“You nervous about something?”
One of the noteworthy things about Dark Shadows – a soap created by a man who had never before done a soap, a series just starting out on the lesser of the three television networks – was the top-notch level of supporting actor talent the show was able to attract early on, despite having been a ratings liability from its initial thirteen-week episode cycle. There are those with previous television experience but who became known for their work on Dark Shadows, like Louis Edmonds and Nancy Barrett. There are those with no earlier television experience but who defined the roles they originated on Dark Shadows, like Alexandra Moltke and Kathryn Leigh Scott. Then there are those actors already known to television audiences but who became better known in later years for work done subsequent to Dark Shadows, like Conrad Bain. Barnard Hughes would fall into this latter category. That’s right! Barnard Hughes, one of the great and memorable character actors of twentieth century stage and screen and tube, is part of the long roster of acting talent to have graced the studio soundstage of Dark Shadows.
First mentioned in episode 21, Stuart Bronson is a business associate of Burke Devlin’s who is putting together a report on the financial structure as well as real estate and business holdings of the Collins family so that Devlin can plan the moves he needs to make to put them out of business. If Burke Devlin is to sit down and feast over the acquisition of the Collins business enterprises and all they represent, then Stuart Bronson is the man who prepares the list of ingredients and sets the table.
This is the first episode to provide a glimpse of Burke Devlin the businessman in action. It’s easy to see how he was able to come by such a fortune so quickly. He insists on thorough work from his business associates and fast, and won’t hesitate to crack the whip at the slightest hint that his interests may be compromised. For instance, after some polite small talk, Bronson as a courtesy mentions that Devlin needn’t have made the hour’s drive to Bangor, that he could have rented a car at the airport and met his client at the hotel in Collinsport. Devlin’s response is characteristically brusque: “Bronson, I thought it was clear. I don’t want you coming near me in Collinsport… And as far as anyone’s concerned, you’re handling this business. I have nothing to do with it. And the day that Elizabeth Stoddard or Roger Collins or anyone in that family connect you with me, that’s the day you start looking for another job.”
As if that weren’t withering enough, there is no pleasing Burke Devlin, not even with the month of hard work that went into the report Bronson has prepared.
Burke: It’s fine.
Bronson: I thought you might be pleased.
Burke: As far as it goes, but it doesn’t go far enough.
Bronson: Well, I told you that I expected to have a couple more weeks on this. After all I think we are in pretty good shape.
Burke: Not good enough!
Devlin is even above accepting a helpful suggestion from Bronson in the form of financial advice.
Bronson: I have a complete breakdown of all the notes outstanding that are held by a credit company, a commercial credit company, here in Bangor. Now all we have to do is buy them up, call them in for payment –
Burke: Bronson, I don’t need a lesson in finance. I know we can buy up the notes. I know we can call them in. But there’s a lot more to it than that.
To top it off, not even an assurance by Bronson of quality work to complete the assignment can keep his client from adding a further reproval.
Bronson: It’s a big job, Mr. Devlin. I’ll do the best I can. You can’t expect any better than that.
Burke: I expect you to earn that fat retainer I pay you. Which means I want information, and fast. Now that’s not too much to ask, is it?
Bronson has to agree that indeed it isn’t, given that he has no choice. Despite being a solid generation older than his young, hard-nosed client, and perhaps a good deal wiser as well, for Bronson service is his business and so deference has to be his motto.
But these interactions do flag for the viewer something to reveal a positive character quality in Burke Devlin: Despite his intentions for ruining the Collins family, and thus for disrupting the lives of characters we like, at least he’s on the up and up. Early in their meeting, Burke explained to Bronson his reason for moving up the time tables on the assignment, that Roger Collins had been in a car accident and the sheriff had been on his trail asking questions. Burke had explained this matter of factly, as if it were no big deal, but it made Bronson uneasy enough to raise the subject later on.
Bronson: Uh, Mr. Devlin. A little while ago you mentioned the sheriff. Why are you worried about him? We’re not planning anything illegal.
Burke: I know. But when you’re planning a surprise party, it spoils all the fun if the guests of honor know about it in advance.
This point is reassuring for the viewer: No illegal activities are part of Burke Devlin’s plan to ruin the Collins family. He is using the business resources at his disposal, but he’ll play it fair and square. He simply wants revenge against the people who he feels have wronged him.
