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Vic Mizzy gave us two of television's most distinctive and widely-recognized themes: "The Addams Family" and "Green Acres." Unlike many of his colleagues working in the studio system, though, Mizzy's roots lay not in the big band era but back to the waning days of Tin Pan Alley.
Mizzy's parents recognized his musical talents at an early age and encouraged him, buying a piano and starting him on lessons at the age of four. By the time he was in his early teens, he'd begun composing his own melodies, having learned about popular song from the early days of radio (rather than from his strictly-classical musical education). He linked up with another budding songwriter, lyricist Irving Taylor (who years later would be a comedy writer in Hollywood and record an album titled, The Garbage Collector of Beverly Hills), and auditioned for "Major Bowes' Amateur Hour."
Mizzy and Taylor won the week's contest and got as a reward a week-long contract to perform at the Roxy Theater in Manhattan. They started selling their songs to singers and agents around town, and after a few months, ASCAP came looking for them with over $1,000 in royalties. When the pair revealed that they weren't members, ASCAP signed them on the spot, and they became published songwriters.
Mizzy and Taylor worked steadily as songwriters as well as by writing comedy material for other performers until the U.S. entered World War Two. Their tune, "My Dreams Are Getting Better All the Time" hit #1 on the Hit Parade and stayed on the show's list for over 10 weeks. Figuring they were due to be drafted involuntarily anyway, they decided to find their own places in the service, and through a girl singer, were introduced to a socialite who was serving in style as the skipper of a U.S. Navy yacht patrol on Staten Island.
Their idyll was rudely interrupted by orders to ship to Europe to serve as LST pilots in the upcoming invasion of Europe. Mizzy wangled a 24 hour liberty and managed to write three songs, all of which ended up being recorded, with another songwriter, Manny Curtis. Returning to base, Mizzy found himself hauled out of line at the last minute and was given orders to report to William and Mary College to serve as an organist at a Navy school for chaplains. He continued to write songs while in the service, and several also reached the Hit Parade.
Mizzy and his wife, singer Mary Small ("The Little Girl with the Big Voice") kept working in New York City after the war, but her career began to fade and the songwriting market never reached its pre-war heights. Luckily, Mizzy stumbled into an introduction to an executive with MGM, and he wound up being flown out to Hollywood to work with Johnny Green on the songs for the Esther Williams musical, "Easy to Love."
He worked on several other projects in Hollywood, but he stayed based in New York even after he and Small divorced. He composed for a variety of radio and early television shows, but his fortunes were at a low ebb when he ran into producer Mark Goodson on the street and talked himself into a contract to compose the score for Goodson's latest series, "The Richard Boone Show."
Mizzy moved to Los Angeles and began to get more and more work through his contacts in the studios. His big break came when his close friend, David Levy, an executive with Filmways Studio, the television production arm of NBC, asked him to patch in stock music for the soundtrack of a short pilot for a series based on the Charles Addams cartoons in The New Yorker. Instead, Mizzy offered to write an original score for free, provided he kept the publishing rights ("Best deal I ever made," he later commented).
Mizzy ended up not only writing the title theme, but directing the whole sequence and even singing all the parts himself. NBC bought the series, and though it only ran a couple of years in primetime, decades of reruns have since made "Dah-dah-dah-dum! Snap! Snap!" one of the best known bits of music today. It also made him a small fortune: "That's why I'm living in Bel-Air: Two finger snaps and you live in Bel-Air," he once remarked. In fact, the riff has been adopted by more than a few basketball and baseball teams and is regularly tossed in to liven up a slow game.
Mizzy went on to write for a string of Filmways series, including "Green Acres" (for which he also wrote the lyrics), "The Double Life of Henry Phyfe," and "The Don Rickles Show." He also became Hollywood's favorite source for zany soundtrack music, and worked on a bunch of silly comedies starring Don Knotts ("The Ghost and Mr. Chicken," "The Shakiest Gun in the West," and "The Love God"), Phyllis Diller ("Did You Hear the One About the Travelling Saleslady?"), and Jerry Lewis ("The Busybody"). As the 1970s went on, television movies became his primary material.
As much as he enjoyed the good life, he kept on working well into his late eighties. In 2000, he assembled a collection of his film and TV tracks for Percepto Records, which has since released several of his complete film soundtracks. And in 2004, he released Songs for the Jogging Crowd on his own Vicster Records label. The CD included an original "Spider-Man 2 Theme" that was included in the outtakes music of director Sam Raimi's film, "Spider-Man 2."
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