leader in woman suffrage and world peace...

, the noted social reformer.

His nickname was "Chill", given to him by his friends. A house on Elm Street, and another on Dudley Avenue that police once caught him breaking into, are said to be the inspiration for the Addams Family mansion in his cartoons (though one site points to a three-way resemblance among the Addams Family mansion, the house in Alfred Hitchcock
Alfred Hitchcock
Sir Alfred Joseph Hitchcock, KBE was a British film director and producer. He pioneered many techniques in the suspense and psychological thriller genres. After a successful career in British cinema in both silent films and early talkies, Hitchcock moved to Hollywood...

's Psycho
Psycho (1960 film)
Psycho is a 1960 American suspense/psychological horror film directed by Alfred Hitchcock and starring Janet Leigh and Anthony Perkins. The film is based on the screenplay by Joseph Stefano, who adapted it from the 1959 novel of the same name by Robert Bloch...

and the Victorian building depicted in Edward Hopper
Edward Hopper
Edward Hopper was a prominent American realist painter and printmaker. While most popularly known for his oil paintings, he was equally proficient as a watercolorist and printmaker in etching...

's "House by the Railroad"). College Hall, the oldest building on the current campus of the University of Pennsylvania
University of Pennsylvania
The University of Pennsylvania is a private, Ivy League university located in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States. Penn is the fourth-oldest institution of higher education in the United States,Penn is the fourth-oldest using the founding dates claimed by each institution...

, where Addams studied, was also an inspiration for the mansion He was fond of visiting the Presbyterian Cemetery on Mountain Avenue. One friend said of him, "His sense of humor was a little different from everybody else's." He was also artistically inclined, "drawing with a happy vengeance" according to a biographer.

His father encouraged him to draw, and Addams did cartoons for the Westfield High School
Westfield High School (New Jersey)
Westfield Senior High School, or simply, Westfield High School is the only public high school located in Westfield, in Union County, New Jersey, operating as part of the Westfield Public Schools. It was established in the early 1900s at its original location on Elm Street until 1951 when it was...

 student literary magazine, Weathervane. He attended Colgate University
Colgate University
Colgate University is a private liberal arts college in Hamilton, New York, USA. The school was founded in 1819 as a Baptist seminary and later became non-denominational. It is named for the Colgate family who greatly contributed to the university's endowment in the 19th century.Colgate has 52...

 in 1929 and 1930, and the University of Pennsylvania
University of Pennsylvania
The University of Pennsylvania is a private, Ivy League university located in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States. Penn is the fourth-oldest institution of higher education in the United States,Penn is the fourth-oldest using the founding dates claimed by each institution...

, where a fine-arts building on campus is named for him, in 1930 and 1931. In front of the building is a sculpture of the silhouettes of Addams Family characters. He then studied at the Grand Central School of Art
Grand Central School of Art
The Grand Central School of Art was an American art school in New York City, founded in 1923 by the painters Edmund Greacen, Walter Leighton Clark and John Singer Sargent. The school was established and run by the Grand Central Art Galleries, an artists' cooperative founded by Sargent, Greacen,...

 in New York City
New York City
New York is the most populous city in the United States and the center of the New York Metropolitan Area, one of the most populous metropolitan areas in the world. New York exerts a significant impact upon global commerce, finance, media, art, fashion, research, technology, education, and...

 in 1931 and 1932.

In 1932 he joined the layout department of True Detective
True Detective
True Detective has been the name of several different magazines.The first was an American true crime magazine featuring articles about crime and criminals, created by publisher Bernarr Macfadden in 1924; it's considered the first true crime magazine. Although generally lurid, True Detective did...

magazine, where he had to retouch photos of corpses that appeared in the magazine's stories to remove the blood from them. Addams complained that "A lot of those corpses were more interesting the way they were."

His first drawing in The New Yorker ran on February 6, 1932 (a sketch of a window washer), and his cartoons ran regularly in the magazine from 1938, when he drew the first instance of what came to be called the Addams Family, until his death. He was a freelancer throughout that time.