This is encouraging because it makes it easier to like the character of Burke Devlin, or at least easier not to dislike him. A lot of times in these early episodes Devlin can come across as something of a lout, whether looking for a scrap and daring an opponent to try him or simply using and manipulating others around him for his own gain. Aside from the few people from his past that he still interacts with in Collinsport with whom he seems to hold some genuine affection, like Maggie and Sam Evans, there isn’t a lot so far to recommend about Burke Devlin in terms of being a likeable character.
In fact, if you could create a Burke Devlin action figure to represent the man who inhabits these early episodes, it might be something like this: You press a button in the back and the right arm springs forward with fist clenched, lashing out at anything and anyone in his way, and of course that lantern-jawed Dick Tracy mug fashioned with the appropriate sneer. You just keep pressing that button repeatedly and that arm keeps jabbing forth – the Burke Devlin Action Figure, a one-man wrecking ball on a mission that includes a plan for real estate redevelopment. He wants to do a job on the Collins family, and hit them hard.
But as it happens, a member of the Collins family is already making quite a job of it on his own – a nine-year-old boy named David.
David’s governess, Vicki Winters, who never believed that Burke Devlin was guilty of causing Roger’s accident despite having walked into the Collinwood garage to find Devlin standing by Roger’s car holding a wrench, has discovered the missing valve hidden in one of the dresser drawers in David’s room, having recognized the object from drawings that Roger had shown her. She confronts David with it, then says she’ll show it to his aunt, and then this happens…
Vicki manages to lock the valve in her dresser and tricks David into leaving her room so she can lock him out. She has to wait a while, to make sure that David has gone away, before she can seek out Mrs. Stoddard to tell her what she found, but David finds her first, claiming that Miss Winters tried to hurt him and that he was hit by her. When Vicki finally does get downstairs to talk to Mrs. Stoddard, she has to first refute the claims that David made up about her.
When Vicki reveals what she found in David’s room and what it ultimately means, Mrs. Stoddard’s reaction creates yet another barrier to be surmounted: “I, I don’t believe you!”
Vicki offers to take Mrs. Stoddard up to her room to show her the valve, but when she unlocks the dresser it has disappeared, and her employer gives her a look to indicate that she is not convinced.
That was episode 26. In this episode, she tells her story to Carolyn, who, after a moment of disbelief while questioning the plausibility of a nine-year-old boy committing such a gruesome act, finally gives in to accept what Vicki has discovered – and this without even having to be shown the valve itself.
This represents one of the crucial psychological elements of the missing brake valve story – that things aren’t necessarily as they appear and that guilt may only be in the mind of the beholder.
Like Vicki, Carolyn didn’t necessarily believe in Burke Devlin’s guilt, but then she didn’t want to. She has been living with her own sense of guilt in knowing that it had been she who brought Burke Devlin to the house that day. So if Burke Devlin were guilty, then in her mind she would have to share in the responsibility. Despite the shock of realizing that her cousin had tampered with the brakes on his own father’s car, she is nonetheless relieved to be able to shed the burden of guilt she has been forced to carry.
But the level of denial built up around the mind of Mrs. Stoddard is something else altogether – it’s like the walls of some impenetrable fortress. She has to believe in Burke Devlin’s guilt, even more so than Roger. As one who has shouldered the responsibility of maintaining the business interests of the Collins family all these years, and all the prestige and respect this entails, Burke Devlin’s guilt represents the elimination of a threat that has been hovering about ever since he returned to Collinsport. When her trusted plant manager Bill Malloy informed her of Devlin’s intention to take over the business, Collinwood, everything, Elizabeth Stoddard knew that she was locked in a struggle for survival, forced to play a game she might well not win.
This inner turmoil has clouded her judgment. Her governess, who arrived in Collinwood less than forty-eight hours before and who is only in her second day of employment, has come to her with some unsettling news about her nephew. But she refuses to believe it. When Carolyn discovers in Vicki’s room the copy of Mechano Magazine with the well-thumbed page of caring for and disassembling a master brake cylinder, Vicki says that this is how David must have learned to remove the valve from Roger’s car. But Mrs. Stoddard, still with blinders on, observes, “It’s in your room, Miss Winters.” When Vicki explains that David had presented it to her as a gift, Mrs. Stoddard replies, “It’s a strange gift, wouldn’t you say?” It’s like Mrs. Stoddard believes that Miss Winters would come all this way, at a very fair rate of pay, to set out to ruin her job after only less than two days by making up such outrageous tales of her charge. Wouldn’t it have been easier to simply pack up and leave if she didn’t want to stay on?
