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Topics - Midnite

In the Calendar section of today's LA Times (next to the Val Lewton article):

Fortune shines on Clive Owen -- His turn as a con man adds to the appeal of the so very British 'Chancer.'
An excerpt:  Part con drama, part soap opera, with sets straight out of "Brideshead Revisited" and a keyboard-heavy score possibly lifted from "Dark Shadows," ...

The full review:,1,2223889.story?ctrack=1&cset=true

I wonder if Bob Cobert has read his morning paper yet, hee hee.

Calendar Events / Announcements '08 I / James Storm in SciFi movie
« on: January 27, 2008, 07:57:12 AM »
James Storm is in the cast of the SciFi channel original movie "Bone Eater," which premieres Saturday, Feb. 9 at 9 p.m. E/P (8 Centrall) and repeats Sunday morning.  Check the for all times in you area.


Visiting the Cast of "House of Dark Shadows" or Remembering Joan Bennett

In 1970 my older brother and I sneaked onto the grounds of the Lyndhurst Estate and visited with members of the cast of "House of Dark Shadows".  But rather than simply recount that day, please allow me to provide a build-up, as well as my own assessment of what made Dark Shadows so popular.  The reasons for this approach are context and nostalgia.  First, the nostalgia…

In our late 1960s Northern Virginia neighborhood, very far from the fictional Collinsport, Maine, Dark Shadows was an after-school staple. My older brother Sean was the real fan.  I and others went along (happily) for the ride.  School let out at about three.  I would then meet my two brothers on the corner and pick up Donny and his brother there as well.  Their mother was the crossing guard, and rather than the two of them sitting in the squad car until she was off work, they'd tag along to our house for an afternoon snack (usually a snack that I would never feed my own kids), a little running around and then (at four-thirty Eastern time, if I remember correctly): Dark Shadows.  Always Dark Shadows!

Kids can be cruel, and we were.  Every flaw in every Dark Shadows episode we saw was registered and ridiculed.  These included flubbed lines, wrinkled gauze where a shadow was meant to be, and the microphone boom occasionally intruding into the camera's field of view.  But none of this really mattered.  Dark Shadows was good.  It was very good.  Jonathan Frid, with his Shakespearean presence, was Barnabas Collins.  Whenever he came into view, all that was amateurish about the sets, the sometimes sub-par acting and the array of other occasional gaffes were forgotten.   Now, context…

I venture to add that Joan Bennett was just as necessary for the success of Dark Shadows.  She provided a magnificent counter balance to Mr. Frid's large countenance.  She too had a presence.  Just by being there, she commanded the scene and her effect on the other actors was palpable.  There are essentially two ways to get actors to act well.  One is through training.  The other way is to put them in a situation where they are not acting, but rather reacting (in a very real way) toward a stimulus.  Joan Bennett was just the right stimulus for the other, less experienced actors.  It has been more than thirty years since I have seen Dark Shadows—both the series and the full motion pictures.  But as young as I was, I do remember how the 'Collins family' would look at their matriarch.  It was with awe.  The expressions I remember all had one thing in common:  they all seemed to be asking, "How am I doing?"  It was as if they were asking for her approval.

Explanations for the show's popularity are as varied and diverse as the fans.  But I believe it was the 'star-quality' presence of both Jonathan Frid and Joan Bennett  in combination with the very well played-out dynamic between their respective characters that drove the success of the show.  Similarly, their respective characters wrapped around each other very well almost in a (cliché alert) Ying-Yang dynamic.  Barnabas was not pure evil.  Elizabeth was not pure innocence.  You always knew that underneath her feminine, nurturing self was someone who was not to be trifled with.  She could be ruthless, especially in protecting her family.  The characters 'had each other's number'.  Both were strong yet clearly vulnerable.   I probably would not have given this dynamic a second a thought prior to the day that I visited the set of "House of Dark Shadows."

As fate would have it, my family moved to Tarrytown New York in 1969.  Shortly thereafter, we were thrilled to find out that "House of Dark Shadows" was to be filmed at the Lyndhurst Estate.  Sean decided to 'crash' the set.  He had to meet Jonathan Frid and the rest of the cast—but most of all, Jonathan Frid.   Early one morning we walked from our house near Marymount College, down Broadway, past the then relatively small cut-off for the Tapan Zee Bridge, to the border of town where Tarrytown meets Irvington.  Technically the estate is in Irvington (named after the author and statesman Washington Irving).  We walked up the main entrance to the guard shack and engaged the attendant.  He was nice, but firm.  We were not allowed in.  The guard seemed to be trying in his own way to make us feel better by describing all the actors to us.  He may have thought that his first-hand accounts with the actors and actresses would assuage our burning desire to meet them personally.  It had quite the opposite effect: it only made us that much more disappointed.  We turned and left for the long walk back home.  We were almost past the length of stone wall that borders the estate along Broadway when my brother noticed a section where a car or truck appeared to have pierced it.  As our eyes met, we instantly knew what the other was thinking.  We entered.  With little idea of where the main house was we blundered on through the thick of trees, making sure no one could see us easily from the driveway.  We stumbled through the broken-down pool where 'Carolyn Stoddard' terrified 'David Collins'.  We wandered past the very large and broken greenhouse, keeping to the natural cover as best we could.  Success!  Not only did we make it to the house, but we stumbled right into an area where many of the cast members were milling about.  There were just a few fans spread among the stars and they were talking casually and getting autographs.  Sean wanted to jump right in.  I was a bit cautious and wanted to hang back a bit.  But he asked me to accompany him to go and talk with Jonathan Frid.  I acquiesced.  Mr. Frid was very formidable in his Barnabas costume.  However he was very friendly and gracious.  After someone asked a question, he made a point to engage all that were around as he answered.  My brother had made a sketch of Mr. Frid in costume and Mr. Frid signed this as well.  After spending much more time with Mr. Frid than we all thought that we had the right to, I wondered off a bit from the small groups around each of the stars, to just take it all in and rest.  With my back to the [Hudson] river, I was able to watch as fans went from star to star.  It was a very pleasant atmosphere. 

