Thursday, May 31, 2012

Joan Bennett talks Dark Shadows, 1966

When ABC first began to promote Dark Shadows in 1966, they put actress Joan Bennett front and center for their initial marketing campaign. Once one of the biggest movie stars in the world, Bennett experienced the same kind of career trajectory every actor experiences in one fashion or another. At least, actors lucky enough to have any kind of success in the profession.

Below is a story about Dark Shadows when it the show was still in its infancy, a promotional piece built around an interview with actress Joan Bennett. I was going to include an image of the original newspaper page, but there is no accompanying photo (and the text is barely legible.) It's from a column simply titled "Television Review."

Television Review
Ruston Daily Leader, Tuesday, August 9, 1966


NEW YORK (UPI) - Joan Bennett was a star in the great days of Hollywood when the journey to the studio was a leisurely limousine ride from the mansion to a dressing room the size of a luxury hotel suite.

There were flowers from the producer, the support of a small army of aides from secretaries to dialogue coaches and, if one cared for that sort of thing, a caviar and champagne lunch with such stars as John Barrymore, Spencer Tracy, Ronald Coleman or Gregory Peck.

That was the Hollywood one would not blame Miss Bennett for recalling wistfully as she toils away the long hours in a studio on a dingy street in Manhattan in ABC-TV's daytime serial, "Dark Shadows." She is one of the most important featured players.

The economics of the world of the daytime serial permit no cosseting. It is hard work. And Miss Bennett, still slim and elegant, was discovered in a tiny dressing room just off the ingenious set of what ABC calls "the first television program styled in the tradition of a gothic novel."

Courtesy of Musings from the Marsh.
"Let's find some place that's air conditioned," she said.
Later, in one of the booths in which sponsors watch the programs, she talked with considerable good humor about her involvement in "Dark Shadows" and the tough schedule which, being a good trouper, she is learning to live with.

"It was frantic at. first," she said, with a smile that smoothed the years. "Ill was really desperate the first few fighting with my agent for weeks. I thought I'd die. It was getting me into all this. But now its simmered down."

In "Dark Shadows" Miss Bennett (the eighth generation of one of our most famous acting families) plays Elizabeth Stoddard Collins, mistress of the great stone mansion at the center of much of the mystery and menace of the program.

"One day's work in this role is about the equal of three day's work in Hollywood," she said. "Listen to this schedule: We arrive at 3:30 a.m. And we go to lunch —lunch, mind you —at 10:30 a.m.! Mine is usually a container of soup from a vending machine. We report back at the set at 11:30 a.m.

"Then we start taping the show. And as soon as we finish the taping we start rehearsing for the next day's episode! In order to keep the whole week from being frantic I have to study the script three hours on Saturday and three hours on Sunday. That leaves no time or a social life and I'm lucky if I can squeeze in a play or a movie or a dinner date."

Miss Bannett said she had seen herself only twice in the show and thought she looked "ghastly" because the overhead television lighting made her appear as though she had no mouth. The lighting has since been adjusted. She finds it hard to accustom herself to the constant repetition of daytime scripts.

"But you have to say the same thing over and over again," she explained, "because you have to take into consideration new viewers trying to catch up with the story."

Miss Bennett spent a silent moment over her long and distinguished career to see if there was anything she wanted mentioned.

"I could kick myself," she said, with feeling, "for not buying real estate in Hollywood all those years ago."


Sandi McBride said...

Miss Bennett added elegance and authenticity to what could have otherwise been a so so part...she was the perfect fit!

Unknown said...

Dark Shadows would not have been Dark Shadows without Joan Bennett. I really missed her during those stints when she'd be off doing a play or movie. A class act.

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