Vengeful! Ruthless! Cruel! Romantic! Compassionate! Regretful!
These are among the adjectives that describe the vast spectrum of emotions that actor Jonathan Frid most capably incorporated into his rendition of vampire Baranbas Collins on the Gothic soap opera, Dark Shadows. For me, every episode of that series was a special treat when he was included in the cast! Hearing his voice and seeing him on screen made that day memorable.
Sadly, Frid just passed away at age 87, only a few weeks before the new cinematic version of Dark Shadows starring Johnny Depp will be hitting the theaters, including a cameo appearance by him as a party guest (along with 3 other co-stars from the series, Kathryn Leigh Scott, Lara Parker, and David Selby). Of course, I would have wanted him to have a more substantial role, but I am grateful that he was at least invited for a walk-on.
Without a doubt, Frid was responsible for the program's success. It was floundering in the ratings when Fate moved its huge hand! In April of 1967, he had his bags packed and was planning to move from New York to California to become a drama professor. But, as he left his apartment, he heard the phone ring, and raced back in to answer it. The caller was his agent who convinced him to audition for the role of a vampire, a part that tentatively would last only a few weeks and provide him with some additional wherewithal.
Fortunately, Frid consented and the rest is TV history! Had he left a few minutes earlier, we would probably have never heard of him, and the soap opera might have been cancelled that year. His centerpiece role invigorated the show and made it a cult hit. He was indeed born to portray Barnabas Collins!
He starred in the first theatrical version, House of Dark Shadows in 1970. Unfortunately, he was locked in a coffin and not seen on the TV series while filming his cinematic scenes. Although he was dispatched in this film, the writers could have devised a way to revitalize him for the 1971 sequel, Night of Dark Shadows, but that would have taken him away once again from the soap opera, so the production did not include his character, which was a profound disappointment. For the record, the series was cancelled in April of 1971.
In recent years, Frid had been attending Dark Shadows conventions. Indeed, he was slated to be a key guest at the upcoming convention in July in New York , which indubitably will now be dedicated to his memory.
In conclusion, may the Power of the Cosmos be with you, Jonathan, wherever you may now be! You will not be forgotten by your vast legion of devoted fans!
Scenes of Barnabas Collins in action on "Dark Shadows":