Vic Mizzy, 93

Vic Mizzy, 93; wrote 'Addams Family,' 'Green Acres' themes

Mizzy (AP)
  Enlarge Photo    
By T. Rees Shapiro
Thursday, October 22, 2009

Vic Mizzy, 93, a composer and conductor who wrote the bouncy, contagious theme music for the 1960s television comedies "The Addams Family" and "Green Acres," died of a congenital heart failure Oct. 17 at his home in Los Angeles, said his daughter, Lynn Mizzy Jonas.

Mr. Mizzy's career stretched over eight decades and included movie scores and pop and novelty tunes. Early in his career, he collaborated on such standards as "My Dreams Are Getting Better All the Time," which became a hit for Doris Day, among other leading singers of big-band era.

His other songs, including "Take It Easy" and "No Bout Adout It," were featured in popular movie comedies and musicals of the 1940s, but his career slumped after his return to civilian life after Navy service during World War II.

Through a stroke of luck, he was invited to compose songs for the Esther Williams film musical "Easy to Love" (1953), which led to further Hollywood studio assignments and important connections in the burgeoning world of television.

In 1964, he was commissioned to write the theme music for "The Addams Family," a new ABC comedy based on the macabre New Yorker cartoons by Charles Addams.

Mr. Mizzy went back to the network executives with the "ba-da-da dum!" beat and signature double finger snaps tune that he said produced "smiles right away."

The show's production company, however, refused to pay for extra musicians. So Mr. Mizzy played a harpsichord and overdubbed himself singing the tune three times to make it seem like a whole chorus was singing: "They're creepy and they're kooky, mysterious and spooky, they're altogether ooky: the Ad-dams fam-il-y." Snap. Snap.

Jon Burlingame, a historian of television theme songs, said Mr. Mizzy was responsible for two of the "most memorable" sitcom themes in history.

"He was an old-school songwriter of the old Tin Pan Alley tradition, and he believed in melody and hummability," Mr. Burlingame said. "He only had 60 seconds to make a musical point that was memorable so that you'd go, 'Oh, that show is on, let's go watch.' "

Mr. Mizzy's popular theme for "Green Acres,", which aired on CBS from 1965 to 1971, had lyrics that quickly summed up the show's premise, about a New York lawyer who relocates his family to a farm.

In the song, star Eddie Albert celebrates life in the countryside from atop a tractor, "Green Acres is the place to be/Farm livin' is the life for me," as Eva Gabor, playing his socialite wife, proclaims her love for Manhattan from a towering apartment balcony, "I just adore a penthouse view/Darling I love you, but give me Park Avenue."

Victor Mizzy was born Jan. 9, 1916, in Brooklyn, N.Y., and grew up playing the accordion and piano. He attended New York University and once joked that he took classes in "harmonics, 12 tone row and advanced finger snapping."

His marriages to radio singer Mary Small and Shirley Leeds ended in divorce. Survivors include his daughter from his first marriage Lynn, of Staten Island, N.Y.; a brother; and two grandchildren. Another daughter from his first marriage died in 1995.

Mr. Mizzy started writing movie scores with the William Castle horror film "The Night Walker" (1964) and later scored a string of Don Knotts comedies, including "The Ghost and Mr. Chicken" (1966) and "The Shakiest Gun in the West" (1968). He released a compilation album in 2004 called "Songs for the Jogging Crowd."

Mr. Mizzy, who owned the rights to the "Addams Family" theme song, often credited two of his fingers for his lasting success. As he said in a CBS interview, "Two finger snaps and you live in Bel Air."

© 2009 The Washington Post Company