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Vic Mizzy (1916-2009) - TV themes with humour and style

Vic Mizzy photograph Vic Mizzy is best remembered for his TV theme tunes, particularly The Addams Family and Green Acres, though his musical output was much broader than this. The composer was born in New York learning Piano and Accordian as a boy, and he studied at the New York University. His early career started in the song-writing business working with lyricist Irving Taylor including songs such as "There's a Faraway Look in your Eye" and "Three Little Sisters" which were both sung by The Andrews Sisters, and the latter song was used later on the soundtrack of "Memoirs of a Geisha". Then with lyricist Mann Curtis he had a big hit in 1945 when their song "My Dreams are Getting Better all the Time" was sung by Doris Day with the Les Brown Orchestra. That writing partnership continued and enjoyed a number of chart hits including "The Whole World Is Singing My Song" also by Doris Day, "Pretty Kitty Blue Eyes" by the Merry Macs, "The Jones Boy" released by the Mills Brothers in 1954, and "Didja Ever" which was sung by Tony Martin on the Esther Williams film "Easy to Love".

Vic Mizzy - Sonds for the Jogging Crowd album CD cover Mizzy made the transition from song-writer to television composer through his friend David Levy who worked at NBC and initially commissioned him to write a theme for the drama series "Moment of Fear". His early television work continued with the "Shirley Temple Storybook", "The Richard Boone Show", "Klondike" and "Kentucky Jones" before his defining work on "The Addams Family" which also came through David Levy. While working on "The Addams Family" Mizzy's film music career also started to take off, through his involvement in a series of vehicles for the comedian Don Knotts starting with "The Ghost and Mr. Chicken". While he composed romantic songs, and background music for many different films and programmes, it is interesting that Vic Mizzy always seemed most at home with comedy where his musical wit married perfectly with the screen humour. His next hit TV theme was undoubtedly "Green Acres" which (like "The Addams Family") also includes musical punctuation in the theme, though this time without the finger snaps.

Mizzy continued to write music for television into the 1970s, though his output dropped during the 80s and 90s with some occasional work for TV or commercials. People may have thought that he had retired, but then he released an album called "Songs for the Jogging Crowd" in 2003 at the age of 87. This album includes some previously unknown tracks which are light-hearted satirical songs in a swinging 60s style. Also included are a remix of "The Addams Family" theme, and Mizzy singing along with Eddie Albert to the "Green Acres" theme, and the final track is the "Spider Man 2 Theme" which he wrote at the request of the movie's director Sam Raimi, to be used on the Spiderman 2 DVD.

Vic Mizzy - Don't Make Waves & John Williams - Penelope soundtrack album CD cover Returning for a moment to focus on those most memorable TV themes "The Addams Family" and "Green Acres", Mizzy not only wrote the lyrics and the music for both of these, but also most of the incidental music used in the programmes. When he went to visit the set for the original television series of "The Addams Family", amongst all the cobwebs on the set there was an old piano. This gave him the idea to use a harpsichord in the theme because it instantly gives that old world feel to the music. Mizzy overdubbed his own voice 3 times on the theme to save costs on hiring singers. For the "Green Acres" song, Mizzy also devised the title sequence with its collage of the singing characters and the pitch-fork thumping accompaniment. Eddie Albert could sing quite well but his screen wife Eva Gabor had trouble staying in tune. Her singing for the theme was closer to speaking the words in a theatrical way. After many takes they were lucky to get an acceptible result for the last line which has the two leads miraculously finishing in harmony. To keep costs down for the "Green Acres" theme, Mizzy scored this for just a small group of musicians. According to "The Hooterville Handbook - a viewer's guide to Green Acres" by Stephen Cox (for availability see the recommendations section below), the line-up consisted of:

    The Hooterville Handbook by Stephen Cox - book cover
  • William Calkins - Woodwinds with Maestro attachment (sounding like clarinet, fuzz clarinet, bass clarinet, flute, etc.)
  • Gene Garf - Jazz Organ
  • Jimmy Bond - Bass
  • Tommy Tedesco - Lead Guitar (Maestro Fuzztone)
  • Bill Pittman - Rhythm Guitar doubling Bass Guitar
  • Lou Singer - Mallet Perc (xylo, bells, timpani)
  • Frank Capp - Drums (may have played Timpani when not on drum set)
  • Tommy Morgan - Harmonica (playing, regular, electric and bass instruments)

While "The Addams Family" was cancelled in 1966 after two series, Green Acres spanned seven years.

