The Death of Carolyn Jones and the Cast of The Addams Family

Carolyn Jones
April 23, 1930 – August 3, 1983
“Black is such a happy color.”

We knew her best as MorticiaAddams on the 60’s TV show The AddamsFamily. Her role in the Vincent Price 3-D House of Wax is worthmentioning as well. She was also cast as a “ruthless, filthy rich, oldbroad” (her words, not mine) on the show Capitol, but had todrop out after the first season, because of her illness.

Carolyn Jones was bornand raised in Amarillo, Texas, but had dreamt of going to Hollywood sincechildhood. She excelled in speech and dramatics in high school, but she felt outof place in the Texas Panhandle. She graduated at age 17 and fakedappendicitis to get out of graduation ceremonies. Her step-grandfather paid forher education at the Pasadena Playhouse, although she often claimed to havefinanced it herself with a stint as a radio disc jockey. Soon after graduation,she married fellow Pasadena graduate, Don Donaldson, but the couple separatedweeks later. Despite her training as an actress, Carolyn couldn’t find work orrepresentation. By the time their divorce was final, Carolyn had endured painfulplastic surgery, a nose job, and soon after found an agent, offers, and severalmen who suddenly wanted to date her.

Carolyn’s secondhusband was Aaron Spelling who was then a struggling actor, but she threatenedto leave him if he didn’t give up acting and pursue what he truly loved,writing. As Aaron became more successful, Carolyn saw her own careerslowly decline. The couple separated in 1964, the year Carolyn, at Aaron’surging, took the role of Morticia in The Addams Family. Despite theirsplit, Aaron was grateful for Carolyn’s help during their lean years, and herepaid her with career advice and job offers.

In 2013, new colorphotographs of the Addams Family set surfaced.  These were takenby photographer, Richard Fish.  

After The AddamsFamily ended, Carolyn grew dissatisfied with the direction of her career.

Her third marriage wasto Broadway producer, Herb Greene, whom her friends blamed when she decided toleave Hollywood and move to Palm Springs. In her boredom and resentment, Carolynwrote a novel, Twice Upon a Time, a scathing indictment of the filmindustry. With Greene, she authored another book, but writing was not herpassion. She missed acting and wanted to return to Hollywood. By then TheAddams Family had been off the air for a decade, and she had to takewhatever roles came along. Her first return to the silver screen was a lowbudget thriller, Eaten Alive, which co-starred Robert Englund of FreddyKrueger fame. Carolyn left Herb Greene in 1977.

Carolyn was living in this sweet bungalow in WestHollywood, California.

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Carolyn had been diagnosed with colon cancer inFebruary of 1981. She hadvomited blood, and when doctors did tests, they discovered that cancer hadravaged her colon and spread to her liver. Surgeons removed two thirds of hercolon, and Carolyn continued on, the best she could. She told friends that shewas having treatments for ulcers.

In the meantime, Carolyn quietly went through treatment. She worked duringthe day, and went to the hospital for chemo at night. No one knew. She kept herillness a complete secret.

It seemed that the cancer had gone into remission, but in late 1982 – itreturned and spread like, well, cancer. Doctors retaliated with massiveinjections of drugs, to no avail.

Seeing that the end was near, in October 1982 – Carolyn wed herboyfriend, actor Peter Bailey-Britton. She wore a lace and ribbon cap to hidethe fact that she lost her hair to chemo. The wedding was attended by JohnAstin, Richard Egan, JimBackus, June Allyson, Sally Struthers and Red Buttons.

The very next month, Carolyn, completely ravaged by the disease, fell into acoma in her home. She died there on August 3, 1983, with Alicia Buttons (Red’swife) at herside. She was 53.

Carolyn was cremated the very next day. There was a private funeral.  John Astin gave the eulogy and attendeesincluded Carolyn’s family, June Allyson.  Aaron Spelling didn’t show, onthe advice of his wife, Candy.

Carolyn was inurned with her mother in Melrose Abbey Memorial Park.  Sherequested that her urn be placed upon her mother’s casket, above her mother’sheart.

Trivia:  Carolyn donated her Morticia wigto the Academy of Mother Picture Arts and Sciences, never to be seen again I’msure.

Trivia:  Carolyn underwent a hysterectomy at Cedars-Sinai at the very sametime Lenny Bruce was in the hospital recuperating from a fall.  Brucetaught Carolyn new curse words.  I love new curse words.

Trivia Announcmeent:  I think this isalmost the greatest thing I have ever read:

Carolyn threw a Halloween party/engagement tocelebrate her relationship with Budd Moss.  

“The party, held in the backyard of herBeverly Hills home, was decorated with Morticia in mind.  “Shearranged with the producers of The Addams Family to bring a lot of sets thatthey were able to move and put out around her swimming pool,” recallsBudd.  “and many people from the studio got dressed up as thecharacters from the show… I am almost positive that Carolyn did wear herMorticia outfit.”

A two-headed stuffed tortoise glided in thefrothy waters of a swimming pool filled with dry ice.  Amide Addamsesqueprops like a guillotine and a mummy’s case, guests danced the watusi and thefrug.  Among those in attendance were Lana Turner, Milton Berle, DannyThomas, Jim Nabors, David Janssen, and Rod Taylor.  A special guest wasCharles Addams, someone whom Carolyn’s Hollywood friends met for the first time.

Updated text information from Jones’ biographer,James Pylant.

The Addams Family cast

John Astin

John Astin played Gomez Addams. He’s been pretty much typecast (as all thegood ones are) as Gomez, and pretty much lives up to it. I’ve seen him around atautograph shows, and in theatre productions here and there. Imet him once, no comments on the picture.

  Faggin’ hard, as usual. Me, nothim. Keep in mind, it was 1992.

