Carolyn Jones: Morticia Addams, Elvis Co-Star And Oscar Nominee
Left: Carolyn Jones with Elvis Presley in 'King Creole.' Right: Jones as Morticia Addams in 1965. Sources: IMDB; Walt Disney Television via Getty Images Photo Archives
Carolyn Jones will forever be known as Morticia Addams, the matriarch of The Addams Family. However, Jones had a long career that lasted for most her young life. Even though she left this mortal coil when she was only in her 50s, Jones appeared in numerous films and television shows that we're still talking about to this day.
Whether she was co-starring with Elvis in King Creole or Frank Sinatra in Hole in the Head, Jones brings a sly smile and charming wit to every appearance on screen. From her early beginnings at the Pasadena Playhouse to her Academy Award nominated role in The Bachelor Party and her final role in the early '80s, Carolyn Jones always managed to be kooky, spooky, and altogether ooky.
Small town girl
Born in Amarillo, Texas, in 1930, Carolyn Jones was an asthmatic child who spent most of her times indoors. When she was only four years old her father walked out on the family and left her and her mother to fend for themselves. Her biographer said of the abandonment:
There was no support from Carolyn’s father; Julius Jones is just completely out of the picture. He abandoned the family when she was very young, so she never met him, though I don’t think that ever held her back. And Chloe was unable to really hold down a job on a regular basis, so the two of them ended up living with Chloe’s mother and stepfather.
As an indoor kid Jones spent most of her days reading Hollywood fan magazines simply because she couldn't go to the movies. These magazines are exactly what pushed her to become an actress. At the age of 15 she made her way to California and and enrolled in the Pasadena Community Playhouse in spite of being three years below the acceptable age.
Carolyn Jones loved to work
With her grandfather spotting the bill for her tuition at the Playhouse, Jones excelled onstage and quickly found work onscreen in films like Turning Point in 1952, and House of Wax in 1953 where she was turned into a statue of Joan of Arc by Vincent Price. That same year she married Aaron Spelling, years before he was the scion of primetime television.
Jones spent the next six years appearing in more than 25 films, including King Creole with Elvis Presley and A Hole in the Head with Frank Sinatra. Aside from working with some of the famous performers of all time, Jones also worked her magic on television in shows like Wagon Train and Burke's Law for which she earned a Golden Globe nomination. In 1957, she earned her sole Academy Award nomination for The Bachelor Party.
Hollywood required her to change up her look
When most people think of Carolyn Jones they think of her long black locks, but long before she was Morticia Addams she worried that her jet black hair was keeping her from getting roles. Jones did what many actresses still do to this day - she bleached her hair and got a nose job. It would be great if we could say that she earned more roles without making these superficial changes, but Jones knew that those superficial changes would help producers see her in a new light. In 1953, she told the Abilene Reporter News:
Two things are of equal importance. working hard on your talent and your grooming, and being prepared physically and career-wise. Your appearance means so much in making a first impression, but you have to be able to deliver once the opportunity is presented. This applies to a lot of other things as well as being an actress. Making my hair blond, for example. It was an indefinite color and as soon as I became a definite blond, I was signed to a term contract at Paramount. My experience is that you get more attention as a blond, and this gives you a confidence and a chain of constructive reactions is begun.
Strange, deranged, the Addams Family
By 1964, film roles had dried up for Jones so she jumped at the chance to star in The Addams Family. She covered up her bleached blond hair with a long black wig and created one of the most iconic television characters of the 20th century. The role brought Jones into the homes across the country and brought her millions of fans who are still loyal to her to this day. When asked why she agreed to appear in a horror sitcom, Jones revealed that a lot of thought went into the decision. She explained:
I’m doing the series because I like to work. There aren’t enough movies being made anymore and I’m tired of sitting around doing nothing. I was a little nervous about it at first, but not anymore. Personally, comedy is a lot harder to play than drama, but it’s a wonderful change of pace for me.
Carolyn Jones' little black book
After The Addams Family came to an end in 1966, Jones continued to make brief appearances on television. She popped up in Batman, The Mod Squad, and even Love, American Style, but she was mostly focused on her novel Twice Upon a Time. What began as a chance to write about her sex life turned into a kind of sly chance to discuss the people she'd been with while sort of kind of naming names. Jones says that she wasn't getting a lot of offers at the time, so she put her energy into the therapeutic act of writing a somewhat tell-all novel. Unfortunately, the book wasn't a huge hit with readers or her friends. She told the Los Angeles Times:
Several people stopped talking to me because of it. Some are insulted, because they’re not in the book and some because they are. And the funny thing is that one person was very upset because she wasn’t in the book, but she was. She just didn’t recognize herself. The novel started because I was sick of sex novels by inhibited women who didn’t know what they were talking about. Books you couldn’t believe, because they were so utterly dishonest. I decided to show them up, but the deeper I got into my put-on, the deeper I got into myself, my own problems. So the book turned out not to be a joke, but the most serious project I’ve ever attempted.
She was in pain during her final role
Even when things were going slow, Jones always found work. Throughout the '70s she was a mainstay on shows like Kolchak: The Night Stalker and Quincy, M.E. Sadly, her final role came in 1981 when she starred as the power hungry Myrna Clegg on the daytime soap opera Capitol. By the time Jones was cast in the role she was already diagnosed with colon cancer. She had to perform many of her scenes in a wheelchair due to the immense pain that she was under. The cancer spread to her liver and stomach, and in 1983 she fell into a coma and passed away at the age of 53.
Tags: Elvis Presley | Ladies | The Addams Family | Carolyn Jones
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