Texas-born actress Carolyn Jones starred in more than 30 movies before landing her most memorable role -- Morticia Addams in the 1960s television series The Addams Family. Jones died of cancer nearly 30 years ago, but endless reruns of the hit TV show introduce her to a new generation of fans.
This week Stephenville author James Pylant announced the publication of his biography of the actress, In Morticia’s Shadow: The Life & Career of Carolyn Jones. A family-authorized volume, it includes interviews with Carolyn’s family, friends and fellow actors.
“This book would not have been possible with the help of Carolyn’s sister, Bette Moriarty,” says Pylant.
Moriarty gave extensive interviews and gave the author access to her sister’s journals, correspondence, and collection of previously unpublished photographs.
Morticia’s portrayer, whose parents met in Mineral Wells, had Erath County roots through her mother’s family, the Southerns. One of Carolyn’s four husbands was prolific Hollywood producer Aaron Spelling.
An Amarillo native, Carolyn Jones embarked an ambitious acting career after graduating from the famed Pasadena Playhouse in 1950. She went on to star alongside Elvis Presley in King Creole (1958) and played opposite Frank Sinatra in A Hole in the Head (1959). But it was the 1964 debut of The Addams Family that gave Jones her greatest recognition. “Morticia Addams was the perfect role for Carolyn because of her offbeat sense of humor,” says her biographer. When the series ended after a couple of years, the actress felt disappointment and frustration over being stereotyped. “I’m Morticia . . . and I’m doomed!” she explained. While continuing to appear in movies and television, 16 years would pass before Carolyn Jones landed the starring role of villainess Myrna Clegg in the CBS soap opera Capitol. “She accepted the role in Capitol after learning she had colon cancer,” Pylant said. “She kept her health crisis a secret.” The soap opera, however, gave its star the chance to finally emerge from the shadow cast by Morticia Addams. Illness forced Jones to leave the show in April 1983. She died four months later at age 53.
James Pylant is the author of three true-crime volumes -- including Blood Legacy, the story of Erath County’s infamous Snow murders; Sins of the Pioneers, which chronicles early crimes in Stephenville; and The Oldest Profession in Texas (co-authored with Sherri Knight), the story of Waco’s era of legal prostitution. Pylant will give a brief talk about Carolyn Jones and his book from 2-4 p.m. Sunday at the Literary Lion. Refreshments will be served.