Chas Addams: a cartoonist's life
"They're creepy and they're kooky," is how the catchy theme song ofThe Addams Familydescribed everyone's favorite nonconformistsMorticia, Gomez, Lurch, Uncle Fester, Grandmama, Wednesday, and Pugsley. But for all the novelty of the sitcom based on Charles Addams's groundbreakingNew Yorkercartoons, 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 amongNew Yorkerreaders 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 everyoneeven Hitchcockwanted 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 famousand some of his most privatecartoons, and the Addams whom even his closest friends didn't know. With wit, humor, poignancy, and insightenhanced by rare family photographs, classic and previously unpublished cartoons, and private drawingsLinda H. Davis paints an engaging and endearing portrait of a marvelous American original.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 legendaryNew Yorkercartoonist. 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'sLifedeserves 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 womenfamous women, smart women, witty women, garden-variety drop-dead beautiful womenbut in Linda Davis he has truly met his match." --Stacy Schiff, winner of the Pulitzer Prize forVera "
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LibraryThing ReviewUser Review - LibraryThing
This book is an example of Books That Get Set Aside For A While Because I Become Annoyed With a Person Within. Currently Addams has divorced wife two, who seems absolutely horrible. But because she continues to harass him in various ways he signs over certain rights to his work to her. She is awful, he capitulates to her whims and then is still bullied about by her - ugh. I just had to put the book aside for a bit because I like the guy, but signing away what could make him money (which he needs) to someone both awful and annoying is really frustrating to read. I'll come back and finish it, because Addams and his art has always been a favorite topic for me, and the book has been great until this point. But I am not the type to enjoy spending time with "divorce angst." I realize most folks find this the juicy real-life gossip stuff, but I would rather not read more of his making bad business decisions which Foreshadows Bad Things in the Future. Will be picking this up again when I'm more in the mood to deal with this. Some weeks later: So the above was my blurb after setting the book aside for awhile. Now that I've finished I have to add that I did think the book was wonderfully researched and gave a really clear view of what Addams was like. It was because I completely liked the man so much that I really, REALLY hated his wife - #2, Barbara Colyton, as she was known after she married the next husband after her divorce. Oddly her next marriage didn't make her any less controlling of Addams, probably because he was a continued source of money for her, and she was a greedy person. She was also one of those sort of people who surround artists and try and take credit for their work - the "well, they'd never have been anything without my help and inspiration" type of person. I might be hesitant to believe how awful she was if the book wasn't so thoroughly documented and if I didn't remember reading in multiple other articles and books before this about the difficulty with "the Addams estate" and Hollywood in issues dealing with the Addams Family (television show, cartoons, and films, repeated issues). It was never Charles Addams that was the problem - it was his representative, Colyton, that had unreasonable demands. Anyway, I should have just churned on through the parts with her in it. In fact in the future I'll probably just go right into my new mode of attack: Killing Them Off Via the Index. This is where I head to the end of the book, find the last occurrence of the person in the index, and skip ahead to read of their death. Yes, all the nice people have often died off by that too, but the horrible person's awfulness is at an end. And in this case I'm pretty sure that the family of her post-Addams husband didn't have any great love for her either. (It sounds as though she cleaned out all their family antiques, not to mention had the family estate signed over to her rather than the husbands former children. Lovely woman, huh.) So now that I've gone on and on about Colyton, let's focus on the proper person - Addams. The book is best at describing his work, what it meant to him, how he worked, and how he enjoyed it. The cartoons that aren't in the book are described such that you easily have a mental image of them - or you recognize them from having seen them in the past. The author cites interviews in print and video, and many, many conversations, which are all carefully footnoted and documented. While I really enjoyed - and felt I got to know - Addams, this is very much a "warts and all" book. It doesn't sugar coat things like how Addams was with women and his continual pursuit of them. But even with those warts, I can't help but liking Addams, and being delighted with his weird sense of humor. He was said to be charming and his dark humor that somehow wasn't morbid - and the stories in the book really back this up. I was glad that, with marriage number three plus his work and friends, it seems he finally had some time to be happy. (Grrr, yes I'm still annoyed at wife two.) As usual, some quotes. I should add here...
LibraryThing ReviewUser Review - LibraryThing
A first rate look into the life of Charles Addams (1913-1988) This book does a superb job of informing the reader of the unique, varied life of Addams, his formative years, his career, and legacy!
Arrested at the Age of Eight
Oneof the Great Comic Artists
I Am So Lucky 128