Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Dining at the House of Dark Shadows

The Bridgeport Post ran a feature story about location shooting that took place at The Three Bears Restaurant in Connecticut during the filming of House of Dark Shadows. Published July 12, 1970, the story explains the role the restaurant played in the film, as well as the role the restaurant's owner was allowed to play on screen. Unfortunately, the master scan of this news page is terrible and almost unreadable ... so I typeset the story below, complete with typos.

I've included a fake House of Dark Shadows trading card within the text of the story that shows a scene that was likely film inside the restaurant, which closed in 2009 after roughly a century in business.

Photo courtesy of WestportNow.com

Three Bears Restaurant Used In 
Filming of 'Dark Shadows'
The Bridgeport Sunday Post, July 12, 1970

The Three Bears restaurant on Route 33 was recently used in the filming of an upcoming MGM motion picture based on the afternoon television serial, "Dark Shadows."
Incorporating many of the favorite characters (but not all; in a half-hour a day for nearly four years, there were a lot of characters), this film is adding expressive Gothic atmosphere by shooting many Fairfield and Westchester county ancient buildings still in use.

For instance, Lyndhurst, a lavish Tarrytown, N.Y. estate, formerly owned by the financier, Jay Gould, is portrayed as the ancient mansion, Collinwood, where all of "Dark Shadow's" dire doings take place.

Dates Back to 1779
The selection of The Three Bears restaurant was a natural one, since this 200-year-old inn has painstakingly kept its Early American charm down through the years.
Dating back to 1779, it was a former coach stop on the original Boston Post road.
It's authentic mellowed brick and smoke stained rafters have never been updated. Modern electric wiring replaces flickering candles and modern plumbing supplants the old pump that stood out back, but, even with the modern heating, the present owners still use the existing six roaring fire places.
The Three  Bears restaurant is recognized as the oldest eating place in Westport, and was known in early days as "The Three Bears Tavern." This held until the repeal of prohibition, which gave the word "tavern" a totally different meaning.
The black and white sign, with the three members of the popular storybook Bear Family, was designed by John Held Jr. in 1923. Famous as an illustrator at the height of the flapper period, Mr. Held was one of the many artists and writers who were habitues of the inn in the earliest days of Westport's artistic growth.
Today, The Three Bears restaurant consists of three charming dining rooms and  cocktail lounge, each of which retains traces of the original trappings and charm. The Old Dining Room, dating back to the original 1700 ancestry features many authentic antiques and lighting fixtures.

Dan Curtis, producer-director for the film felt that location scenes shot within the confine of this authentic inn would solve atmosphere problems, and hold the cost of production to a reasonable level. As a reward for the use of his famous landmark, owner Stephen Vazzano will be seen (prominently) as an extra during one of the critical dining scenes.
There are other spooky houses in the script; further location shooting took place in atmospheric houses in nearby Scarborough, and in Norwalk. The entire film, as a matter of fact, was shot on location; no studio shots were used at all, which will certainly give the film a far different, look from the Hollywood horrors of the '40s. The priceless collection of furniture and objects would be impossible for any set decorator to duplicate.
The film's stars are Joan Bennett, Jonathan Frid, and Grayson Hall, all veterans of the television version. They portray their original .characters: respectively, Elizabeth Stoddard Collins, matriarch of the doomed Collins clan; Barnabas Collins, the 175-year-old family vampire; and Julia Hoffman, lady doctor. These are "original" characters in, the sense that the serial has incorporated multiple plot lines in its history, and almost all the actors have portrayed several roles. Also on hand for the film are other "Dark Shadows" reguars Kathryn Leigh Scott, Roger Davis, Nancy Barrett, Don Briscoe, and David  Henesy.
"Dark Shadows" made its original impact by being the first daytime serial to employ the talents of a noted screen personality who was, of course, Joan Bennett. It received an upward surge in ratings when its first true supernatural character, vampire Barnabas, appeared. Since then, all stops were pulled: werewolves,
ghosts, and man-made monsters ran wild, and an enormous audience ranging from middle-American housewives to the hippest of the high school crowd stayed enthralled.
"Dark Shadows" will not only be joyously received by its television audience, but will be a boon to all those workaday types unable to watch in the afternoon who have wondered what all the fuss is about.

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