Morticia A. Addams (née Frump) is the fictional matriarch of “The Addams Family“, created by cartoonist Charles Addams and based on his first wife Barbara (who became the second wife of John Hersey, a colleague at The New Yorker and the author of Hiroshima).
Morticia is the wife of Gomez Addams and mother of Wednesday Addams, Pugsley Addams and Pubert Addams. The character originated in the Charles Addams cartoons for The New Yorker magazine in the 1930s. In the cartoons, none of the family members had names. When the characters were adapted to the 1964 television series, Charles Addams gave her the name “Morticia“, implying “death” (derived from “mors“, genitive “mortis“, the Latin word for “death“, and perhaps also inspired by “mortician“). Morticia’s maiden name is “Frump” and she has an older sister named Ophelia (also played by Carolyn Jones). In the television series, her mother (Uncle Fester’s sister) was named Hester Frump (played by Margaret Hamilton). Her mother-in-law is Grandmama Addams. In the 1990s Addams Family films, Grandmama is actually Morticia’s mother, not Gomez’s.
The real head of the family … low-voiced, incisive and subtle, smiles are rare…ruined beauty … contemptuous and original and with fierce family loyalty … even in disposition, muted, witty, sometimes deadly … given to low-keyed rhapsodies about her garden of deadly nightshade, henbane and dwarf’s hair …
— Charles Addams
Morticia is described as a witch; she is slim, with extremely pale skin and long flowing straight black hair. In one episode she is seen wearing a black pointed hat. She commonly wears black gothic dresses to match her hair, tightly form fitting, with a hobble skirt, with fringe of thick octopus-like cloth “tentacles” at the lower hem. According to Wednesday, Morticia applies baking powder to her face instead of actual makeup. In each episode, she easily allures her husband Gomez by speaking French (or any other foreign language for that matter). Morticia is musically inclined, and is often seen freely strumming a Japanese shamisen. She frequently enjoys cutting the buds off of roses which she discards (keeping only the stems), likes cutting out paper dolls with three heads and making sweaters with three arms, collecting the mail from the hand-in-the-box Thing, and cooking unusual concoctions for her husband; including eye of newt. She also has a carnivorous plant, an African Strangler named Cleopatra, which she enjoys feeding. Morticia also has an affinity for making certain that her family upholds the traditional Addams way, and is usually the most taken aback when one of the clan goes astray and does something “pleasant.”
Morticia’s family tree can be traced back to Salem, Massachusetts, and witchcraft is also implied at times in the television series. For example, Morticia likes to “smoke,” an activity that does not involve cigarettes or cigars (like her husband frequently enjoys), but smoke instead emanates from below her.
In 2009, she was included in Yahoo!’s Top 10 TV Moms from Six Decades of Television for the time period 1964–1966. AOL named her one of the 100 Most Memorable Female TV Characters.
In other media
Morticia was portrayed by Carolyn Jones in the television series of the 1960s and by Anjelica Huston in The Addams Family (1991) and its sequel Addams Family Values (1993). Huston’s portrayal of Morticia was always illuminated by a ghostly glow around the eyes, which became most noticeable when she was standing or lying in dim light. Daryl Hannah played Morticia in the 1998 film Addams Family Reunion. Canadian actress Ellie Harvie played Morticia in the revival series, The New Addams Family. In the first animated series made in 1973, Morticia was voiced by Janet Waldo. Jones also voiced this character in an episode of The New Scooby-Doo Movies which featured the family. In the 1992 animated series, she was voiced by Nancy Linari. In the 2010 Broadway musical, Morticia was portrayed by Bebe Neuwirth. Brooke Shields replaced her in the role of Morticia on June 28, 2011.
Morticia was also the inspiration for Walt Disney’s duck-witch Magica De Spell, first designed and drawn by Carl Barks.