Thursday, November 12, 2015

David Selby is "indecently handsome" in THE DEVIL'S DISCIPLE

"There is no such thing as time. There's only space, physical space and it is space which measure distance which we in our ignorance and folly insist are points in time. All time is one point, one moment, it is ever existent and ever accessible and it is physical space that can be used to make all four easily accessible."
Those were the words of Quentin Collins, written in his journal in 1840 and read by Dr. Julia Hoffman on the episode of DARK SHADOWS broadcast Aug. 21, 1970. For some of the viewers of WNHC-TV in the greater New Haven, Connecticut, area, it was the first time they got to see actor David Selby in the comforts of their own homes.

They were advised as week earlier in the pages of The Bridgeport Post that the "continuing suspense series" was being added to the WNHC weekday program schedule. If the timing seems rather odd, the print announcement was even odder: it includes a blurb about Selby's concurrent presence on THE DEVIL'S DISCIPLE at that year's American Shakespeare Festival in Stratford.

The newspaper notice ended by telling readers that DARK SHADOWS was replacing a program called STUMP THE STARS.

Anyone hoping to see Selby on the Aug. 17 WNHC debut was in for a disappointment, though. The actor was not only absent from that episode, he wouldn't return to the show until the week's final episode.

Less than a year later, DARK SHADOWS would be cancelled. Here endeth the lesson on the importance of timing.

THE DEVIL'S DISCIPLE is an 1897 play by George Bernard Shaw. Set in New Hampshire during the time of the American Revolution, the play tells the story of a smuggler (and self-styled "devil's disciple) named Richard Dudgeon. A case of mistaken identity leads to Dudgeon's arrest by the British, which prompts the rogue to make an unlikely decision: Dudgeon refuses to save his own life (and condemn another to death) by correcting the solders' error.

“I’ve been werewolf, Abraham Lincoln and now Dick Dudgeon — it's about as unlikely as a double-bill of ‘Dracula’ and ‘Little Lord Fauntleroy,’” Selby told a reporter that summer. "It’s a wonderful chance to be working with people who are right here making theatrical history.”

Among those people were director Cyril Ritchard (who directed ROAR LIKE A DOVE with Jonathan Frid in 1964), THE WIZARD OF OZ's Margaret Hamilton as Dudgeon's puritanical mother, and actress Jill Clayburgh.

"Dick himself comes across with all the brio one could ask for, thanks to David Selby," wrote Caldwell Titcomb in the July 10, 1970, edition of The Harvard Crimson. "He is properly imprudent, a maelstrom of activity; and he is young and indecently handsome, as befits the romantic hero of a melodrama."

"Lastly, there is David Selby, TV's erstwhile Quentin Collins of DARK SHADOWS fame," wrote Raymond K. Bordner for The Day, a newspaper in Now London, Connecticut. "Selby brings to the role of Dick Dudgeon, the devil's disciple, a swashbuckling, devil-may-care worthy of Erroll Flynn himself. I liked it. I liked it very much. He is fresh, brash and immediately appealing."

Below are color photos from the production.

Via: The New York Public Library

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