During World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

, Addams served at the Signal Corps Photographic Center
Kaufman Astoria Studios
The Kaufman Astoria Studios is an historic movie studio located in the Astoria section of the New York City borough of Queens.-History:It was originally built by Famous Players-Lasky in 1920 to provide the company with a facility close to the Broadway theater district. Many features and short...

 in New York, where he made animated training films for the Army. In late 1942, he met his first wife, Barbara Jean Day, who purportedly resembled the cartoon Morticia Addams. The marriage ended eight years later, after Addams, who hated small children, refused to adopt one. She later married fellow New Yorker colleague John Hersey
John Hersey
John Richard Hersey was a Pulitzer Prize-winning American writer and journalist considered one of the earliest practitioners of the so-called New Journalism, in which storytelling devices of the novel are fused with non-fiction reportage...

, author of Hiroshima (book).

He married his second wife, Barbara Barb (Estelle B. Barb), in 1954. A practicing lawyer, she "combined Morticia-like looks with diabolical legal scheming," by which she wound up controlling the "Addams Family" television and movie franchises and persuaded her husband to give away other legal rights. At one point, she got her husband to take out a $100,000 insurance policy. Addams consulted a lawyer on the sly, who later humorously wrote, "I told him the last time I had word of such a move was in a picture called Double Indemnity starring Barbara Stanwyck
Barbara Stanwyck
Barbara Stanwyck was an American actress. She was a film and television star, known during her 60-year career as a consummate and versatile professional with a strong screen presence, and a favorite of directors including Cecil B. DeMille, Fritz Lang and Frank Capra...

, which I called to his attention." In the movie, Stanwyck's character plotted her husband's murder. No one has accused Barbara Barb Addams of attempting the same. They divorced in 1956.

The Addams Family
The Addams Family (TV series)
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...

 television series began after David Levy, a television producer, approached Addams with an offer to create it with a little help from the humorist. All Addams had to do was give his characters names and more characteristics for the actors to use in portrayals. The series ran on ABC for two seasons, from 1964 to 1966.

Addams was "sociable and debonair," and described by a biographer as "A well-dressed, courtly man with silvery back-combed hair and a gentle manner, he bore no resemblance to a fiend." Figuratively a ladykiller, Addams squired celebrities such as Greta Garbo
Greta Garbo
Greta Garbo , born Greta Lovisa Gustafsson, was a Swedish film actress. Garbo was an international star and icon during Hollywood's silent and classic periods. Many of Garbo's films were sensational hits, and all but three were profitable...

, Joan Fontaine
Joan Fontaine
Joan de Beauvoir de Havilland , known professionally as Joan Fontaine, is a British American actress. She and her elder sister Olivia de Havilland are two of the last surviving leading ladies from Hollywood of the 1930s....

, and Jacqueline Kennedy on social occasions.

Later, he married his third and last wife, Marilyn Matthews Miller, best known as "Tee" (1926–2002), in a pet cemetery. In 1985, the Addamses moved to Sagaponack, New York
Sagaponack, New York
Sagaponack is a village in the town of Southampton in Suffolk County, New York, United States. The village incorporated on September 2, 2005, in the wake of the failed attempt by Dunehampton, New York to incorporate. Dunehampton's incorporation would have blocked Sagaponack from Atlantic Ocean...

, where they named their estate "The Swamp".

Death


Addams died September 29, 1988, at St. Clare's Hospital and Health Center in New York City, having suffered a heart attack while still in his car after parking it. An ambulance took him from his apartment to the hospital, where he died in the emergency room. As he had requested, a wake was held rather than a funeral; he had wished to be remembered as a "good cartoonist". He was cremated and his ashes were buried in the pet cemetery of his estate "The Swamp".

Cartoons


His cartoons regularly appeared in The New Yorker
The New Yorker
The New Yorker is an American magazine of reportage, commentary, criticism, essays, fiction, satire, cartoons and poetry published by Condé Nast...

, and he also created a syndicated comic strip, Out of This World, which ran in 1956. There are many collections of his work, including Drawn and Quartered (1942) and Monster Rally (1950), the latter with a foreword by John O'Hara
John O'Hara
John Henry O'Hara was an American writer. He initially became known for his short stories and later became a best-selling novelist whose works include Appointment in Samarra and BUtterfield 8. He was particularly known for an uncannily accurate ear for dialogue...

