Friday, June 22, 2012

Grayson Hall: A loud kind of quiet

I'm not entirely sure when I started to admire Grayson Hall.

It certainly wasn't during her first few months on Dark Shadows. Hall didn't do anything wrong, exactly, but Dark Shadows had a way of making villains of its heroes. Even though Barnabas Collins started out as a total bastard, you knew the show was better off with him than without. Consequently, it's hard to imagine anyone hoping that Dr. Julia Hoffman would be successful in her efforts to thwart him. The very idea was a buzzkill.

But it didn't take long for Grayson Hall and Julia Hoffman to work their way into the fabric of Dark Shadows. By the end of her first year on the show, Hall's unrequited (and initially unscripted) love of Barnabas Collins had become the heart and soul of Dark Shadows. It certainly has more depth and resonance than any of the other romances that flittered about in front of the camera during the show's 1,125 episode run.

Hall's next character, Natalie Du Pres, was mostly a waste of her talents. When the series made its first leap backward in time to reveal the "origin" of Barnabas Collins, Hall was stuck with one of the more uninteresting characters in the story in Countess Natalie Du Pres (a character Barbara Steel also failed to make compelling in the 1991 revival series.) But the show's writers learned from their mistakes during the next "flashback" storyline when they delivered to her Magda Rakosi, the gypsy witch.

As Magda, Hall got to chew the scenery with abandon. No matter how big the performance got, it never went off the rails. In fact, Hall was such a larger-than-life person that she only seemed unrealistic when playing staid characters like Natalie Du Pres. In the future, when she was asked to play quiet, it was an incredibly loud kind of quiet.

I think it was my second viewing of the series (separated by about 15 years from my first viewing) that I developed a genuine affection for Grayson Hall. I noticed how essential Dr. Hoffman had become to the show's narrative, and how wildly nuanced Hall was as Hoffman, Magda and the sinister, predatory housekeeper "Hoffman" from the first parallel time story. It was while I was writing a recent column about the missing footage in Night of Dark Shadows that I realized the deleted scenes I was most interested in seeing were those that included Grayson Hall.

Hall's popularity on the show is difficult to gauge, mostly because most of the Dark Shadows merchandise created in the 1960s was aimed at fans of Barnabas and Quentin. Today, there, Grayson Hall has an online following that seems to have happened organically. A quick search of Tumblr will show hashtags such as #julia hoffman, #barnabas and julia and, of course, #grayson hall. And posts marked with these hash tags appear almost daily.

Still, I had no idea if anyone else was interested enough in the actress to take part in a blog-a-thon devoted to her, and expected my queries to be mostly ignored. Instead, everyone I asked agreed to take part ... and others soon followed. It appears there are websites taking part that I wasn't even aware of, which is amazing.

I shied away from referring to this as an "annual event," because we might never do this again. But I also didn't want to close the door on the idea of doing another Grayson Hall-themed day later in the year. I've got several small pieces about Grayson Hall scheduled to appear here throughout the day. Meanwhile, please visit the other websites and see what they've got to say about the late actress.


The Performance Art of Grayson Hall: Life On Two Levels
Using lines from her Oscar-nominated film Night of the Iguana as thematic bookends, Frank Jay Gruber discusses the differences between Grayson Hall’s film and television performance styles, and why each is distinct and memorable.

The Collins Foundation 
"If you have to choose between real and interesting, choose interesting.” According to Patrick McCray, Grayson Hall gives us both in Dark Shadows.

The Classic Movie Lady
At age 13, Sidney Weade's favorite actress was Grayson Hall ... and she had never seen Dark Shadows.

The Drawing Room (Home of the Dark Shadows podcast)
On the latest installment of The Drawing Room podcast, Chrissy recites her poem, Ode to Hoffman, 1967, which celebrates Grayson Hall’s contribution to the early episodes of Dark Shadows. The poem is also available to read at the website.

Barnabas & Company
S. R. Shutt shares his thoughts on the artistry of Grayson Hall, playfully inspired by Wallace Stevens’ short verse cycle, Thirteen ways of looking at a blackbird

Dead Celebrity I will Sorely Miss of the Day – The Grayson Hall edition
The "hopelessly unhip blogger and bikini model" says Grayson Hall was the "BADDEST VAMPIRE LOVIN’ FOX THERE WILL EVER BE."

7 or 8 things I know about Her
Biographer R.J. Jamison summarizes the mystique of Grayson Hall

Hoffman/Lambert: The Doctor and The Vampire
Jessica Dwyer talks about women who are drawn to the dark side, and what Julia Hoffman's character has to say about that strange fascination.


quietdreams said...

I love her. Without her performance the show just would not be the same. I also think she's beautiful.

KaimanaStar said...

I've loved her since seeing her on the first run of DS, but in black and white here. Loved her in Night of the Iguana, Satan In High Heels, and That Darn Cat, although that was the least showy appearance. Picking her for Dark Shadows was casting genius, for that matter, there were virtually no bad selections of the rest of the cast. Now I need to get that biography, and copies of the original Dark Shadows movies!

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