See the people who nearly played the original Addams Family

Probably. Some of them still have not been identified! Do you recognize any of them?

Images: The Everett Collection

When The Addams Family premiered in 1964, the characters had been around for more than a quarter-century. Charles Addams had been drawing his macabre comics since 1968. But the sitcom introduced one crucial element Addams had avoided — first names.

That's right, until the television show, the Addams family members did not have names!

Thanks to the TV show, we now know them as Gomez, Morticia, Wednesday, Pugsley, Fester, etc. 

Gomez was almost named "Repelli." Fortunately, actor John Astin opted for "Gomez" instead.

Speaking of "almost" — the producers considered several actors in each role. Well, they not only considered them, but they also screen-tested them alongside Astin. LIFE Magazine was there to capture the audition process. 

The photographer captured all of the potential Morticias and Lurches in black-and-white pictures.

Take a look at all the behind-the-scenes photographs here.

There's just one problem — nobody bothered to record all their names! 

Well, the good news is that many of the faces are familiar, and classic television sleuths have been sussing out who's who for years. Here's who we probably think everyone is.


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1. Jan Harrison

Harrison is likely the actress sitting on the sofa with Astin as Morticia. She is best remembered as the most frequent female guest star on Sea Hunt with Lloyd Bridges. She was also married (briefly) to racing legend Carroll Shelby, but the two split a couple years before this photo shoot.

2. Paul Wexler

Wexler is a dead-ringer for James Cromwell, albeit a generation older. With his towering stature (6' 6") and deep voice, he was an apt option for the lumbering Lurch. He also had roots in horror, notably as the zombie in 1959's The Four Skulls of Jonathan Drake.

3. John Dierkes

With his craggy, grizzled face, Dierkes would have cut a much different figure as the manservant Lurch. His resume largely consisted of Westerns and sci-fi fare, in everything from The Oregon Trail to Abbott and Costello Meet Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. With that strong jaw, he could have made a great Poopdeck Pappy, Popeye's dad.

4. Josip Elic

Let's finish the trio of would-be Lurches with Elic, a character actor with a long list of credits that include the Twilight Zone episode "The Obsolete Man" (seen here) and One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest. He made for a more comical-looking Lurch.

5. Stanley Adams

Hey, at least they looked at someone named Adams for the Addams! This actor is most widely recognized as Cyrano Jones in Star Trek, the trader in "The Trouble with Tribbles." You might not recognize him without his hair, under that pancake makeup, as Uncle Fester.

6. Tracy Stratford

Now we come to Wednesday — well, the Wednesdays. The one on the far right is Tracy Stratford, the little girl with the "Living Doll" in The Twilight Zone, seen here. She was also the voice of Lucy in A Charlie Brown Christmas!

7. Jimmy Garrett

Outside of Astin, Garrett was perhaps the most experienced sitcom actor in the pool of candidates, oddly. He had previously played the son of Lucy, Jerry Carmichael, on The Lucy Show. That's probably him on the left in this quartet of potential Pugsleys.

8. Eileen O'Neill

We feel pretty confident about the identities of these candidates. The Morticias remain perhaps the most perplexing. We agree with others in thinking that the one on the far right here is O'Neill, who would turn up as Violet on Bewitched. She had also been in Burke's Law.

9. Joan Huntington

Most of the attention and trial-and-error was paid to Morticia, obviously, as she would truly be the star of the show. Huntington, seen here as a villain on The Wild Wild West, was seemingly one of the Morticia try-outs.

As for the other Morticias? Well, your guesses are as good as ours. Debra Paget and Charlene Holt are names bandied about. Tell us what you think in the comments!

 
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scp 1 day ago
John Dierkes also played Dr. Chapman in The Thing From Another World.

CraigGustafson 4 days ago
You missed Maurice Gosfield (Private Doberman on "The Phil Silvers Show") who auditioned for Uncle Fester.
F5Twitster 4 days ago
"Hey, at least they looked at someone named Adams for the Addams!"

