An Acting Legend Passes Away

Jonathan Frid
I have always thought of myself, frankly, as a sort of dilettante actor.  That is to say, an actor that considers himself reasonably successful but hardly ever sparked by the urge to make big bucks or even a modest living from his profession. Consequently some of my early or even opening night performances have been appallingly bad and yet by the end of their runs have been as good as any other actor in the business.  I repeat, “as good as any other actor in the business” – Jonathon Frid (December 2, 1924 – April 13, 2012)

If you’re not into Gothic stories, then you may not have heard of Jonathan Frid. But Mr. Frid through his work did for Gothic stories and vampires what Star Trek did for sci-fi and race relations, they both changed television history forever. In 1965 Dan Curtis created a first of its kind drama for ABC Television, he created a Gothic Drama Soap-Opera, called Dark Shadows. Premiering in 1966, Dark Shadows had moderate success and stunned audiences by introducing a serious supernatural element with ghosts after six months of running. By 1967 the show’s ratings were fluctuating and a new character was introduced, a vampire named Barnabas Collins played by Jonathon Frid, graced the screen and turned the Dark Shadows world on it’s ear with a new storyline.

Jonathan Frid born John Herbert Frid, a Canadian National who spent over thirty years in live theater, was best known to American audiences as his Vampire character Barnabas. But Mr. Frid who was an accomplished actor also starred in productions such as Dial “M” for Murder and Oliver Stone’s  movie Seizure. There have been a few reports of his death on different dates, but one source claiming to have received the news directly from his survivors indicates that Mr. Frid passed away from natural causes on April Friday the 13th, 2012 at a Canadian hospital.

Jonathon Frid was by all accounts not a fan of the horror genre, and generally had retired from any televised work to perform theater in Canada after his run in the United States. He emerged from his retirement in to appear at conventions for the Dark Shadows show, as a way to raise money for charities. Mr. Frid operated a website where he shared his personal musings and feelings on various subjects, it’s an ability for fans to see a long time actor’s point of view on how he interacted with fans and what he saw as a sometimes troublesome stigma of being associated with Barnabas.

Much to the dismay and horror of many Dark Shadows fans, a modern day adaptation starring Johnny Depp is in production and is going to be made into a comedy, rather than staying true to the show’s dramatic roots which brought it so much fame. Months before his death, Jonathon had filmed a brief cameo in the new film, and adding to his legendary mystery, some question his death being on Friday the 13th, as a sign that he may rise once again.

Barnabas’s back-story from the original show(from wiki):

Barnabas Collins was a member of the late 18th century-era Collins family, from the fictional town of Collinsport, Maine. He was the son of Joshua Collins (Louis Edmonds) and Naomi Collins (Joan Bennett). Barnabas has many cousins during his mortal lifetime: Millicent Collins and Daniel Collins. He also had another cousin named Alakuz Collins, who died sometime before the start of 1795. In later life, Barnabas intended to marry an heiress from Martinique named Josette du Pres (Kathryn Leigh Scott), although he had a brief affair with Angelique Bouchard (Lara Parker), Josette’s maidservant.

Upon Angelique’s arrival in Collinsport for the wedding, Barnabas was determined not to resume his affair. Spurned, Angelique, a practitioner of witchcraft, used a number of spells to manipulate Barnabas and his family, culminating in his agreement to marry her.

When Barnabas discovered Angelique’s duplicity, he shot her. With what she believed to be her dying words, she took revenge on Barnabas by summoning a vampire bat from hell to attack him. Barnabas fell extremely ill and died. Angelique survived and attempted to rescind the curse, but was unsuccessful.

