I recently stumbled across some reruns of The Addams Family TV show from 1965. The characters are iconic—Gomez and Morticia, Uncle Fester, Cousin It, Thing, Pugsley, Wednesday, and Lurch.
Ted Cassidy played Lurch. The first thing that caught my eye while Googling is that he was born in Pittsburgh and moved to Dallas, so I’m apparently just a copycat, but reading on I was surprised to learn about a number of other notable performances given by the man who played Lurch.
At 6 feet 9 inches, Cassidy loomed over the cast, his voice unbelievably deep when he uttered his signature line of “You rang?” His character was actually never supposed to speak, but after adlibbing the line, it stuck. His subsequent groans and sighs worked to great effect also.
A quick image search on Cassidy reveals him to be a man of many faces. You wouldn’t expect to hide the true identity of someone nearly seven feet tall, but make up artists did okay. He played a range of characters, including a gun-slinging cowboy as well as a Native American. He played Goliath in a 1978 TV series called The Greatest Heroes of the Bible but also appeared as the much more memorable Bigfoot, a tough villain to the Six Million Dollar Man Steve Austin (Yes, there was another Steve Austin before the wrestler, and Lee Majors character was a big freaking deal). And like any other character actor of the past half century, Cassidy of course played roles on Star Trek.
But you might be surprised by some of the other famous roles featuring Cassidy’s famous voice.
- GORN–“Arena” is one of the most famous episodes of the original Star Trek TV series. Cassidy provided the voice for the reptilian alien who gave Kirk all he could handle before, as Spock put it, “He knows doctor. He has reasoned it out.” What Kirk figured out was how to make a bazooka out of bamboo and sulfur or some such intergalactic MacGyver wizardry.
- BEN GRIMM on The New Fantastic Four–In the original cartoon version of The Fantastic Four, Ben Grimm a.k.a. The Thing was voiced by “The Man of a Thousand Voices” Paul Frees. But Ted Cassidy was the voice of Grimm in The New Fantastic Four, first airing in 1978.
- BRAINIAC and BLACK MANTA–Cassidy also did some villainous voices for Challenge of the SuperFriends. Here’s a mashup of cartoon evil.
- GODZILLA–Cassidy provided roars for the Godzilla cartoon series of 1979. Here’s the intro just in case you weren’t sure if all those drugs people were doing had any memorable effects. Oh Godzooky…
- THE INCREDIBLE HULK–One of my favorite discoveries about Ted Cassidy was his role in The Incredible Hulk TV series. Not only did he provide the roars to Lou Ferrigno’s legendary green monster, Cassidy also is the narrator for the show’s opening.
- COMMERCIALS–Cassidy voiced gobs of commercials too. Search around and you’ll find some, but here’s a fun one in which he makes a cameo alongside a sports legend.
Oh yeah, although it wasn’t a voice, Cassidy–or rather his hand–also played the role of Thing on The Addams Family.
Every once in a while the show creators would use a different hand on screen at the same time as Lurch just to keep viewers guessing.
And here’s one more fun bonus. Lurch was one of the 14 cameos Batman and Robin ran into during their famous wall climbing scenes on the original TV series. ABC managed to get a crossover for its two campiest shows and set up the gag with a familiar theme playing on the harpsichord. Interesting to see an original Addams Family character in color.
Cassidy died early in 1979 after complications from open-heart surgery. He was only 46 years old. It’s too bad he didn’t live to see the explosion of our Sci-Fi/fantasy loving, Comic Con culture. He would’ve been a fan favorite for sure, and who knows how many more characters he might have given life to in the past three decades with his massive stature, pounding voice, and dead set eyes.
Still, his roles are legendary. Not bad for a tall guy from Pittsburgh.