So if you could wager who is in a better position to destroy the Collins family and all it has come to represent, and who could do it first, the smart money would be on the nine-year-old boy with the magazine subscription.
Lurking deep within the audio of the taped episodes of Dark Shadows as originally broadcast, layered beneath the crew members coughing and the studio equipment grinding, bumping, and clattering, are the voices of executive producer Dan Curtis and director Lela Swift as heard through the control room microphone of the television studio.
This episode of The Dan and Lela Show has Lela Swift complaining about yet another supporting actor in the cast, who is making his Dark Shadows debut.
Lela Swift: Dan, I don’t like this actor Barnard Hughes. He’s so scruffy looking. And his voice is all whiny and nasally. Why did you hire him for a soap opera?
Then when the scene opens where the exterior shot is shown for the Bangor Pine Hotel, Lela exclaims loudly through the control room microphone:
Lela: Dan, I don’t like Barnard Hughes!
When the scene switches to Hughes and Mitch Ryan to begin with the meeting between Bronson and Devlin, Lela repeats her exclamation, just as insistently loud:
Lela: Dan, I don’t like Barnard Hughes!
Dan Curtis: Oh, Lela, will you just drop it!
In that moment when Bronson is gulping down his drink like a glass of iced tea on a hot day, Lela breaks in with:
Lela: He drinks like a fish.
Then when Bronson goes over to the table where the liquor bottle is to freshen his glass:
Lela: There he is, drinking again.
Dan: Oh, Lela, will you come off it? It isn’t even real booze anyway.
But of course that isn’t the point. It’s just a tactic, if not to sabotage the performance of Barnard Hughes in his scenes, which she doesn’t manage to achieve, then at least to let him know that his director can’t stand him.
It is perhaps no coincidence that Barnard Hughes did not return for a second Dark Shadows episode, despite there being an opening for the character of Stuart Bronson in episode 42.
Dan: What is your problem, Lela? Barnard Hughes is one of the finest actors on television.
Lela: I told you, Dan. He’s really scruffy looking, like a dog that nobody wants.
Dan: You just don’t like any male supporting actors we have on the show.
Lela: No, Dan, that’s not it.
Dan: I think you are a lesbian.
Dan: I don’t care if you are lesbian, but leave my supporting actors alone.
Lela: What are you talking about? I like Mitch Ryan. I think he’s very handsome.
Dan: Well you sure don’t like any other male supporting actors. I’ve just about had it with you, Lela.
Lela: Well for your information, Dan, supporting actors are not what makes a soap opera work. That’s rule number one…
Until next time, this has been The Dan and Lela Show.
Carolyn reacts to Vicki’s claim that David has tried to commit a murder.
Carolyn is initially skeptical that David would have tampered with the brakes on his own father’s car.
Carolyn accepts the inevitable truth about David’s guilt.
“I don’t want you coming near me in Collinsport.”
Vicki wonders how David got the valve out of her room.
Mrs. Stoddard emerges from the closed-off wing of Collinwood.
“When did you get interested in mechanics?”
“I knew you were a versatile gal, but I never dreamed…”
“Well then, that’s it! This is how David learned to take the valve out of the car.”
“It’s in your room, Miss Winters.”
Vicki: Carolyn, did you see David when you came in?
Carolyn: If I had, I’d have crossed to the other side of the road. Where’s my mother?
Vicki: She’s somewhere in the house looking for him.
Carolyn: You people don’t know when you’re well off. If that monster has gone into hiding, you should be celebrating, not hunting for him.
Vicki: Carolyn, this is serious.
Carolyn: Oh come on. He’s only one nine-year-old boy, the world is full of them.
Vicki: How many of them try to commit murder?
Carolyn: Oh, we sure do breed them in this family, don’t we? My mother hasn’t left the place in eighteen years, my little cousin tried to kill his own father… These walls shouldn’t be paneled, Vicki. They should be padded.
Burke: How’s your wife?