But then the whole atmosphere changed.  All around us seemed to become very quiet.  As if on some silent cue, everyone's eyes turned to a path on my left.  There appeared Joan Bennett.  No one spoke.  No one even moved.  I have to admit that I too was stunned.  Ms. Bennett was beautiful.  She seemed so young—nothing like the stern, older-looking Elizabeth Collins Stoddard she portrayed.  She proceeded through the area leisurely nodding to people, saying hello and smiling pleasantly.  All eyes were on her as she moved through the onlookers, but still no one moved.  It was not until after she made it all the way to the main house, and was safely inside that anyone moved.  The gentle rap of the screen door closing behind her seemed to wake everyone up and return us all to our everyday lives.   Many fans grabbed their pens and autograph books—somewhat rudely—away from the other stars in a frenzy to get Joan Bennett's autograph!  The fans rushed to the door but it was too late. 

Hers was a presence that really did induce awe.  I have never been 'star-struck' since that memorable day and years later I came in close contact with many celebrities running around New York City—to include Jacquelyn Kennedy Onassis.  So I go back to my original thoughts as I started:  context and nostalgia.   I think I have captured thoroughly the nostalgia of being young and experiencing mainstream actors while they were much younger and still very active in their craft.  My assessment of Ms. Bennett's acting juxtaposed with Mr. Frid's is something I would like to get feedback on from Dark Shadows fans and aficionados.

Tom Conway
Alexandria, VA

(posted with permission)

Thank you, Kosmo, for forwarding!

Calendar Events / Announcements '08 I / Today's Birthday!-- Luciaphil
« on: January 24, 2008, 06:16:43 PM »
Happy Birthday

In case you missed it last week, the Law & Order SVU titled "Unorthodox" with Alexander Gould will air on the USA Network next Sunday (Jan. 27) at 11 p.m. Eastern.  Check your local listings for the time in your area.

Gould plays a disturbed, lonely boy who commits shocking crimes, much to the exasperation of his father, a single parent (the boy's mother died) who hollers at his son and is NOT played by Martin Donovan.   [snow_wink]

(There's a scene with Gould and Christopher Meloni that's not supposed to be amusing... unless you were a fan of the series Oz.   [snow_lipsrsealed])

Calendar Events / Announcements '08 I / Happy Birthday to dvlvan26!
« on: January 23, 2008, 11:14:05 PM »
Hope you're having a wonderful birthday, dvlvan26!   [occasion1]

Happy Birthday
Amy Jennings Fan!

 [hello]      [occasion15]       [clap]

Happy Birthday

Calendar Events / Announcements '08 I / Happy Birthday to Brian!
« on: January 07, 2008, 07:53:53 PM »
Happy Birthday

Calendar Events / Announcements '08 I / Happy Birthday to Misa!
« on: January 03, 2008, 07:00:20 PM »
Happy Birthday

Calendar Events / Announcements '08 I / Today's Birthday! jennifer
« on: January 02, 2008, 05:10:39 PM »
Happy Birthday

Calendar Events / Announcements '07 II / Happy Birthday vampire675!
« on: December 31, 2007, 07:36:19 PM »
 [occasion18]  Happy Birthday to vampire675   [occasion18]

Calendar Events / Announcements '07 II / Today's Birthday! AAvolan
« on: December 28, 2007, 07:07:23 PM »
Happy Birthday

In the Home section of today's LA Times:

SET PIECES: At Greystone, there will be 'Blood' -- and bowling
The article discusses the appeal of Greystone as a filming location, a brief history of the mansion, and its (until now) hidden secret.  Some photos in the print edition do not appear in the online version, and vice versa, but each has at least one shot of the notorious "Old House" staircase.

Who knew that Collinwood had a bowling alley?!  ;)

Thanks, Bette!

Calendar Events / Announcements '07 II / Happy Birthday to barnabasjr!
« on: December 26, 2007, 07:12:23 PM »
Happy Birthday