Vic Mizzy: Composer who wrote the catchy theme tune to 'The Addams Family'

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The Independent Online

Vic Mizzy, the American composer and king of TV sitcom themes, was fond of saying: "Two finger-snaps and you live in Bel Air", a reference to the success of the infernally catchy one-minute song he wrote for the opening credits of the spoof horror series The Addams Family.

The programme aired on the ABC channel in the US between September 1964 and April 1966. The ever-inventive Mizzy made up the word "ooky" – as in: "They're creepy and they're kooky/ Mysterious and spooky/ They're altogether ooky/ the Addams Family" – and cringingly rhymed "see-em" and "scree-am" with "museum"; but his theme tune proved a lot more memorable than the instrumental introduction to The Munsters, the rival sitcom with a similarly ghoulish premise, broadcast on CBS at the same time. In Britain, The Munsters had a head start and was shown on BBC1 from 1965, while ITV added The Addams Family to its schedules the following year. But The Addams Family became the more lucrative franchise, with two successful film adaptations in the Nineties, directed by Barry Sonnenfeld and starring Raúl Juliá and Anjelica Huston in the Gomez and Morticia roles first played by John Astin and Carolyn Jones on TV.

The cartoonist Charles Addams, who had created the characters in The New Yorker, and his second wife, Barbara Barb, did well out of the arrangement, but Mizzy probably topped their earnings. Having played the suitably macabre harpsichord and overdubbed all the vocal parts on the original recording, the composer had kept all the publishing rights to the popular theme tune. He received royalties whenever the supremely hum-able Addams Family song was performed, including at US sports events. Mizzy also wrote the bright, lyrically clever, percussive theme for Green Acres, a CBS sitcom starring Eddie Albert and Eva Gabor and The Beverly Hillbillies as well as penning hit songs recorded by the likes of Doris Day, Billie Holiday, Perry Como, Dean Martin and The Mills Brothers.

Born Victor Mizzy in Brooklyn, New York in 1916, he was given a toy accordion by his parents when he was three and soon graduated to the piano and the classical music of Bach, Beethoven and Brahms. By his teens, he was infuriating piano teachers with his fondness for the popular songs of Jerome Kern, Sammy Fain and Harry Warren. In the 1930s, he teamed up with Irving Taylor and they began writing material for radio, variety and vaudeville shows, including "Your Heart Rhymes with Mine", their first published song. They managed to keep their partnership going while serving in the Navy during the Second World War and penned patriotic material like "All Out for Uncle Sam" and "America for Me" and hits such as "There's a Faraway Look in Your Eyes" and "Three Little Sisters", a song which was made famous by the Andrews Sisters.

However, Mizzy became even more successful when he began collaborating with the songwriter Mann Curtis and they composed the evergreen "My Dreams are Getting Better All the Time", "Pretty Kitty Blue Eyes" and "The Whole World is Singing My Song".

He was also in demand as a studio pianist and ad hoc arranger and, following his marriage to the singer Mary Small, who debuted many of his compositions on the radio, he developed that side of his work further, and even taught at NYU for two years. In the late Fifties, he befriended the TV executive David Levy, and wrote several scores for him, including Shirley Temple's Storybook, The Richard Boone Anthology and Kentucky Jones, before accepting an invitation to move to California. Mizzy went freelance and was commissioned to write the theme for The Addams Family.

"I sat down, I went 'buh-buh-buh-bump [snap-snap], buh-buh-buh-bump," he recalled last year. "That's why I'm living in Bel Air."

Green Acres and music cues for other shows, including the talking-horse sitcom Mr. Ed, followed. Mizzy seemed to have the knack for being in the right place at the right time. While swimming in the pool of the Beverly Hills Hotel, he literally bumped into the Universal Studios producer Stanley Shapiro, who suggested he take a meeting with head of music Joe Gershenson. This led to a raft of assignments for Universal, most notably the scores for The Night Walker (1964), the William Castle thriller starring Barbara Stanwyck, and several comedies featuring Don Knotts – of The Andy Griffith Show – including The Ghost and Mr. Chicken (1966) and The Reluctant Astronaut (1967). The versatile and prolific Mizzy also wrote themes for the sitcoms The Pruitts of Southampton – a Phyllis Diller vehicle – The Don Rickles Show and the spoof superhero series Captain Nice in the late Sixties.

The easy listening revival and the exotica craze of the mid-Nineties brought him a whole new audience and he began issuing on CD the soundtracks of such forgotten curios as The Caper of the Golden Bulls, The Perils of Pauline and The Shakiest Gun in the West as well as compiling 36 of his original film and TV scores under the title Vic Mizzy – Suites & Themes for the Percepto label.

Pierre Perrone

Victor Mizzy, composer, songwriter, pianist, singer: born New York 9 January 1916; married first Mary Small (marriage dissolved, two daughters, one deceased), second Shirley Leeds (marriage dissolved); died Los Angeles, 17 October 2009.