“They’re creepy and they’re kooky,” is how the catchy theme song of The Addams Family described everyone’s favorite nonconformists–Morticia, Gomez, Lurch, Uncle Fester, Grandmama, Wednesday, and Pugsley. But for all the novelty of the sitcom based on Charles Addams’s groundbreaking New Yorker cartoons, Hollywood’s Addams family paled beside the cartoonist’s. “Not half as evil as my original characters,” sighed Addams.
Though the haunted-household cartoons developed a following among New Yorker readers long before the 1960s sitcom, and the Addams and their seedy Victorian mansion soon became recognizable types, the artist with the well-known signature “Chas Addams” remained an enigma. Called “the Bela Lugosi of the cartoonists,” Addams was the cartoonist everyone–even Hitchcock–wanted to meet. He was bedeviled by rumors. People claimed that he slept in a coffin, collected severed fingers sent by fans, and suffered bouts of madness that sent him to the insane asylum.
The true Addams was even more fabulous than the wildest stories and cartoons. Here was a sunny, funny urbane man, “a normal American boy,” as he called himself, with a dog who hated children and a taste for crossbows. While producing a unique body of work featuring lovingly drawn homicidal spouses, demonic children, genteel monsters, and an everyday world crosshatched with magic, Addams raced classic sports cars, juggled beautiful women (Joan Fontaine, Jackie Kennedy, and Greta Garbo, to name a few), and charmed everyone. But though his pursuits suggest lighthearted romantic comedy, Addams’s life had its sinister side. Far darker than anything Addams created with a brush was his relationship with a dangerous woman who forever changed his life.
In this first biography of the great cartoonist, written with exclusive access to Addams’s intimates and his private papers, we finally meet the man behind the famed cartoons and circling rumors. Here is his surprising childhood in New Jersey, the cartoon that offended the Nazis, the friend whose early death Addams long mourned. Here are his wives, the stories behind his most famous–and some of his most private–cartoons, and the Addams whom even his closest friends didn’t know.
With wit, humor, poignancy, and insight–enhanced by rare family photographs, classic and previously unpublished cartoons, and private drawings–Linda H. Davis paints an engaging and endearing portrait of a marvelous American original.
One of America’s most gifted biographers, Linda Davis has given us an engrossing, unforgettable portrait of the legendary New Yorker cartoonist. In Davis’s empathetic narrative and in accompanying cartoons, photographs, and drawings, the great artist lives again in all his eccentric brilliance,
ghoulish sense of humor, fecund love life, and warm and gentle humanity. Beautifully written and exhaustively researched, Chas Addams: A Cartoonist’s Life deserves to win every literary prize there is for best biography.--Stephen B. Oates, Paul Murray Kendall Professor of Biography and Professor History Emeritus, The University of Massachusetts at Amherst
“If you don’t appreciate martinis with eyeballs in them, this is not the book for you. For the rest of us here is an irresistible riot of a read, an exhilarating expertly mixed cocktail of words and images. Charles Addams’s life was crowded with women–famous women, smart women, witty women, garden-variety drop-dead beautiful women–but in Linda Davis he has truly met his match.” --Stacy Schiff, winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Vera
“Seldom have we found as satisfying a fit of subject and author as this. Linda Davis has distilled years of research, travel and interviews into a rollicking and fascinating review of Addams’s astonishing life as artist, playboy and–from time to time–husband. We can all be grateful that Addams and Davis finally found one another.”--Harrison Kinney,
author of James Thurber: His Life and Times