Friday, June 29, 2012

Jonathan Frid: "They don't schedule Dark Shadows in my home town of Ontario," 1969


Below is a surprisingly detailed look at Dark Shadows as the show entered its fourth year on the air. Too many promotional pieces in the 1960s recycled the same bits of information or focused too much on actor Jonathan Frid, who really had little new to say about the character after his first year on Dark Shadows. Instead, this story includes some surprisingly personal anecdotes from Frid, as well as input from Grayson Hall, Joan Bennett, Don Briscoe and Dan Curtis.

"Dark Shadows" Set for New Season
April 20,1969 Sunday Post-Crescent

Within the walls of an innocent-looking, cream-colored structure on New York's West 53 St., there's an assortment of vampires, werewolves, witches, warlocks, ghosts and monsters who have been haunting some critics, harassing each other and delighting millions of afternoon video viewers for three seasons.

These characters, of course, are inhabitants of the world of "Dark Shadows," the ABC Gothic gala which chill-conditions home screens five afternoons a week, and will continue to do so into a fourth season.

Led by Barnabas Collins, the suave, 175-year-old vampire whose menacing exterior has elevated him from the ranks of featured performer to television stardom, the "Dark Shadows" cast has succeeded in capturing the young housewife audience and also has won over the teenage set.

"Our show varies its appeal," says Dan Curtis, the executive producer whose imaginative brain created the
haunting serial in June 1966. "The housewives are attracted by the appeal of Jonathan Frid as Barnabas and by the situations and intrigues which make all serials popular. The teens go for the 'way out' characters  featured on the show."

Joan Bennett, one of Hollywood's famed leading ladies, has one of the more conservative roles on the  program as the mistress of the brooding mansion which serves as a focal point for the mysterious goings-on.
Nearing the start of her fourth year on the series, Miss Bennett points out that she finds television work  enjoyable, though "There's much more work involved than in the movies. The other day I learned 24 pages of dialogue for a half-hour program. In films, that would have taken a  week.

"The only aspect I can't get used to is the schedule," she says. "Free time has become a cherished luxury,  because a normal work week can involve more than 70 hours in rehearsals, tapings and home study. When I say week, I mean Monday through Sunday."

Although her running part in "Dark Shadows" keeps Miss Bennett in New York most of the year, she  nevertheless has a clause in her contract which allows her to star in a stage production every summer. In order to explain her brief absences from the serial, the writers Sam Hall (Grayson Hall's husband), Ron Sproat and Gordon Russell have to figure out different ways to write her out of the script each time.

Don Briscoe, the young actor whose characterization of the werewolf keeps viewers in a tizzy, enjoys the advantage of having once been written out of the show.

"Originally I appeared as a fellow who became a vampire and was dispatched with a stake," Don says. "Now I have returned to the show as the vampire's brother with his own hang-up. He's a werewolf."

"Dan Curtis is brilliant in creating new ideas for the serial," says Grayson Hall, who plays Dr. Hoffman on "Dark Shadows" "Who would think of setting up a one-sided romance with a vampire? "It's one-sided  because I'm the one who has eyes only for Barnabas, while he has his mind on other things.

"Women really seem to understand how Dr. Hoffman feels about Barnabas," says Grayson.

Jonathan Frid was not a member of the original "Dark Shadows" cast. He made his first appearance on the show April 14, 1967, and was originally signed for a three-week stint. His characterization caught fire  immediately and the rest is daytime serial history. Frid receives more than 1,500 letters a week from fans all over the country. However, he takes his rise to fame in stride.

"I've been a working actor for 20 years, so it didn't happen overnight," Frid says. "I suppose every actor  wants to be a star, but I never consciously worked at it. I never expected any of my roles to bring me stardom, but I'm certainly grateful to Barnabas for making every actor's dream come true."

Jonathan still resides at the same east side New York apartment he occupied before success crossed his  path, but he has had to change his telephone number on several occasions even though his number is unlisted.

"It's amazing how the fans can find out everything about you," he says. "It's almost as if they have a secret language with which they communicate with each other. Sometimes I'll stop in at a restaurant to get a bite (excuse the pun) and the next thing I know there'll be a crowd of youngsters waiting outside."

"Dark Shadows" has brought one major change into Jonathan's life. He travels more. It isn't often that he's able to spend a quiet weekend at home. Usually he'll be off to the airport for a flight to appear before a live  audience, either on behalf of ABC or for some worthy organization. He has been a guest on a number of telethons and his presence has resulted in more than the usual pledges of donations. Although Jonathan's fame has spread  from coast to coast, it wasn't until recently that he was able to convince his mother and brothers in Canada that the "black sheep" of the Frid family, who had deserted home and the family business years ago to try his hand at acting, had finally become a celebrity.

"They don't schedule 'Dark Shadows' in my home town of Ontario," Frid says. "Although I send home some of my better reviews, they still weren't really convinced that I had achieved some kind of acknowledgement as an actor.

"Several months ago when I learned my mother and eldest brother were coming to New York for a visit, I decided to throw a big party in their honor.

"I rented a suite at a fashionable Park Ave. hotel and arranged to have catered an elaborate soiree, inviting the producers, writers and cast of 'Dark Shadows.' performers of other ABC New York-based shows and some friends of mine who have made a name for themselves in show business.

"Hours later when the last of my guests had gone, my mother turned to me and, with a smile, said, 'Son, I think you're finally on the way'."

1 comment:

chrissy said...

This article says that Jonathan Frid signed up for a "three-week stint." I had always heard it was 13 weeks. Do we know which one it was? Maybe this is a typo? Or maybe I'm completely mistaken!

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