Vic Mizzy - selected videos:

Though he reached the grand age of 93 years, we are still saddened by the death of Vic Mizzy, song writer and composer. To celebrate his work we have gathered together the best examples of his music available on youtube:

  • Short news report of the composer's death with photos and video clips
  • Vic Mizzy talks about composing "The Addams Family" theme song, and jokes with the interviewer that at college he studied "Advanced Finger Snapping"
  • Vic Mizzy talks (from 6:30 minutes) about the origins of "The Addams Family" when David Levy got he idea for the series and Mizzy's involvement from the start
  • Continuation of the interview where Mizzy talks about the incidental music for the series, including the themes he composed for each of the characters and the music coming from Lurch's dummy harpsichord
  • Opening Titles from the "Green Acres" show
  • Vic Mizzy Star Trek mockup - Gene Roddenberry wanted Mizzy to write music for Star Trek but he was too busy. This video gives a flavour of the composer's approach to Sci-Fi music by using his theme for "The 13th Gate" (a TV pilot which never became a series) synchronised with the Star Trek title sequence
  • Part 1 of the movie "The Ghost and Mr. Chicken" with the opening titles by Vic Mizzy and starring Don Knotts as a would-be reporter who is assigned to investigate a haunted house (the rest of the film is also available in 10 minute sections)
  • The Ghost and Mr. Chicken music for the haunted organ sequence in the movie
  • Part 1 of the movie "The Shakiest Gun in the West" also starring Don Knotts, with opening titles & song by Vic Mizzy
  • Part 1 of the movie "The Reluctant Astronaut" starring Don Knotts and also featuring Leslie Nielsen
  • Spiderman 2 Song by Vic Mizzy used on the Spiderman 2 bloopers DVD feature and taken from the album "Songs For The Jogging Crowd"
  • A Different Song by Vic Mizzy this time used on the Spiderman 3 bloopers feature - it seems like a pure instrumental initially until the lyrics kick in towards the end

Films by Vic Mizzy:

Vic Mizzy scored a number of films himself, plus his songs and themes have also been used on several movies.

  • The Night Walker - spooky horror
  • The Ghost and Mr. Chicken - the mix of comedy and horror brought out some Vic Mizzy jazz with hints of the Addams Family
  • The Reluctant Astronaut - the second (of five) Don Knott movies, with a mix of jazz, traditional scoring and some spooky sci-fi sounds
  • Don't Make Waves, Make Love - full of Swinging 60s kitsch
  • The Caper of the Golden Bulls
  • The Spirit is Willing
  • The Perils of Pauline
  • The Shakiest Gun in the West - 3rd Don Knott comedy
  • The Love God? - starring Don Knott
  • How to Become a Figg - Mizzy's 5th and final association with the mad world of Don Knott
  • The Addams Family & Addams Family Values - both contain the original theme and were both scored by Marc Shaiman

TV music by Vic Mizzy:

    The Addams Family TV Show - image
  • Moment of Fear
  • Shirley Temple's Storybook
  • The Richard Boone Show
  • Klondike
  • Kentucky Jones
  • The Addams Family - very catchy and therefore instantly recognisable
  • The Double Life of Henry Phyfe - with Red Buttons in the lead role
  • Captain Nice - Mizzy himself sang the theme
  • The Don Rickles Show - acting as composer & band leader for this show, which also featured Jimmy Durante and Agnes Moorehead
  • Green Acres - Mizzy wrote the music and lyrics, and also conceived the opening title sequence
  • A Very Missing Person
  • The Phyllis Diller Show - also created by David Levy and sometimes known as "The Pruitts of Southampton"
  • Temperatures Rising
  • Hurricane - TV Movie
  • Terror on the 40th Floor
  • The Million Dollar Rip-Off
  • Halloween with the New Addams Family - a TV Movie revival of the series featuring most of the original cast
  • Quincy M.E. - the theme was by that partnership of Glen A Larson and Stu Phillips, but Mizzy was one of many composers who scored individual episodes
  • Delta House
  • The Munster's Revenge - a TV Movie based on a series not too disimilar to "The Addams Family"
  • The Addams Family - animated series running 1992-93 re-using the original theme

Vic Mizzy - Recommendations:

There aren't many Vic Mizzy film soundtracks available, but "Don't Make Waves, Make Love" which is full of Swinging 60s kitsch is available at Amazon.co.uk and Amazon.com, on a "double feature" album where it is paired with "Penelope" by Johnny Williams (as John Williams was called in the early part of his career).

Also look out for that more recent album released almost 4 decades later, called "Songs for the Jogging Crowd" which is available at Amazon.co.uk and Amazon.com.

The Book which we referred to above is called "The Hooterville Handbook" and subtitled "A Viewer's Guide to Green Acres" by Stephen Cox. This has a chapter called "The Vic Mizzy Sound" and is available from these links Amazon.co.uk and Amazon.com.