Carolyn Jones: Actress Was So Much More Than Morticia Addams

Carolyn Jones, 1964.
Ivan Nagy/TV Guide/courtesy Everett Collection

The famously creepy and kooky, mysterious and spooky, altogether ooky Addams Family began life in the gothic cartoons of artist Charles Addams before getting their own live-action TV series. Starring Carolyn Jones as mom Morticia, John Astin as dad Gomez, Jackie Coogan as Uncle Fester, Ted Cassidy as butler Lurch, Lisa Loring as daughter Wednesday and Ken Weatherwax as son Pugsley, the series ran from Sept. 18, 1964, to April 8, 1966. Over the course of its 64 episodes, the comedy managed to maintain the satiric tone of Charles Addams’ cartoons while also demonstrating touching family values. The series was a bit more of a cerebral alternative for viewers compared with the similarly themed Munsters that also ran from 1964-66.

THE ADDAMS FAMILY, (front row) Lisa Loring, Carolyn Jones, John Astin, Ken Weatherwax, (back row) Jackie Coogan, Blossom Rock, Ted Cassidy, 1964-66

Everett Collection

The matriarch Morticia glides witchily about in a tight-fitting black dress with a trailing fringe resembling octopus tentacles. She tends to the children with an arched eyebrow while clipping the buds off the roses. Whatever chaos is underway, Morticia is calm, with a half-smile, arms folded and floating effortlessly from room to room. No wonder the kids had their quirks, too. Lisa Loring, who played daughter Wednesday on the show, said once that Jones was a good offscreen mom, helping her break the morose spell she was required to keep on-camera by cracking her up with jokes.

THE TURNING POINT, Carolyn Jones, 1952

Everett Collection

First film performance in The Turning Point (1952)


Many years before she became the face of Morticia Addams, Carolyn Jones, like others in the 1950s, got her start in TV and on stage. As a young child, she had a great imagination and loved movies, but suffered from severe asthma. Often stuck indoors she could only follow her entertainment passion by listening to her favs Danny Kaye and Spike Jones plus reading as many fan magazines as she could. Eventually she attended her dream school, Pasadena Playhouse, and after graduating in 1950, she was scouted by Paramount, where she gained a 6-month contract until she was let go, due to downsizing. Her breakthrough movie was the Vincent Price classic House of Wax (1953) and she also had a bit role in sci-fi classic War of the Worlds that same year. Around this time she met her soon-to-be first husband, a then-struggling Aaron Spelling, and the two were married in 1953.

Carolyn Jones and husband Aaron Spelling at the premiere of SAYONARA, 1957

Everett Collection

With husband Aaron Spelling in 1957


She continued on with success in another popular sci-fi classic, Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956), and was also cast in Alfred Hitchcock’s The Man Who Knew Too Much (1956). In 1957, she starred in The Bachelor Party, which garnered her an Oscar nomination, and the following year she won a Golden Globe for her performance in Marjorie Morningstar (1958). Later the same year, she had a stellar performance in the Elvis movie King Creole (1958).

KING CREOLE, Elvis Presley, Carolyn Jones, 1958

Everett Collection

In King Creole with Elvis


Around the early 1960s, as Spelling’s career started to soar, the couple ended up divorcing. Carolyn did not ask for any alimony and the pair remained friends. In 1964, she got her most famous role as, Morticia Addams. The show went head-to-head in the ratings world with other kooky shows like The Munsters and Bewitched. The Addams Family was considered risqué TV at the time, because of the sexual chemistry between Gomez and Morticia, whose costume was most certainly an inspiration to the future horror icon Elvira, Mistress of the Dark (Cassandra Peterson). While the show only lasted two seasons, it will forever stand out in pop culture history.

Through out the early 1970s, Jones had a more difficult time finding roles, since she was typecast as Morticia. She also married her voice coach Herbert Greene, who was a well-known Broadway musical director. Leaving him in 1974 to break back into Hollywood, she eventually got some guest roles on series like Wonder Woman, The Love Boat and Fantasy Island, the later two being Aaron Spelling productions. She also had a bit role in the epic 1970s mini-series Roots.

CAPITOL, Carolyn Jones, Constance Towers, (Season 1), 1982-87

In soap opera Capital with Constance Towers


By the 1980s, she was appearing on the soap Capitol (1982), but was diagnosed with colon cancer in 1981. It was very aggressive and terminal, and she succumbed to the disease on Aug, 3 1983. A year before her death she married her final husband, then boyfriend Peter Bailey-Britton.

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