A major boyhood injury led John Astin to become an actor

It took Astin two years to recover after tripping over a tree root. As Gomez, he was known for gymnastic feats and effortlessly smooth moves.

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Toward the end of The Addams Family episode "Gomez, the Politician," you’ll see Gomez lying on the floor, his legs twisted into a pretzel above his head.

He rocks a few times and springs forward onto his feet with a dancer’s grace.

In many ways, John Astin made The Addams Family the most fun to watch. It was the limber and unpredictable way he moved, like a living spring you expect to go boing-oing-oing, he elevated the energy of the entire sitcom.

Gomez is the kind of character you never expect to make a misstep, and it’s Astin’s unique portrayal that pulls the character off so effortlessly. If you’re a fan of Astin’s, you might have to ask Dick Van Dyke to step aside as you think of John Astin as the Fred Astaire of sitcoms.

And that’s why this story from Astin’s childhood comes out of left field for the actor, considering this image.

When Astin was 13 years old, he didn’t want to be an actor. He instead dreamed of becoming a violinist, or a baseball player.

As active as a kid as he was to watch as Gomez, the teen could always be found playing in the garden at his family’s home, often joined by his father and brother.

This was how he spent his young adolescent days until one fateful day, when Astin was tossing a baseball around with his dad and brother, and he lost his grace for a split second and had an accident so bad, it took two years to recover.

What happened is at once more gruesome than all of Wednesday and Pugsley’s childhood games, and somehow also more wholesome.

Astin was chasing down a ball while his father and brother watched, and he wasn’t looking closely at the garden grounds as he ran. Suddenly, his foot caught a tree root and he crashed into the grass with all his body weight and momentum he’d been using propelling toward the ball.

His arm snapped.

According to The Baltimore Sun in 1964, "The injury to the arm was unusually troublesome, requiring two years to heal. An active teenager forced into inactivity, he underwent what he calls a painful reassessment of himself."

Up to that point, Astin had flirted with show business. When he was 5 years old, he got so good at sleight-of-hand, he started performing shows for his friends. He continued these kinds of diversions for the next 10 years.

After breaking his arm, though, Astin had to set aside the violin, baseball and performing onstage. He saw his injury as fate showing him the way to becoming an academic, like his father. He figured his last talent he had left was in math, so maybe he’d study that.

Off he went to college, bound to be a mathematician.

But then he got a chance to play a different oddball character, a role which convinced Astin that acting could still be his future.

He joined a summer theater group when he got cast as "a tall invisible rabbit" that serves as an eccentric old man’s best friend in a production of Harvey. Next, he took on the role of the Wolf in "Little Red Riding Hood."

These were the characters that led him to play Gomez, but it wasn’t a straight and easy road.

Astin had to learn to bend on command, just like we watched Gomez do, hoping to convince directors he was the right man for the unusual roles he pursued.

In his career, he felt like his striking, unique appearance made him look like "a nobody" in the eyes of these directors.

We’d argue it was Astin overcoming that impression that ended up pushing him to become such a big somebody— by proving he had what it took and forcing each director to reassess him based on what he could do, just as he had painfully reassessed himself after his injury so long ago.

"I wasn’t good-looking enough to be the leading man or ugly enough to be the heavy," Astin said. "I was nobody’s preconception of anything."

That’s ultimately what made Astin a star.

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TenTanToes 34 months ago
Have loved John Astin since forever. Crushed on him as Gomez when a little girl 😍 Loved when he popped up on Night Court. He's adoreable.
34 months ago
Wasn't he married to Patty Duke?
TheSentinel Pilaf 34 months ago
He was.
PamelaFergusonHankins 34 months ago
John Astin was on several episodes of Murder She Wrote as well.
At least one had a surprise ending.
vinman63 35 months ago
Just remember he married a woman who lost control eating a hotdog.
Coldnorth 35 months ago
I’ve found that watching these wonderful classic shows with the HD TVs take away the mystery of the tricks they use.now we can see wires etc. I still watch them because of the storyline. And I always try to see how they pulled off some of the magic
cperrynaples 35 months ago
Gomez may have be agile, but look closely and you'll see it's all jump cuts!
justjeff 35 months ago
He may have said "I was nobody’s preconception of anything", but I disagree. He was always playing an amiable character... from "West Side Story" to "I'm Dickens - He's Fenster" to "The Addams Family" and on through his role as Buddy - the judge's father on "Night Court". That sly smile of his is both "devilish" and "warm" at the same time...
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Jon 35 months ago
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Pacificsun justjeff 35 months ago
I like the way you said that!
Pacificsun Jon 35 months ago
I guess IDHF, didn't make the minimum number for syndication, but it was a great little sitcom on Friday nights! For awhile it led into Honey West on ABC. Then we'd jog over to CBS (I think it was) for Wild, Wild West. And then over to NBC for MFU and ST. Of course that's when Prime Time went from 7pm to 11pm too!

Friday Nights were the best TV nights for kids! Unlike any other TV night of the week.
TenTanToes stephaniestavr5 34 months ago
I wondered if he was in any episodes of the old Westerns!
How have I missed that...I will, be watching much closer.
Yes, he has such a huge personality.
daDoctah 35 months ago
"But I'm feeling much better now!"
Pacificsun daDoctah 35 months ago
Made me laugh!
Michael 35 months ago
I was expecting multiple damages. Two years seems a long time, there must be more to the story.

When I got very sick two years ago, I actually could do less and less, before I landed in the hospital. The long recovery was getting back to standing up, and walking again. I figured this was part of the story, except a broken arm, whike a problem, doesn't immobilize so the rest of yiur muscles get weak. I still haven't returned to normal, the pandemic got in the way.
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LoveMETV22 35 months ago
P.S.- The list is 549 actor/celebs long. So It's possible it was on oversight. Still an interesting list though.
LoveMETV22 35 months ago
P.S.- I think it was because Crawford was 75 when he passed, probably not considered old enough by whomever compiled the list. That's probably why he wasn't on it.
tvnutt76 35 months ago
I believe it was Patty who always believed Desi was Sean's dad. However, a DNA test showed it was a man she was married to for, I think, a week or so. Patty refused to believe this saying they never consumated the marriage. I think she took it to her grave thinking Desi was the dad and the tests were wrong.
tvnutt76 35 months ago
Another interesting fact, he was in a production of the John Dos Pasos play, "U.S.A." in 1960. William Windom was doing it in NYC and was asked to be in the LA cast. Later, Astin appeared in an episode of "The Farmer's Daughter" which co-starred Windom.
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