Ted Cassidy achieved fame with a minor, supporting role. The name of the actor to many does not say anything. But hardly anyone is unaware of his most famous character: Largo, the butler the crazy addams. He was 2.10. He must have been the tallest actor in Hollywood history. His size (his acromegaly) of him gave him the role for which he perpetuated himself and also pigeonholed him, it was what did not allow him to fulfill his desires for more complex roles and prominence. For years he suffered in silence being postponed, longing for those couple of years in which his program was one of the most watched on television.
In September 1964, after months of intense work, the first chapter of Los Locos Addams was broadcast on American television. Those were still times when programs could be released in color or black and white. Color was setting and it was expensive to shoot chromatically. The Addams Family story suited the palette of black, white, and grays.
Although due to the repercussions and the permanent reincarnations it is believed that his permanence and heyday were extensive, it was not so. There were 64 chapters of less than half an hour. Two seasons that were enough for the program (and its characters) to settle in the collective unconscious.
The main characters were loosely based on classic actors. The father in Peter Lorre, the mother in Gloria Swanson. Largo was inspired by Boris Karloff. The house was the ideal location, a kindly spectral, gothic, cobwebbed, bizarre atmosphere.
Ted Cassidy brought to life an endearing and dark creature. In the final casting he fought with another four contenders. The rest had more acting experience but he had the role physics. It is more: the creators of the series when seeing Cassidy discovered that Largo could only have his physiognomy.
Largo was supposed to be a character without lyrics, mute. That that giant and spectral butler did not speak. But in one of the opening moments of the series when Homer summons him with the gong, Cassidy, almost without realizing it, improvised: Did you call? The surprise and that deep voice, coming from the third basement of the studio, caused a great effect: technicians and actors laughed heartily. They realized that the butler from beyond the grave must speak. That was the moment in which Largo began to speak in the series in addition to uttering the growls and groans of him.
The makeup, her deep-set eyes and the expressive capacity they made each look from Largo also count as a long speech.
On the show, Largo played the harpsichord. In those scenes he actually pretended to do it and the sound man was the one who put the sound. Nevertheless, Cassidy was a solid organist; he had studied music for many years and for several years in Dallas he earned a few extra pesos playing the organ in a shopping mall on weekend afternoons.
As was the case on television at the time, the opening was long, with the individual presentation of each protagonist. That of the Addams contained one of the most characteristic songs in the history of the medium (the rhythm, the snap of the fingers) created by Vic Mizzy. The butler’s harpsichord appeared. And in the sung part there were eerily funny appearances of Largo’s voice (“How beautiful / how sweet / how crazy”).
Largo’s character enjoyed another privilege. In the Batman series of the sixties, Adam West’s, that television song to the camp, there was a recurring procedure that was funny. Every so often Batman and Robin climbed a building and on their way up they crossed paths with a personality. So Jerry Lewis, Edward G. Robinson or Sammy Davis Jr. could emerge from one of those windows. One of those 14 (according to the show’s hyper-detailed fan sites online) cameos featured Largo. in an unexpected crossover between the Gotham City superhero and the Addams Family.
Largo, that Frankensteinian being, caused an immediate impact. So much so that he had his own record. The Lurch Dance it was a modest success. A typical uninspired pop song base and on top of it Largo’s growls, regurgitations and bellows.
Largo was not his only involvement within the Addams family dynamic. Cassidy also lent her hand to Fingers, the suggestive character who appeared from a kind of music box. Almost like an inside joke, the writers amused themselves by simultaneously staging Largo and Fingers so that on set the director would have to get around the problem. Usually in those cases, a producer would fill in for Ted’s hand.
After the success of the Addams, Cassidy believed that the offers would multiply, that the fame he enjoyed would not be extinguished and that it would translate into large contracts. But that didn’t happen. Anyway, Cassidy continued to be on TV for many years but without much impact. He played a wide variety of minor roles. Cowboy, Indian, Golliat in a biblical-themed series, bully, of course. He played antagonist roles in single episodes of several classic series. He was in some chapter of Mannix, Bonanza and El Hombre de CIPOL among others.
