Sunday, February 15, 2015

THE MORGUE: TV's Year of the Monster, 1964

The Aug. 21, 1964, issue of Life Magazine is a neat little milestone for Monster Kids. Buried within the pages of that issue is a lengthy featured titled "TV's Year of the Monster," which focuses on the spooky new programs slated to begin in the new fall season. Keep in mind that "horror" was something relatively new to the airwaves in 1964, at least in the traditional sense. The genre had gradually morphed into science fiction during the post-war years, with kaiju, robots and aliens replacing the once-popular vampires, werewolves and witches. That began to change in 1964.

THE ADDAMS FAMILY got most of Life's attention in this issue, probably because it was a known quantity. Charles Addams' work had long been a part of the pop culture firmament (the first "Addams Family" cartoon debuted in The New Yorker in 1938), while THE MUNSTERS and BEWITCHED had yet to even air a single episode. BEWITCHED is hardly mentioned at all by Life, which is ironic given that it would last much longer in primetime than either the Munsters or Addams families.

I've transcribed the text from the Life story below, which has some interesting details about Charles Addams' involvement in the development of the series. His role was much more important than you might imagine. What isn't included in this issue is even more interesting: Numerous photos of the auditions for THE ADDAMS FAMILY sat in the Life vaults until just recently. You can see some of those images (and their mostly unidentified actors) at the bottom of this post.

Aug. 21, 1964

They've come alive, the whole creepy, crawly Charles Addams family! And what's more, so completely has television left down its bar sinister - if that is a word and if TV ever had such a thing in the first place - that Mr. Addams' ghoulish people will be but a small part of the monster population explosion at prime evening time.

Cowboys, surgeons and hillbillies have had their day. Now its the Year of the Ghouls, and the new fall season, which will burst upon us next month like a spray of lightning over Frankenstein's castle, will be strictly from beyond the grave. Only - let parents have no qualms - it will be played solely for guffaws. The Addams household will do its spooking on ABC. Like the cartoon characters whom the cast so strikingly resemble, they'll be caught in funny situations of haunted homelife, as batty as they are bat-ridden. On a somewhat blander level, ABC will also offer BEWITCHED, which has to do with a couple of glamorous witches. Not to be outghouled, CBS will counter with a monster family called THE MUNSTERS, who take part in all sorts of wholesome community activities such as the PTA, but look like rejects from the Frankenstein-Dracula assembly line.

It took two years of hard sell to talk cartoonist Charles Addams into letting TV use his macabre family, who were born in The New Yorker magazine 30 years ago. When he finally gave in, he insisted that the characters be described as "nonconformists" rather than ghouls. One trouble was that he had never given them names - and now he insisted on the right to veto any names chosen. The lifelike - or deathlike - results are shown here as Mother Morticia and her brood happily busy themselves in their nefarious pleasures.

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