Shortly thereafter, Barnabas rose as a vampire. He immediately strangled Angelique to death, the only witness to his rising from his coffin. (In death she became a succubus[citation needed].) Later, he frightened his aunt Abigail Collins (Clarice Blackburn) to death, and entombed alive the hatefully fanatic witch-hunter Reverend Trask (Jerry Lacy) in the Old House basement. Sarah saw her deceased brother roaming Collinwood and hid from him in the cold dark woods all night; because of this she contracted pneumonia and died. To add to Barnabas’s grief, his mother Naomi Collins committed suicide after discovering her son’s secret. Barnabas blamed Angelique for the deaths of both his sister and his mother. He also blamed Lt. Nathan Forbes (Joel Crothers) because he told Naomi about him. Barnabas strangled Forbes to death. Barnabas also attempted to transform Josette into a vampire. At first, she was willing, if not quite fully cognizant of what this would entail. But then Angelique (who had become far more powerful after her death) revealed to her a vision of what she would become. Fleeing from Barnabas, Josette leapt to her death off the cliffs of Widow’s Hill (in a later episode in the series where Barnabas confronted Angelique, he told her he would never forgive her for bringing about the deaths of Sarah, Josette and Naomi).

Unable to bear what he had become, Barnabas asked his father, Joshua Collins, to destroy him. However, Joshua was unable to slay his son, and so he ordered Barnabas’ devoted servant, Ben Stokes (Thayer David) to nail a cross to the inside lid of Barnabas’s coffin and to wrap chains on its outside, forever imprisoning the vampire in the secret room of the family mausoleum at Eagle’s Hill Cemetery.

In 1967, Willie Loomis (John Karlen) was foraging in the Collins family crypt at the cemetery for the family’s rumored “lost jewels.” He stumbled upon the chained coffin in which Barnabas slept. Believing the coffin to contain the lost riches of the Collins family, Willie accidentally released the vampire. Barnabas attacked Willie and turned him into his unwilling servant.

Barnabas introduced himself to the modern Collins family as a cousin from England—a hard-working businessman never seen during the day. The family accepted this story, (even though they’d never heard of him before), because of his “uncanny resemblance” to the portrait of the ancestral Barnabas (although they were really one and the same) which hung in the foyer near the front door in Collinwood. Thirsty for new blood, Barnabas made victims of several Collinsport residents. He was particularly taken with waitress Maggie Evans (Kathryn Leigh Scott), who resembled his long-lost love, Josette. Barnabas was told by Victoria Winters (Alexandra Moltke), that Josette’s spirit still haunted the Collinwood estate, where it periodically helped and protected others (such as young David Collins (David Henesy), to whom Vicki was governess). Barnabas kidnapped Maggie, and hypnotized her into believing she really was Josette, and planned to make her his vampire bride. Maggie escaped (with help from the ghost of little Sarah Collins), but not unscathed. The emotional distress of being kidnapped caused Maggie to regress to a child-like mentality and to forget all that happened to her. Barnabas then targeted Vicki as his next potential vampire consort. He opted to use alternate methods though, first trying to seduce her away from her fiancé Burke Devlin (Anthony George) before biting her. While this was happening, the ghost of Sarah appeared repeatedly, tormenting Barnabas (who felt indirectly responsible for her death) and warning him not to do evil deeds.

Meanwhile, Maggie was sent to Wyndcliff Sanitarium, where Dr. Julia Hoffman (Grayson Hall) tried to make her remember what happened, as well as to identify her kidnapper. Dr. Hoffman soon found out that the answer lay somewhere at Collinwood. She then discovered who and what Barnabas was. Julia fell in love with him, however, and attempted to cure him (as well as protect him by hypnotizing Maggie again, this time into forgetting everything Barnabas had tried to do to her). Barnabas initially distrusted Julia, and when her medical cure failed, he viewed her as a risk—she would be able to expose his true nature. He attempted to kill her, or drive her mad so that no one would believe accusations of vampirism from her. Ultimately, though, Barnabas realized he needed an ally and eventually became rehabilitated to the point that they became friends. Even though the romantic relationship Julia desired never happened on-screen, she became Barnabas’s chief confidante and helped him many times, even risking time travel to aid her afflicted friend over the next several years. Barnabas, too, became genuinely devoted to Julia and would often go to extraordinary lengths to protect her or to rescue her when she ran afoul of his enemies, such as Angelique (who often treated Julia as a romantic rival because she could not understand the connection between Barnabas and Julia).



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