Another memorable but brief appearance on television was when he put himself in the shoes of the Sasquatch (Bigfoot), a villain who always ended up being defeated by Steve Austin in The Nuclear Man (As the characters of both programs were related, he also had to be the same villain in The Bionic Woman).
Also He had a minor role in Star Trek. In that series he also did the voice of some monster. Dubbing, thanks to his particularly deep voice, was one of his main occupations after Los Locos Addams. He had started performing it as a way to take advantage of his acting chops and the peculiar depth of his voice shortly before he was cast in The Addams Family. It was The Thing in the Fantastic Four, Godzilla, Frankenstein in a series of cartoons and some other giants.
But what is not so well known is that Ted Cassidy appeared in every episode of the 1970s series The Incredible Hulk. His vocal participations were of two types. On the one hand, it was the voiceover of the presentation titles, the one that narrated the story of Dr. Bruce Banner. For the other when Banner turns into the Hulk, the growls and gasps weren’t from Lou Ferrigno but from Cassidy.
Ted Cassidy was born on July 31, 1932, ninety years ago. He hardly went to school he stood out from the rest. He was the tallest of all but the most surprising thing is that many of his classmates were two years older than him, since Ted educated by his mother in his house had given him two years off. Some thought he had some degree of mental disability: due to acromegaly the features of the face were different from the rest, he was younger but he was the largest. A lethal combination for peers to tease and make fun of him (it was many decades before that would be called bullying). But Ted was extremely intelligent and his school performance was excellent. He entered high school when he was only 11 years old. He also earned the respect of many in the sports arena. The same thing happened when he went to college from which he graduated with a degree in dramatic arts. At Stetson University he not only continued his impeccable academic performance. He was a decisive player in the basketball team. In his three seasons he averaged an impressive 17 points and 10 rebounds per game, numbers that today would probably put him in the NBA.
In 1956, he married his teenage sweetheart, Margaret Helen. They had two sons, Sean and Cameron. The marriage moved to Dallas. Ted had several jobs. Every now and then he got a gig on local TV shows. In the evenings he was a DJ at one of the city’s radio stations. On the day of Kennedy’s assassination, he took to the streets to take testimony from shocked witnesses and citizens.
His dream was to be an actor. He made his film debut in 1959 in The Angry Red Planet: he played Martian. Later he got other small parts but they always offered him the same. Freak, giant, being from another planet, the monster.
After Los Locos Addams took part in several films. He always in (very) minor roles. It could be said that he never appeared in any of the posters of the films in which he acted. The most prestigious and successful was Butch Cassidy and The Sundance Kid. His other memorable intervention on the big screen was his contribution as a screenwriter to Roarthat madness with Tippi Heddren, Melanie Griffith and dozens of real (and not always obedient) lions.
He considered that Largo had been his great success but also his condemnation. In the interviews that Cassidy did with him, he maintained that he did not want to be remembered for that role, it did not make him feel proud; he aspired to have a prestigious acting career, with complex, more demanding roles. But he knew that his great size reduced his chances.
From a distance, although there are few who can remember his name and surname, Largo, his character, remains intact in the memory of several generations.
Acromegaly caused him health problems. His heart gave him quite a few scares. As early as 1979 he underwent open heart surgery. When he seemed to recover he had to be hospitalized again. He died on January 6, 1979. He was 46 years old. It took several days for the news to appear in the newspapers.
Perhaps today he would be a sensation at Comic Con. His presentations would attract hundreds of fans who would seek his autograph, a photo that showed the difference in height or that he would tell them some unknown anecdote from filming. But at that time it was just a memory, that of the good and somewhat dark giant who entertained several generations, the one who always pursued more complex roles and a prestige that Hollywood never gave him.