Felix Silla, best known as the gibberish-spouting Cousin Itt on the 1960s TV sitcom The Addams Family, died today from pancreatic cancer. He was 84 and died in Las Vegas, according to a tweet from Gil Gerard, who costarred with him on the 1979-81 NBC series Buck Rogers in the 25th Century.
Silla donned a full-body hairpiece, sunglasses and a bowler hat to achieve the role of Cousin Itt, who could only be understood by members of the Addams Family, thanks to his strange mumbling. The role was one of several where Silla’s face went unseen, including appearances as robot Twiki on Buck Rogers and as a hang-gliding Ewok in Star Wars: Episode VI — Return of the Jedi.
One role where he could be seen was as the villain Litvak, who took on George Segal’s Sam Spade Jr. in The Maltese Falcon sequel The Black Bird (1975).
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Born in Italy, Silla was just under 4 feet tall and weighed a scant 70 pounds. He came to the US in 1955 and toured with the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus as a trapeze artist and tumbler. He came to Hollywood in 1962 and worked as a stuntman.
His skills and slight stature led to a number of roles, including the Gig Young-Shirley Jones comedy film A Ticklish Affair, the Bonanza episode Hoss and the Leprechauns, and in the Star Trek pilot The Cage in 1965.
He later appeared in Planet of the Apes (1968), Demon Seed (1977) and Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (1984). He did stunt work in a number of big pictures, including E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, Poltergeist, The Golden Child and Batman Returns (1992), among many other films.
On TV, he was a regular performer for Sid and Marty Krofft on H.R. Pufnstuf and Lidsville.
Silla debuted on The Addams Family in 1965 in an episode where a zookeeper wanted to put him in a cage. The character was created by a producer and was not in the Charles Addams cartoons that were the inspiration for the TV series. Cousin Itt’s voice was also not Silla – instead, it was provided by sound engineer Tony Magro in post-production.)
He went on to appear as Cousin Itt 17 times on the show, which became a fan favorite largely in its endless syndication run.