. Typical of Addams's work, one cartoon shows two men standing in a room labeled "Patent Attorney." One is pointing a bizarre gun out the window toward the street and saying, "Death ray, fiddlesticks! Why, it doesn't even slow them up!"

Dear Dead Days (1959) is not a collection of his cartoons (although it reprints a few from previous collections); it is a scrapbook-like compendium of vintage images (and occasional pieces of text) that appealed to Addams's sense of the grotesque, including Victorian woodcuts, vintage medicine-show advertisements, and a boyhood photograph of Francesco Lentini, who had three legs.

Addams drew more than 1,300 cartoons over the course of his life. Those that didn't appear in The New Yorker were often in Collier's
Collier's Weekly
Collier's Weekly was an American magazine founded by Peter Fenelon Collier and published from 1888 to 1957. With the passage of decades, the title was shortened to Collier's....

and TV Guide
TV Guide
TV Guide is a weekly American magazine with listings of TV shows.In addition to TV listings, the publication features television-related news, celebrity interviews, gossip and film reviews and crossword puzzles...

. In 1961, Addams received, from the Mystery Writers of America
Mystery Writers of America
Mystery Writers of America is an organization for mystery writers, based in New York.The organization was founded in 1945 by Clayton Rawson, Anthony Boucher, Lawrence Treat, and Brett Halliday....

, a Special Edgar Award
Edgar Award
The Edgar Allan Poe Awards , named after Edgar Allan Poe, are presented every year by the Mystery Writers of America...

 for his body of work. His cartoons appeared in books, calendars, and other merchandising. Singer-guitarist Dean Gitter
Dean Gitter
Dean L. Gitter, , is an entrepreneur and a real estate developer in the Catskills in New York State.Gitter is a graduate of Phillips Academy, Harvard College, the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art, and the Harvard Business School....

's 1957 recording Ghost Ballads (Riverside, RLP 12-636), folk songs with supernatural themes, was packaged with album art by Addams showing a haunted house.

In 1946 Addams met science-fiction writer Ray Bradbury
Ray Bradbury
Ray Douglas Bradbury is an American fantasy, horror, science fiction, and mystery writer. Best known for his dystopian novel Fahrenheit 451 and for the science fiction stories gathered together as The Martian Chronicles and The Illustrated Man , Bradbury is one of the most celebrated among 20th...

 after having drawn an illustration for Mademoiselle
Mademoiselle (magazine)
Mademoiselle was an influential women's magazine first published in 1935 by Street and Smith and later acquired by Condé Nast Publications....

magazine's publication of Bradbury's short story "Homecoming", the first in a series of tales chronicling a family of Illinois vampire
Vampire
Vampires are mythological or folkloric beings who subsist by feeding on the life essence of living creatures, regardless of whether they are undead or a living person...

s named the Elliotts. The pair became friends, and planned to collaborate on a book of the Elliott Family's complete history with Bradbury writing and Addams providing the illustrations, but it never materialized. Bradbury's stories about the "Elliott Family" were finally anthologized in From the Dust Returned
From the Dust Returned
From the Dust Returned is a fix-up fantasy novel by Ray Bradbury. The novel is largely comprised from a series of short stories which Bradbury had written decades earlier, centering around a family of Illinois-based ghosts named the Elliotts...

in October 2001, with a connecting narrative and an explanation of his work with Addams, and Addams' 1946 Mademoiselle illustration used for the book's cover jacket. Although Addams' own characters were well-established by the time of their initial encounter, in a 2001 interview Bradbury states that "(Addams) went his way and created the Addams Family and I went my own way and created my family in this book."

Janet Maslin
Janet Maslin
Janet Maslin is an American journalist, best known as a film and literary critic for The New York Times. She served as the Times film critic from 1977–1999.- Biography :...

, in a review of an Addams biography for The New York Times
The New York Times
The New York Times is an American daily newspaper founded and continuously published in New York City since 1851. The New York Times has won 106 Pulitzer Prizes, the most of any news organization...

