There’s a new Addams Family film incoming – but not one inspired by a former high-up in the US government.
Even those of us not in America knew in the 1990s of Dan Quayle, the Vice President when the first George Bush was in the Oval Office. Quayle became notable for an assortment of heavily-reported gaffes that frequently made a fair few headlines. But he also has a slightly different place in history: he was also in-part responsible for the naming of The Addams Family sequel.
The Addams Family itself had had a troubled production, as this podcast episode explores. But it proved a good hit for Paramount Pictures, and a follow-up was quickly ordered.
As such, Paul Rudnick got to work on a screenplay for the film, and he was at least in part inspired by a speech that Quayle. Specifically, a speech that Quayle made when he was Vice President to the Republic National Convention in 1992.
You might remember it. He criticised at the time the US TV show Murphy Brown for including a character who became a single mother by choice. His exact words were “it doesn’t help matters when primetime TV has Murphy Brown, a character who supposedly epitomises today’s intelligent, highly paid professional woman, mocking the importance of fathers by bearing a child alone and calling it just another lifestyle choice. I know it’s not fashionable to talk about moral values, but we need to do it!”
Quayle’s speech was reported widely as a family values address, even though the phrase ‘family values’ doesn’t feature once in it.
As Anjelica Huston tells in her recent memoir, Watch Me, it was no coincidence that Addams Family 2 become Addams Family Values in the aftermath of Quayle’s speech, and the furore that followed. There was indeed a direct link between the two.
Paul Rudnick himself talked about Quayle’s family values speech in a piece in the Los Angeles Times back in 1993. He revealed that not only did Quayle’s speech directly inform the title of the Addams Family follow-up, but the very fact that family values ended up running to the core of the film.
The irony is that as macabre and grotesque as some saw them, The Addams Family was about the most wholesome family unit Hollywood put on screen in the 1990s. Unfortunately, the film underperformed at the box office, though. It’s still an injustice nearly 30 years on. Whether the new animated version can capture any of its style remains to be seen…
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