Thursday, June 7, 2012

"Spooky 'Soap Opera' Goes Big With Teens, Housewives," 1968

BARNABAS COLLINS, often described as the "real cool vampire" is portrayed on the ABC-TV series "Dark Shadows" by Jonathan Frid. Grayson Hall is shown as Dr. Julia Hoffman.

Spooky 'Soap Opera' Goes
Big With Teens, Housewives
The Robesonian, Sunday, October 26, 1968


NEW YORK — It happened in the fall of 1965 and is still going strong while growing in popularity on a shoestring budget, and is unique in the history of televised "soap opera."

Without any doubts, what it is, is the ABC-TV suspense series "Dark Shadows" which has apparently made the mysterious Maine mansion, Collinwood, and its eerie inhabitants familiar to millions. Almost everyday, week-days, this series presents a new mystery or suspense-filled turn of events which keeps the persistent fan waiting with bated breath for the solution and "answer" in the next day's episode.
The principal character, around which almost every one of the myriad plots revolves, is the 175-year-old Collins family vampire Barnabas Collins, portrayed with rare sensitivity by former Shakespearean actor
Jonathan Frid.

On April 14, 1967, Frid emerged from the nether regions, as it were, in the role of Barnabas, and since has become a favorite of millions of teenagers and housewives who follow his career with great zeal and proceed to mob him wherever he makes a personal appearance. His fans shower him with mail, he points out, at the rate of 1,500 a week, with the figure jumping to 4,000 on peak weeks.

Frid is a native of Hamilton, Ontario, Canada, where after a stint in the Canadian Navy during World War II, he went to England and studied at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts and later toured with repertory companies in Kent and Cornwall. He is, incidentally, of both English and Scottish ancestry, and attended McMaster University in Ontario.

After his tour de force' in England, Frid returned to Canada where he appeared with the Toronto Shakespeare Festival and studied announcing at the Academy of Radio Arts in Toronto, at that time operated by Lorne Green (of Bonanza fame). Since then, he has acted in various Shakespeare Festivals in the U.S. and Canada, including an engagement with the American Shakespeare Festival where he appeared with Katharine Hepburn.

Back in 1957, Frid received a master's degree in directing from the Yale University Drama School. Since that time, Frid has apoeared in the Broadway production of "Roar Like A Dove" with Charlie Ruggles and Betsy Palmer, and made a few appearances as a psychiatrist in "As the World Turns."

Frid, who is a bachelor, lives in Manhattan, where in his apartment he has a trophy room where he keeps the memorabilia he has received from his devoted followers, such as cigarette holders shaped like coffins, sketches of himself, music boxes which play the funeral march, and many others.

Frid allows that he has made the transition from actor to celebrity with ease, but adds with a touch of dry humor that he has had to change his telephone number several times and, as well, had to change residences.

Among the many other "characters" which inhabit both Collinwood and the tiny fishing village of Collinsport, Maine, are famed stage and screen personality Joan Bennett as Elizabeth Stoddard Collins (and Judith Collins); Don Briscoe as Chris Jennings, Terry Crawford as Beth Chevez; (Thayer David as Count Alexandre Potafi, Grayson Hall as Dr. Julia Hoffman, David Henesy as David Collins. Denise Nickerson as Amy Jennings, Lara Parker as Angelique Collins, and David Selby as Quentin Collins.

It's interesting to note that  not only is "Dark Shadows" a  very popular daily serial, but is also the source of at least two pop tunes, one of which, "Quentin's Theme," has been listed among the nation's Top Ten. The other, "Josette's Music Box" is fast climbing the ladder to musical success. It's a real showcase of habit-forming curiosities, the haunt of  vampires, ghosts, witches, werewolves, all vying for one another under the terrible spells that govern their lives, spells which have come to them from the dark depths of time.

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