, wrote, "Addams's persona sounds cooked up for the benefit of feature writers ... was at least partly a character contrived for the public eye," noting that one outré publicity photo showed the humorist wearing a suit of armor at home, "but the shelves behind him hold books about painting and antiques, as well as a novel by John Updike
John Updike
John Hoyer Updike was an American novelist, poet, short story writer, art critic, and literary critic....

."

In Alfred Hitchcock
Alfred Hitchcock
Sir Alfred Joseph Hitchcock, KBE was a British film director and producer. He pioneered many techniques in the suspense and psychological thriller genres. After a successful career in British cinema in both silent films and early talkies, Hitchcock moved to Hollywood...

's North by Northwest
North by Northwest
North by Northwest is a 1959 American thriller film directed by Alfred Hitchcock, starring Cary Grant, Eva Marie Saint and James Mason, and featuring Leo G. Carroll and Martin Landau...

, Cary Grant
Cary Grant
Archibald Alexander Leach , better known by his stage name Cary Grant, was an English actor who later took U.S. citizenship...

 references Charles Addams in the auction scene. Discovering Eve with Mr. Vandamm and Leonard, he says, "The three of you together. Now that's a picture only Charles Addams could draw." The filmmaker was a friend of Addams', and owned two pieces of original Addams art. Addams is also mentioned as "Chas Addams" in Edward Eager
Edward Eager
Edward McMaken Eager was an American lyricist, playwright, and author of books for children. Eager's works for children were distinctive in their use of the theme of magic making an appearance in the lives of ordinary children - what would now be classed as contemporary fantasy...

's fantasy novel Knight's Castle.

By Addams



Books of Addams's drawings or illustrated by him
  • Drawn and Quartered (1942), first anthology of drawings (Random House)
  • Addams and Evil (1947), an album of cartoons, (Simon and Schuster)
  • (illustrations) Afternoon in the Attic (1950), John Kobler’s anthology of short stories
  • Monster Rally (1950) his third anthology of drawings (Simon & Schuster)
  • Homebodies (1954) fourth anthology of drawings (Simon & Schuster)
  • Nightcrawlers (1957), fifth anthology of drawings (Simon & Schuster)
  • Dear Dead Days (1959), compilations book
  • Black Maria (1960), sixth anthology of drawings (Simon & Schuster)
  • Drawn and Quartered (1962) re-released (Simon & Schuster)
  • The Groaning Board (1964), seventh anthology of drawings
  • The Chas Addams Mother Goose (1967) Windmill Books
  • My Crowd (1970), eighth anthology of drawings (Simon & Schuster)
  • Favorite Haunts (1976), ninth anthology of drawings (Simon & Schuster)
  • Creature Comforts, (1981), drawings
  • The World of Charles Addams, by Charles Addams (1991), posthumously compiled from works with the copyright owned by his second wife, later named Lady Barbara Cloyton (Knopf) ISBN 0-394-58822-3
  • Half - Baked Cookbook, by Charles Addams (2005), anthology of drawings (Simon & Schuster) ISBN 0-743-26775-3
  • Happily Ever After: A Collection of Cartoons to Chill the Heart of Your Loved One, by Charles Addams (2006), anthology of drawings (Simon & Schuster) ISBN 9780743267779
  • The Addams Family: An Evilution
    The Addams Family: An Evilution
    The Addams Family: An Evilution is a book about the "evilution" of The Addams Family characters created by American cartoonist Charles Addams. The book was made to celebrate The Addams Family musical that opened on Broadway in April 2010....

    (2010), about the evolution of The Addams Family
    The Addams Family
    The Addams Family is a group of fictional characters created by American cartoonist Charles Addams. As named by Charles Addams, the Addams Family characters include Gomez, Morticia, Uncle Fester, Lurch, Grandmama, Wednesday, Pugsley, and Thing....

     characters ( arranged by H. Kevin Miserocchi) ISBN 978-0-7649-5388-0

About Addams

  • Davis, Linda H., Charles Addams: A Cartoonist's Life, (2006), Random House, 382 pages

External links