Who played Uncle Fester in the original 1964-66 Addams Family TV series?
In the iconic ‘Addams Family’ TV series which ran for two seasons (1964-66), Jackie Coogan played Uncle Fester, a seeming human dynamo.
John Leslie (Jackie) Coogan (1914-1984) began his career as a child actor in the 1921 silent film, ‘The Kid’ alongside movie icon Charlie Chaplin. He later starred in ‘Tom Sawyer’ and in ‘Huckleberry Finn’.
When his father died in 1935, his mother married Arthur Bernstein, Jackie's business manager. The Bernsteins squandered much of Jackie's earnings, prompting him to sue them for the approximately $4 million he had earned. Sadly, under California law he had no rights to the money, and when he was awarded only $126,000, there was such a public uproar the California Legislature passed the Child Actors Bill, also known as the Coogan Act, which would set up a trust fund for any child actor and protect his earnings.
After serving in the army during World War II, he struggled to revive his film career playing in B-movies and other bit parts.
Then, along came television!
By the 1960s he would be in two completely different television comedy series. The first one was McKeever and the Colonel (1962), where he played Sgt. Barnes in a military school from 1962 to 1963. The second series was the classic ‘The Addams Family’ (1964), where he played Uncle Fester from 1964 to 1966. After that, he continued to make appearances on television shows and a handful of movies.
Jackie Coogan died of a heart attack in 1984.