Stuart Bronson: Well, not too happy. We had theater tickets for tonight.
Burke: Bronson, I wouldn’t have asked you to fly up here to Bangor if I didn’t think it was important.
Bronson: Oh, now, I’m not complaining, Mr. Devlin. As a matter of fact, I didn’t want to see that play anyway.
Burke: I want to do a job on that family. I want to hit them so hard, they’ll wish they never heard of me.
Burke: Bronson, if I get a piece of mail with your letterhead on it, we’re both in trouble.
Bronson: Well, maybe no one will notice.
Burke: In that town, everybody notices everything. Now don’t you forget it.
Episode 27 is the debut of the fictional Bangor Pine Hotel and the associated interior sets. The exterior is represented by a still photo, a rather old photo judging from the cars parked in front of the building.
The camera pulls in for the windows above the marquee as representing those for the room of Stuart Bronson.
In Act II, as Vicki and Carolyn are in the set for the Collinwood hallway speculating on how David could have gotten the valve out of Vicki’s room, when Carolyn steps out of frame to go and get something from her room Vicki hears a sound from behind the door of the closed-off wing. During this sequence, as the camera switches to a closer shot of the door at the end of the hall, director Lela Swift can be heard through the control room microphone cueing for a crew member to drop in the sound effect of Liz behind the locked door and attempting to pull it open while dropping her keys.
Subsequently, Lela can be heard cueing for the door to be opened and then for Joan Bennett to make her entrance.
Daily studio schedule for Dark Shadows in 1966
7:00-11:00 a.m. Lighting
8:30-10:30 Morning Rehearsal
11:00-12:00 Engineering Set-Up
11:30-2:00 Camera Blocking & Run Through
2:00-2:30 Dress Rehearsal
2:30-3:00 Test Pattern
3:00-3:30 Episode Taping
3:45-4:15 Technical Meeting
4:00-6:30 Dry Rehearsal for Next Episode
4:00-7:00 Reset Studio
In the teaser, a boom mic shadow sweeps up and across Vicki’s face as she moves about the drawing room searching for David.
In Act I, with Carolyn reacting to the news about David’s guilt, as the boom mic follows Carolyn toward the fireplace, its shadow can be seen sweeping down across Vicki’s face.
In Act III, as Mrs. Stoddard explains how the door to the closed-off wing of Collinwood might have previously been seen by Vicki opening by itself, Joan Bennett stammers through the word “shut”: “Well the caretaker sometimes checks it. He probably forgot to sh-sh-shut it tightly.”
Also in Act III, Joan Bennett stumbles over Carolyn’s name: “That dresser is a mate to the one in Caloryn, Carolyn’s room.”
As Act III closes and the camera moves left across Mrs. Stoddard and then Carolyn for reaction shots, it goes momentarily blurry when Mrs. Stoddard is in frame.
In Act III, a boom mic shadow hovers momentarily over the forehead of Barnard Hughes.
There is a small TV set in Stuart Bronson’s hotel room at the Bangor Pine Hotel, the only place one is seen anywhere in the present day world of Dark Shadows.
The same TV is for a few episodes in Buffie Harrington’s apartment in parallel time 1970.
(End credits for episode 1021)
In Vicki’s room, Carolyn holds open a two-page spread of the fictional Mechano Magazine.
Food & Drink in Collinsport:
At the start of their meeting, Bronson pours a drink for Devlin and one for himself, adding ice from the silver ice bucket. When Devlin sits down to read the report on the Collins family holdings, Bronson pours himself a second drink.
After reading the report that Bronson had prepared, Burke pours himself a drink.
Dark Shadows Cast Member Spotlight: Barnard Hughes
It would undoubtedly surprise many Dark Shadows fans that Barnard Hughes was on the show. It surprised me when I first discovered these 1966 episodes in 2012. I remember him from The UFO Incident and, of course, the TV series Doc. Below are some film and television highlights from a long and distinguished career.
(Cast publicity photo for the 1975 TV series Doc; standing: Irwin Corey, Mary Wickes; seated: Elizabeth Wilson [Mrs. Hopewell on Dark Shadows], Barnard Hughes)
As Dr. Forster in William and Mary, the debut episode of Way Out, a 1961 supernatural anthology series hosted by Roald Dahl (broadcast date: March 31, 1961).
