Friday, April 20, 2012

Jonathan Frid | Barnabas Collins
Pop Culture's 1st Vampire Dies

from THE NY DAILY NEWS
Jonathan Frid, who played vampire Barnabas Collins on “Dark Shadows” decades before half the actors on TV grew fangs, died April 14 at a hospital in his native Hamilton, Ontario.
Frid was 87 and reportedly died peacefully of natural causes.
Like any good vampire, however, Frid won’t be gone for long. He makes a cameo appearance in the new Tim Burton film of “Dark Shadows,” which stars Johnny Depp and premieres May 11.
“It’s a sad day,” Burton said of Frid’s death. “I’m glad I had the opportunity to meet Jonathan on the set this past Spring. He left an indelible impression. Barnabas lives on!”
“Dark Shadows,” a campy Gothic daytime soap opera, launched in 1966 with few expectations and became a cult fave, peaking at close to 20 million viewers during its five-year run.
While the cast was designed as an ensemble, Frid became a breakout star. He didn’t appear until the show was several months into its run, at which point his character was accidentally released and took up residence with the Collins family at their home on Widows’ Hill.
Barnabas, who wasn’t a bad sort as vampires go, had an agenda he often had some trouble carrying out. That was true for everyone on the show, though, as everyday soap opera dramas about love and betrayal were compounded by the presence of werewolves, witches, warlocks and an alternate universe.
The show was also notorious for its clumsy production values, which the producers were smart enough to incorporate as it rolled along. Sets would sag, lighting fixtures would show, a stagehand would walk into a shot.
Fans loved it. Almost a half century later, “Dark Shadows” consistently makes almost every list of top cult TV shows.
Frid himself, a classically trained actor with a master's in directing from Yale Drama School, was for many years less of a fan.
His costar Kathryn Leigh Scott, who played Maggie Evans and Josette DuPres, called him “our reluctant vampire.”
“I tried to fight Barnabas,” Frid said in an interview several years ago. “I couldn't understand why so many people watched the show. But they did, so I couldn't leave.”
After “Dark Shadows” ended he returned to his roots in classical stage work. He performed Shakespeare extensively, starred in “Arsenic and Old Lace,” and created three well-received one-man shows.
He was close to 80 before he gave in to the pleas of "Dark Shadows" fans and seemed to fully embrace Barnabas. When he started attending “Dark Shadows” conventions, he was hailed as the prodigal vampire.
He reprised Barnabas in 2010 for a “Dark Shadows” audio drama, “The Night Whispers,” and agreed to the Depp/Tim Burton film, in which he plays an older Barnabas who comes upon the younger Barnabas.
Age doesn't matter all that much to vampires, but there is an exchange about the cut of his hair.
Frid moved to the U.S. in 1954 to pursue his acting career and he was based in New York for the next 40 years. He almost moved to Los Angeles just before “Dark Shadows” took off, he said, but since the show was filmed in New York, he never left.
He returned to Canada after he mostly retired from the stage in 1994.
He admitted in an interview several years ago that while "Dark Shadows" may not have been his most epic role, he did find a few Shakespearian elements in the vampire.
Equally important, Barnabas also enabled him to land more of the classical roles he loved because it made his name a valuable marquee commodity.
“How blessed I am to have known this dear man and to have such wonderful memories of him, both on screen and off,” Scott wrote on her website. “He was irascible, irreverent, funny, caring, lovable and thoroughly professional, and in the end became the whole reason why kids ran home from school to watch “Dark Shadows’.”

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