Grandpa (The Munsters)
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|The Munsters character|
|First appearance||"Munster Masquerade" (September 24, 1964)|
|Last appearance||"A Visit from the Teacher" (May 12, 1966)|
|Portrayed by||Al Lewis (1964–1966; 1973; 1981)|
Howard Morton (1988–1991)
Robert Morse (1995)
Sandy Baron (1996)
Eddie Izzard (2012)
Lily Munster (daughter)
Herman Munster (son-in-law)
Marilyn Munster (granddaughter)
Eddie Munster (grandson)
Grandpa is a fictional character in the CBS sitcom The Munsters, originally played by Al Lewis. The doting, irritable, and sarcastic father of Lily Munster, Grandpa is an undead vampire. The role was later played by Howard Morton in the 1980s television series The Munsters Today.
The character's full name is given as "Vladimir Dracula, Count of Transylvania". A running gag in both the original series and follow up The Munsters Today is his extreme age - his car, the DRAG-U-LA bearing his gravestone - reading "born 1367–?". Grandpa talks of having personally known various figures throughout history, including Nero, King Arthur, Richard the Lionheart and Jack the Ripper. Grandpa declares his age as 378 years in the episode "Grandpa's Lost Wife" (airdate: February 3, 1966), placing his date of birth in the year 1588. In The Munsters Today episode "Its My Party and I'll Die if I Want To" (airdate: October 2, 1991) Grandpa celebrates his 402nd birthday. The family uses a time machine and brings back significant people from his life, including his friend Genghis Khan, brother Yorga (played by Sandy Baron who played Grandpa in the 1995 TV movie The Munsters' Scary Little Christmas), a former girlfriend "Shirley Zlebnik", and his overbearing Mother (played by actress Ruth Buzzi).
In the episode "Munster Masquerade", Grandpa describes having been married "167 times", and although his wives are "all dead", he still keeps "in touch with them". Grandpa's wife, Lily's Mother, makes an emotional appearance in The Munsters Today series in 1990, in the episode "Once In a Blue Moon" (airdate: September 18, 1990). She also appears in a photograph in the original series which was taken during Herman and Lily's wedding.
Grandpa's identity as Count Dracula is also alluded to in both the original series and The Munsters Today. In the 1965 episode "The Musician", Mr. Gateman refers to him as "Count Dracula" when he comes to dinner. In "The Fregosi Emerald", Grandpa refers to himself as Count Dracula to an operator in Transylvania. He is also referred to "The Count" various times in The Munsters Today, most notably in the season one episode "Farewell Grandpa" when the family find out he isn't an American citizen, with the threat of being deported back to Transylvania by the US Government. In the episode "Happy 100th Anniversary" Lilly Munster notes her maiden name as "Dracula." Throughout The Munsters Today series Grandpa is referred to as 'Vladimir Dracula'. In popular culture the character is often referred to as "Grandpa Munster" although Munster was not his surname in the show.
Grandpa keeps a laboratory in the cellar of the house, and often refers to "going down to the lab." The potions and magic spells he devises there are central to many of the show's stories. Many of his inventions are less than successful, but he never stops thinking up new ones.
Grandpa can transform himself into a wolf or a bat, as per Bram Stoker's Dracula. In "Herman's Sorority Caper" and Munster, Go Home! it is revealed that he takes special pills to turn himself into these creatures. In later episodes, however, and in all episodes of The Munsters Today he changes to and from a bat simply at will.
Grandpa has an extremely sarcastic personality, and often insults his son-in-law Herman. Despite this, Grandpa and Herman are quite close; in one episode, Lily says that if not for Herman, Grandpa would be "living in a cave picking fleas out of his wings". Many The Munsters episodes revolve around the zany schemes Grandpa and Herman concoct, which either end successfully or result in Lily scolding the two for their failure. This was a comedic strength of the show that followed on from The Munsters to The Munsters Today.
While Grandpa is generally considered the wisest member of the family, he also has a decidedly stubborn streak. If he feels he isn't getting his due respect, he will let everyone know it, and often sulk or go to extreme lengths to demonstrate his offense at a perceived slight. While generally a successful mad scientist and magician, his experiments tend to be comically absurd, in keeping with the genre.
Grandpa is depicted as a goofish yet loveable mad scientist. He has a pet bat named Igor who "hangs around" in Grandpa's lab. And much like a bat, Grandpa sleeps hanging upside down from the ceiling: usually in the living room, the attic, or the lab (the interior of his bedroom was never shown on the series. Except in two episodes of the second season. One of them being "Just another pretty face"). In The Munsters Today, Grandpa's companion was Leonard the skeleton, whom he met at college back in Transylvania. Flashbacks to the events at college and to how Leonard and Grandpa met are part of the storyline in The Munsters Today episode "Never Say Die" (airdate: February 24, 1990).
Grandpa doesn't always display the traits that are commonly associated with vampires. For example, in one episode of The Munsters he looks in the mirror and casts a reflection. However, he does not cast a reflection in later incarnations, nor does he appear on film or in pictures. Traditionally, vampires (including Sesame Street's Count von Count) do not cast reflections.
A running gag on the show, later adopted in The Munsters Today, is Grandpa's attempts to bite someone on the arm which usually ends in failure.
Al Lewis was the only actor from the original series to reprise his role in a 1973 unsold pilot for an animated cartoon titled The Mini-Munsters. In 1987, he reprised the character as the host of TBS's Super Scary Saturday movie. The program aired each Saturday at noon from October 1987 to fall 1989. The name "Munsters" was never referred to in the show or its promotion and Lewis' character was simply referred to as "Grandpa".
- "Al Lewis, 95, Is Dead; Played Grandpa on 'The Munsters'". The New York Times. 2006-02-05. Retrieved 2010-10-10.
- King, Susan (1991-06-16). "Old Munsters Never Die". The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2010-10-09.