American composer Vic Mizzy, best known for his absolutely note perfect theme songs for such iconic 1960’s television shows as The Addams Family and Green Acres, died of heart failure this past weekend at his home in Bel-Air. He was 93.
Mizzy’s brilliance has been indelibly etched in television history with his ability to accentuate the quirkiness of those shows with his own offbeat, clever sensibility. "They're creepy and they're kooky, mysterious and spooky, they're altogether ooky: the Addams family."
Born in Brooklyn on Jan. 9, 1916, Mizzy’s first instrument was a toy accordion, later he learned to play a real one along with the piano. When he was 14, he met fellow Brooklyn native Irving Taylor, the two began a successful writing partnership that continued while Mizzy attended New York University and through the Second World War when both Mizzy and Taylor served in the Navy. They co-wrote a number of hits, including "Three Little Sisters," There's a Faraway Look in Your Eye," and "Pretty Kitty Blue Eyes," and "Take It Easy." After the war, with another songwriting partner, Mann Curtis, Mizzy wrote more hits like "My Dreams Are Getting Better All the Time," "The Whole World Is Singing My Song," "Choo'n Gum" and "The Jones Boy." His songs were recorded by celebrated pop vocalists like the Andrews Sisters, the Mills Brothers, Doris Day, Dean Martin, Perry Como and Billie Holiday.
However, he found his greatest success in his television work. Mizzy first wrote themes for the Shirley Temple Storybook, “The Enchanted Melody,” and The Richard Boone Show, but it was his ghoulishly fun theme song for the television classic The Addams Family that won him lasting fame. Based on Charles Addams' macabre New Yorker cartoons, it starred John Astin as the twistedly dapper Gomez Addams and Carolyn Jones as his sexy and devastatingly beautiful wife Morticia Addams. Mizzy chose to play a harpsichord to help conjure up the bizarrely unconventional air; he also punctuated the rhythm with some cool proto-beatnik finger-snapping which helped to define the peculiar humor of the show. When Filmways, the production company, refused to pay for vocalists, Mizzy simply overdubbed himself singing and looped in actor Ted Cassidy, who portrayed the butler Lurch, for the "neat, sweet, petite" section. Mizzy’s underscores were as comical as his themes; he had a knack for enhancing the lunacy of the characters and the situations with just the right instrumentation, just the right melody.
The following year Mizzy composed the title song for Green Acres, the 1965-71 comedy starring Eddie Albert and Eva Gabor. For the Green Acres theme, Mizzy used the unique combination of a bass harmonica and a little fuzz laden guitar and an electric bass clarinet to create the loopy hoedown vibe. He also flawlessly explained the entire back story in the lyrics -- definitely a lost art! -- of the wealthy Oliver and Lisa Douglas chucking away their New York penthouse lifestyle so that Oliver could live out his fresh air dreams and be a farmer. One of Mizzy’s most brilliant moves, financially speaking, was retaining the publishing rights to Green Acres and The Addams Family themes. Not only have they both been in constant reruns for over four decades, but ownership enabled him to license them for use in commercials (like the recent M&Ms ads that featured the Addams Family theme). As he always joked, a couple of finger snaps paid for a real good life in Bel-Air.