Jackie Coogan

  

Jackie Coogan played Uncle Fester. His daughter once said that it was theonly character part he ever really loved. 
That’s pretty all right, eh? He wasonce married to Betty Grable.

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From Findadeath.com friend, Kelly:  HelloScott – I just discovered your website two weeks ago, and am totallyaddicted.  Keep up the great work!  Here is a linkto a picture that I found to satisfy my curiosity about the Uncle Fester/Pin-UpQueen marriage.

Findadeath.com friend, Joe Tanner, sent me this veryinteresting tidbit.  Check it out!  “It was in 1942, in Burma where Jackie was arrested at a cathouse. All military personal were ordered to stay out of these homes off ill repute. My father was an MP and was called to a scene that had many service men at the site. One of these men was Jackie Coogan. He wasalready known from his films, and my father was one of the men who arrested him. Jackie was given some time to serve and according to my Mom’s version (of what she remembers my father telling her) was that Jackie was demoted a couple of notches in rank.”

How really interesting, Joe.  Thank you for sendingthat!

In March of 1984, Jackie was visiting his daughter, Leslie, in Malibu, when hesuffered a heart attack. At noon on March 1, 1984 – he was admittedto the Santa Monica Hospital, and he died there at 1:37 in the afternoon. He hadbeen suffering from heart disease and hypertension for quite a while. He was 69years old.

His funeral was held in the mausoleum of  Holy Cross cemetery. Findadeath.com friend, BobSiler, attended the event, and told me that John Astin read the eulogy, going onabout his friendship with Jackie, and that the cast of the show saw him as theirown uncle.  Others in attendance were Don Stroud , Hank Worden, and DeadEnd Kids, Huntz Hall (who was passing out autographs. Tacky.) andGabe Holzer who snapped thisfantastic picture of his casket

Bob also told me that it was opencasket.  Bob remembers, “Now, when they opened the coffin lid, I turned to Greg and said, “They should have had a light bulb in his mouth”.
Don Stroud, who was next to us, looked at us and kind of smiled. Yeah, he thought it was funny.” Thanks a bazillion, Bob.

Thanks again to Findadeath.com friend, Steve Goldstein, ofwww.beneathlosangeles.com for his link.  Check out hispage.  Great stuff there.

UPDATE December 2004, fromFindadeath friend, Mark:

Scott, Am enjoying your website – very interesting.  Here’s some Jackie Coogantrivia.  In the early 1930’s Jackie Coogan was a student at Santa ClaraUniversity.  His frat brother and friend was the scion of a San Josemerchant family that owned a local dept. store.  In 1933, two drifterskidnapped the young man (Brooke Hart) for ransom. His body was later found inthe shallows of San Francisco Bay near the town of Newark.  The twodrifters, John Thurmond and ______ Holmes were being held in the local countyjail.  Upon the discovery of Hart’s body, the town folk went nuts, stormedthe jail, knocked down the doors with battering rams, and proceeded to hang thetwo kidnappers from a tree in nearby St. James Park.  How does JackieCoogan fit into this story?  He reputedly coiled the rope that was used tohang the two men. Eye witnesses placed Coogan at the scene of the crime. The lynching was the last public hanging in California and was the subject of abook in early 1980’s by a now-retired San Jose Mercury-News reporter named HarryFarrell.  The book was titled “Swift Justice” and is available onamazon.com or at many public libraries.

Thanks, Mark!

This just in, February2005, from Findadeath friend, Michael:

Here’s a little trivia that not everyone knows regarding Jackie Coogan.  A federal law (The Coogan Law) was named after him.

The Coogan Law was enacted in 1939, to assure that child actors receive a portion of their earnings when they reach majority age. 

Coogan had filed suit against his parents to recover the $4 million fortune he had made as a popular child star. 

Unfortunately for Coogan – and for hundreds of other child actors, a minor’s earnings were legally the property of the parents or guardians. As a result, Coogan entered adulthood penniless, even though he had earned millions.  

Also, current actor Keith Coogan is his grandson.

Thanks, Michael!

Also February 2005, from Findadeath friend Matt:

Scott,As you probably know, Jackie starred in the 1921 six reel classic, “The Kid”, with Charlie Chaplin. Chaplin had tested Coogan in a movie (A Day’s Pleasure) two years prior to make sure he could handle the strain of shooting and re-shooting scenes. He did, and the rest is history. If you’ve ever seen Jackie in “The Kid” you’ll no doubt remember his heart wrenching scenes where he is separated from Chaplin, and sobs his heart out. 

Anyway, cut to 1972, when Chaplin was brought back to the US for an honorary Oscar. This is after years of living in seclusion after being in deported from the US essentially by J. Edgar Hoover. Well, who should meet the 83 year old actor at the airport, but Jackie Coogan. The two men reportedly broke down crying, and Chaplin replied, “There is no else in the world I would rather see than you.”

Thanks, Matt!

Blossom Rock

Blossom Rock played Grandmama. In 1967, Blossom suffered a massive stroke,sold her home and moved into the MotionPicture Country Home. 

Thanks tons to Steve Goldstein for thatphotograph. 

A lot of people don’t know that she was the older sister of JeanetteMacDonald.  Thanks LP.  Blossom missed the 1977 reunion movie, but she watched it ontelevision. (Almost got away with missing it. Poor her. Must have been agony.)She died in the home on January 14th, 1978. She was 82.

The cronies at Forest Lawn Glendale buried her.

Ted Cassidy

Ted Cassidy played Lurch, and “Thing” if you can believe it. Tedlived in Woodland Hills on a street called DeLa Luz. 

His house was located at21858.

Ted was beefcake.

and he had a freakin’ song.