Over the end credits, as the listing for Barnard Hughes comes into view, there is the following voiceover: “This is Rod Serling. Next on most of these stations a toy telephone becomes an object of terror, in The Twilight Zone.”
As attorney Lester Swann in The Boy Between, an episode from The Defenders (season 1, episode 6; broadcast date: October 21, 1961).
As Towny in John Schlesinger’s edgy sleaze opera Midnight Cowboy (release date: May 25, 1969).
As Jim in the Great Performances production of Arthur Miller’s A Memory of Two Mondays (first aired January 28, 1971).
First of three appearances as Father John Majeski on All in the Family (Edith’s Accident; season 2, episode 7; broadcast date: November 6, 1971).
Official promo still from the theatrical film The Hospital (U.S. release: December 14, 1971).
First of three appearances as Herbert Hartley on The Bob Newhart Show (An American Family; season 3, episode 11; broadcast date: November 23, 1974).
As Dr. Benjamin Simon in the 1975 TV movie The UFO Incident (original broadcast date: October 20, 1975).
As Andy Borchard in the television pilot The World Beyond (aka The Mud Monster; first aired January 27, 1978). The World Beyond was created and written by Art Wallace, the story creator and developer of Dark Shadows.
As Gideon Hackles in Trick or Treat, the pilot episode of the supernatural anthology series Tales from the Darkside (broadcast date: October 29, 1983).
On the Flipside:
Kids may not have been running home from school to tune in during the first few months of Dark Shadows, but they may have at least caught the end credits in anticipation of the show that followed in the 4:30 Eastern time slot, Dick Clark’s music program Where The Action Is, which debuted on the ABC network the previous year.
Following the broadcast of episode 27 of Dark Shadows on August 2, 1966 was season 2, episode 231 of Where The Action Is, during which there is a Dark Shadows crossover.
At 8 minutes 21 seconds into the broadcast, there is an ad for Old Man Adams Sour Gum.
The ad campaign behind this commercial is promoting something called Sour Power.
It makes you wonder whether the hippie culture ideal of “Flower Power” may have been a play on this earlier ad for Old Man Adams.
To model each of the four flavors of Old Man Adams gum were the Sour Girls. In this 1966 TV commercial, Betsy Durkin is the Cherry Bud Sour Girl.
“Ooooh, Mr. Adams!”
Miss Durkin was the second actress on Dark Shadows to be cast in the role of Victoria Winters, after Alexandra Moltke left the show in 1968.
Joan Bennett’s 1970 autobiography (original front and back covers).
The Bennetts: An Acting Family, the 2004 biography (front cover).
From the page I created for Dark Shadows Wiki:
Dark Passages is a novel written by Kathryn Leigh Scott and published in 2011 by Pomegranate Press, Ltd.
Set in the 1960s, Meg Harrison leaves her native Minnesota for New York to pursue a career in acting while working as a Playboy Bunny in New York’s Playboy Club. After changing her name to Morgana Harriott, she soon lands the role of Margie, a restaurant waitress and daughter of a local artist, in the new daytime TV serial Dark Passages. The show will eventually feature a vampire, but the catch is that Morgana is one in real life.
The characters described on the sets of Dark Passages resemble quite vividly those on Dark Shadows and the actors who played them. The diner set where Margie works is greatly similar to that of the Collinsport Inn restaurant on Dark Shadows.
For the back cover, Jonathan Frid wrote the following blurb: “Reading DARK PASSAGES was like being back on the sets of DARK SHADOWS, except with real vampires behind the scenes!”
In this eight-CD box set of composer Robert Cobert’s series soundtrack, every music cue used on Dark Shadows is available, including the full-length original recordings of the guitar instrumentals heard at the Blue Whale.
Since 2006, UK production company Big Finish has been extending the Dark Shadows legacy with audio dramas offering new stories featuring cast members from the original TV series. My favorite is the 2015 audio drama …And Red All Over, in which Mitchell Ryan reprises his role as Burke Devlin to the backdrop of an eerily compelling backstory on how he came to acquire his wealth in business. Also starring Kathryn Leigh Scott as Maggie Evans, with original series themes and music cues composed by Robert Cobert. A must listen for any fan of the first year of Dark Shadows.
Coming next: Episode 28: Everyone’s Just Curious, Not Worried
— Marc Masse
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