Who is John Astin?
John Astin is a legendary American actor, best known for his performance as ‘Gomez Addams,’ the head of the fictional ‘The Addams Family.’ The son of a physicist, who dreamt of being a mathematician, Astin ultimately made his mark as a renowned actor on stage, on TV, and in films, also working as a voice artist in some movies. Though not for his acting, Astin received an ‘Academy Award’ nomination for his short film ‘Prelude,’ a film that he wrote, produced, and directed. He has done more than 40 films and has appeared in numerous TV series. His crazy, popped-out eyes and equally exuberant presence helped him turn into an actor beyond comparison. It is only expected that someone with such high acumen in the field should impart knowledge to the younger generation. For the past 2 decades, John Astin has taught drama at the ‘John Hopkins University,’ his alma mater.
Astin started his acting career with theater. He moved to New York, hoping for a breakthrough in his career. He had to take up menial jobs to keep himself afloat during those aspirational years. He worked as a sweeper at an ‘Off-Broadway’ theater, which staged the New York classic ‘The Threepenny Opera.’ In 1954, a couple of years after moving to New York, John Astin became part of the original cast of the show. He was called for the show’s second run in 1955, and continued playing his part till December 1961.
Astin took up work as a voice artist for cartoons and commercials on TV while pursuing his career in ‘Broadway’ and ‘Off-Broadway’ productions. In 1956, he got his big break as an understudy in Charles Loughton’s famous ‘Broadway’ production of George Bernard Shaw’s ‘Major Barbara.’ After his resounding success in ‘Broadway’ productions, Astin played the roles of ‘Francisco’ in ‘The Power and the Glory’ (1958–1959) and ‘Collins’ in ‘Tall Story’ (1959).
His over-the-top demeanor and perfect comic timing gained him a lot of attention. Soon, on the insistence of fellow actor Tony Randall, Astin stepped into Hollywood. Simultaneously starting his TV and film careers in 1960, Astin landed small but memorable parts. He appeared in single episodes on TV shows such as ‘Maverick’ (1960), ‘The Twilight Zone’ (1961), ‘77 Sunset Strip’ (1962), and ‘Ben Casey’ (1962). He also made his first silver-screen appearance in ‘The Pusher’ (1960).
Astin did not struggle much to establish his prowess in the world of comedy and got his breakthrough role in 1961, when he was cast as the hilarious social worker ‘Glad Hand’ in ‘West Side Story,’ the movie adaptation of the ‘Broadway’ musical of the same name.
During the 1960s, he appeared in ‘That Touch of Mink’ (1962), ‘Move Over Darling’ (1963), ‘The Wheeler Dealers’ (1963), ‘The Spirit Is Willing’ (1967), ‘Candy’ (1968), and ‘Viva Max!’ (1969).
Though he had his fair share of movies in his first decade in Hollywood, Astin’s real recognition came from the world of TV. He bagged his first lead role in the ‘ABC’ sitcom ‘I’m Dickens, He’s Fenster’ in 1962, alongside co-star Marty Ingles. They played two accident-prone carpenters. Though the series lasted only one season, it became a prelude to Astin’s legendary role of ‘Gomez Addams.’
Based on cartoons created by Charles Addams, the horror/black comedy ‘The Addams Family’ became one of Astin’s most memorable works. From 1964 to 1966, Astin was the patriarch of one of the oldest fictional families on TV. He reprised his role of ‘Gomez Addams’ in the 1977 TV movie ‘Halloween with the New Addams Family.’ Between 1998 and 1999, Astin voiced his character in the animated series ‘The Addams Family’ and played ‘Grandpa Addams’ in the Canadian–American reprisal ‘The New Addams Family.’
Soon after the completion of the original ‘Addams Family’ series in 1966, Astin was cast in the main role in the ‘ABC’ sitcom ‘The Pruitts of Southampton,’ which was based on the Patrick Dennis novel ‘House Party.’ He became ‘the Riddler’ in the second season of ‘Batman’ in 1967, appearing in two episodes.
Between 1967 and 1970, Astin made single-episode appearances on many TV shows, such as ‘The Wild Wild West,’ ‘The Flying Nun,’ ‘Death Valley Days,’ ‘Bonanza,’ and ‘The Odd Couple.’ In 1971 and 1972, Astin appeared in ‘Night Gallery’ thrice, each time in a new avatar.
After appearing in the second season of ‘McMillan & Wife’ (1972–1973), he was seen in two made-for-TV movies, namely, ‘Only with Married Men’ (1974) and ‘The Dream Makers’ (1975). He then had another spell of single-episode appearances in popular TV series. Astin bagged the lead role of ‘Lt. Commander Matthew Sherman’ in the World War II comedy ‘Operation Petticoat’ (1977–1978).
Some of Astin’s most notable TV projects in the 1980s were ‘The Facts of Life,’ ‘Different Strokes,’ ‘Murder, She Wrote,’ and ‘Night Court.’
He continued to appear on the big screen during the 1970s and the 1980s, with projects such as ‘Freaky Friday’ (1976), ‘Teen Wolf Too’ (1987), ‘Return of the Killer Tomatoes’ (1988), and ‘Night Life’ (1989). He voiced the lead character of ‘Dr. Putrid T. Gangreen’ in the animated series ‘Attack of the Killer Tomatoes,’ adapted from the film of the same name.
During the 1990s, Astin worked mostly as a voice artist for animated shows such as ‘Taz-Mania’ (1991), the adult animated sitcom ‘Duckman’ (1994–1997), ‘Bonkers’ (1994), ‘The Twisted Tale of Felix the Cat’ (1995), ‘Johnny Bravo’ (1997), ‘Pinky and the Brain’ (1997), and ‘The Wild Thornberrys’ (1999).
In 2001, John Astin returned to ‘Johns Hopkins’ to revive their drama course and has taught there ever since. In 2011, the theater in the Merrick Barn was renamed ‘John Astin Theatre’ to commemorate his contribution to the art of drama and his effort toward successfully revitalizing the drama course at ‘Johns Hopkins.’ Astin, who is a decade short of completing a century, hopes to make drama a major degree again at the institute.
While teaching, Astin kept appearing on TV and in movies. His latest project was the 2017 animated series ‘Justice League Action,’ which saw him contribute as a voice artist. He also appeared in the movie ‘Starship II: Rendezvous with Ramses’ in 2015.
Who is John Astin? Everything You Need to Know
Who is John Astin? Everything You Need to Know