You mean someone named Adams for the AddamsES!
Peter 4 days ago
You have to wonder why the Life article didn't Identify these people.
audras 4 days ago
One of the Morticia wanna-bes was Julie Newmar, who was Catwoman on some of the Batman shows. I recognized her face, I'm sure, sitting with John Astin on a couch (I think) and in another close-up.
Peter audras 4 days ago
I don't see Julie in any of those pictures.
texasluva 4 days ago
Isn't something that hundreds of TV shows, movies and even commercials that someone else could have played those very parts. You can read the movie trivia and find out all kinds of things about the actors, directors and such including those on the short list of possible other cast members. Along with stories of spats between not only the cast but directors and others. One can only wonder, what if?
vinman63 texasluva 4 days ago
Like Jerry Van Dyke could have been Gilligan.
Deb 4 days ago
I think that first Morticia on the far left (in the photo linked with Eileen O'Neil) is Patricia Blair.
JeffPaul76 4 days ago
I think Jan Harrison and Joan Huntington are the 2 best looking (especially Jan Harrison,) of the 3 possible Morticias' that they could've gone with if they didn't choose Carolyn Jones.
Dave 4 days ago
Is Eileen O'Neill related to actress Jennifer O'Neill? The resemblance is uncanny.
UTZAAKE Dave 4 days ago
Apparently not. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jennifer_O%27Neill
Dave 4 days ago
Josip Elic also played in SANTA CLAUS CONQUERS THE MARTIANS as the Martian Shim. I actually met him a couple of years ago and he signed my SCCTM comic book.
Also, Paul wexler played a Lurch type character in THE BOWERY BOYS MEET THE MONSTERS.
Mare 4 days ago
Thank goodness they chose the perfect cast!!!
Wiseguy Mare 16 hours ago
You think they're perfect because those are the actors you've seen all this time. If they had chosen different actors, you would have been used to those actors and would think they were perfect. You would have never seen the actual cast in those roles.
stephaniestavr5 Wiseguy 9 hours ago
That's not true. I have seen movies and tv shows and wondered why were they cast? Why couldn't they haver gotten someone else? For the simple, obvious reason, they weren't good in their parts, or they were miscast. Some of the times I've thought this, I would think why didn't they cast so and so, that would've been a better choice. Then I catch myself and think, what do I know, I'm not a casting person.
justjeff 5 days ago
I wish many women had the looks and glamour that Jan Harrison did "back in the day" in that publicity shot... she was drop-dead gorgeous!

John Dierkes looks [to me] like an aged Jed Clampett (sans moustache)...

Josip Elic [in that still from the Twilight Zone] bears a slight resemblance to a young Jamie Farr (think of the "Dick Van Dyke" episodes with Farr as the coffee-and-snack vendor)...


..and strangely enough, Stanley Adams (as Fester) reminds me of a heavier, and [perhaps] creepier Otto Preminger...

rayma 5 days ago
I can't see any body else playing the Admaes Family. But those how played it
Mike 5 days ago
First things first:
The guy in the makeup chair getting turned into Uncle Fester was Maurice Gosfield, best-known as Doberman on Phil Silvers's Bilko show.
The story goes that when Gosfield showed up on set in the full Fester getup, the hot lights got to him and he passed out (he died not long after).
You'll note from the picture that Gosfield has a cap glued onto his head; Jackie Coogan was naturally bald, which likely won him the part.
LoveMETV22 5 days ago
Ok Not story related. But if they can put a "MeTV music SURVEY Share your thoughts TAKE SURVEY" as seen in the sidebar. Why not put a MeTV program SURVEY Share your thoughts TAKE SURVEY as well.
Moody 5 days ago
"When The Addams Family premiered in 1964, the characters had been around for more than a quarter-century. Charles Addams had been drawing his macabre comics since 1968."

1968? I do believe they meant 1938. It would have been hard for them to base a tv show on characters that hadn't been invented yet.

These behind the scenes photographs are interesting though. Some of the actors who auditioned might have done just as well as the finalists. We will never know. But, It's hard to imagine anyone else being Lurch other than Ted Cassidy or someone else doing Uncle Festus besides Jackie Coogan. Both characters crack me up everytime I watch.
JeffPaul76 Moody 4 days ago
Festus was on Gunsmoke, NOT The ADDAMS FAMILY!!
Moody JeffPaul76 4 days ago
Oops, I didn't catch that! I meant Fester. Although, I think Festus might have been a good addition to The Addams Family. Thanks!
texasluva Moody 4 days ago
It's good that you fessed up about Festus not being Fester
LoveMETV22 5 days ago
Good article. Liked all the behind the scene pictures. Wonder what METV will do after they show the 2 seasons it ran. will be interesting to see.
Like every other show that METV {and other retro stations do,} continue to air them ad nauseum!
Svengoolie could air the movies. I know he doesn't air movies that "new" {The ones he airs are of course from the '50's-'70's,}
DethBiz 5 days ago
I think Celeste Yarnall would have made a good Morticia based on her vampire character in the movie The Velvet Vampire.
Are you basing your decision on her being a good Morticia because you have seen the movie and thought she would? Or the casting people having seen her and thinking so? Because if that's what you're saying, that never would have happened. VV was released in 1971. so they never could have made their minds up about her. based on the VV character.
I know the Velvet Vampire came later, but if she pulled it off in that movie then I am sure she could have done it years earlier in a similar type of role.
Wiseguy DethBiz 16 hours ago
What about Celeste Yarnall's appearance on Star Trek ("The Apple")?
DethBiz 5 days ago
John Dierkes kind of played a Lurch like character in Abbott & Costello Meet Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde as Batley.
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