“What are you supposed to be, a doorstop?”
If the ancient proverb about the truth setting one free is to be believed, then Collins family matriarch Elizabeth Stoddard has walled herself up in a fortress of mind so sheltered as to block out any and all illuminating rays of reason.
The very minute Vicki had come to her with the story that she’d found the missing brake valve from Roger’s car in a dresser drawer in David’s room while she’d been searching for a letter from the foundling home she thought he might have taken from her room, Mrs. Stoddard has continually turned her back on the probable truth – that her nephew may indeed be guilty of having committed an unspeakable act. Her first reaction was, “I… I don’t believe you.”
Carolyn, on the other hand, didn’t need much convincing, largely for two reasons. On an adventurous whim, she had gone into town that day to drop in and visit Burke Devlin in his hotel room. She had also insisted that at the end of the visit he drive her back to Collinwood, believing that if she could bring Burke and his mother and uncle Roger together they could work out their differences and the cloud of tension that had been hovering over Collinwood in recent days could be dispelled. Another motivation may have had something to with that despite her involvement and apparent engagement to Joe Haskell, Carolyn seems to be developing something of a crush on the mysterious Mr. Devlin. So, if it turns out that Burke may not be guilty of having tampered with the brakes on Roger’s car, then it means she will no longer have to be carrying the guilt of having made it possible in bringing him to Collinwood. That’s reason number one. Reason number two has to do with the fact that she thinks of her cousin David as a little monster anyway.
But this is not so with David’s aunt Elizabeth, who really seems to care about the boy. As today’s episode opens, she is brooding at the drawing room window when Carolyn comes in to inform her that the search has thus far turned up nothing. Elizabeth is inconsolable.
Carolyn: I’m sure he’ll turn up.
Elizabeth: If he doesn’t… if anything happens to him… I’ll never forgive Miss Winters. Never.
Talk about stoning the messenger. Vicki had only done what any responsible governess would have; if there’s a problem with her charge, she takes the matter to her employer for resolution. Instead, all she gets for her trouble is blamed:
Vicki: I’m only worried about David.
Mrs. Stoddard: And you should be! If it weren’t for you David never would have left the house. I engaged you to care for David, not to drive him away!
Vicki: I didn’t.
Mrs. Stoddard: Oh, come now, Miss Winters. Why do you think he’s gone?
Vicki: Because I found the valve in his dresser drawer. Because I told him what I’d learnt.
Mrs. Stoddard: Because you accused him of a horrible crime. Because you told him he was guilty of trying to injure his own father.
Vicki: But it’s true.
Mrs. Stoddard: The only truth I can see, Miss Winters, is because of your accusations, David is no longer here. Now I’d like you to go, please. I want to be alone.
Fortunately for Vicki, Carolyn is on her side to play the role of mediator:
Carolyn: Mother, I don’t understand you. So help me I don’t.
Mrs. Stoddard: What are you talking about?
Carolyn: Vicki. Don’t you realize what you said to her?
Mrs. Stoddard: I don’t think I need a lecture from my own daughter.
Carolyn: How could you even hint that you don’t believe her story?
Elizabeth’s repudiation is such that she’s even willing to believe that her governess, after only one day on the job and who had only spoken to Roger on just two occasions, may be the one responsible for Roger’s car going off the road.
Carolyn: Mother, Vicki said she found the valve in David’s dresser drawer, and you didn’t believe her.
Mrs. Stoddard: I have to be sure.
Carolyn: And the magazine, with the full description of the brake cyl –
Mrs. Stoddard: What do you want me to do, Carolyn? Destroy David?
Carolyn: I want you to face the truth.
Mrs. Stoddard: What truth?… The magazine was in Miss Winters’ room. Don’t forget that. And anyone reading it would know how to remove a brake valve.
Carolyn: Of course. But David gave it to her.
Mrs. Stoddard: I only have her word for it. Just as I only have her word that she did find the valve.
Carolyn [shocked, voice low]: Oh, mother!
Mrs. Stoddard: Why do you want to accuse David? Isn’t it equally possible that Miss Winters could have removed the valve?
Carolyn: Do you really believe that?
Mrs. Stoddard: No.
This would be a good opportunity to have another close look at what motivates Elizabeth Collins Stoddard. It should be kept in mind that few characters in the beginnings of Dark Shadows could be written with as much depth and complexity as that of Elizabeth Stoddard. Executive producer Dan Curtis had simply dreamed a governess into existence. But for story creator Art Wallace, the prototype for Elizabeth Stoddard precedes Dark Shadows by a dozen years. In a 1954 episode of the anthology TV series The Web (The House, broadcast August 29, 1954), Wallace brought his tale of reclusive matriarch Elizabeth Stallworth to the small screen (whose teenage daughter Carolyn was dating a local fisherman named Joe; the story even featured a drunken local artist named Sam). A one-hour treatment of The House was brought to the Goodyear Playhouse TV drama series in 1957, this time with the names switched around; Caroline Barnes was the mother’s name and Elizabeth Barnes the daughter’s.
For his Dark Shadows outline Shadows on the Wall, which became the series bible, Wallace describes Elizabeth Stoddard as a woman whose sense of loyalty to family is of uppermost importance, as someone who is stern but also caring:
“Elizabeth is still a proud woman, as protective of the Collins name as were her ancestors. She is generally taciturn…but one can occasionally catch a glimpse of warmth under the shell that has hardened under the eighteen years of virtual isolation.” (Shadows on the Wall, pp. 14-15)
She is determined that her daughter Carolyn should be happy:
“For Elizabeth did love her daughter. Let there be no question about that. All the affection, compassion, and warmth the older woman possessed were channelled towards the girl who was the only reminder of a marriage that had lasted much too briefly.
“Elizabeth’s energies were devoted to ensuring for Carolyn the happiness that she herself had never really possessed.” (Shadows on the Wall, p. 16)
The only reason Roger has been allowed to return to Collinwood is for the sake of David:
“Elizabeth had made no secret of the fact that she would not allow his return. But now the situation had changed. Roger made an unexpected visit to his sister at Collins House, pleaded the cause of his son….the ‘poor nine-year-old child, with no mother to care for him’. He appealed to Elizabeth’s family pride, skillfully reminded her that David was the heir to the Collins name, faithfully promised a renewal of responsibility and sobriety.” (Shadows on the Wall, pp. 26-27)
In fact, when you think about it, the only member of the Collins family who does feel any sense of affection and obligation to David is his aunt Elizabeth. Carolyn despises her nephew, and more often than not Roger couldn’t care less; both repeatedly refer to him as a monster. If David is to have any chance at all, it is to be through the love and protection bestowed on him by his aunt Elizabeth.
You would have thought that Elizabeth had been thus far denying David’s guilt in Roger’s accident because she wanted to be true what all appearances and probability suggested, that it had been Burke Devlin who had tampered with the brakes on Roger’s car; this way, the threat that Devlin represented to the interests and well-being of Collinwood and its residents would have been eliminated. But now with David having disappeared and Elizabeth continually agonizing over his whereabouts and emotional state, she hasn’t mentioned the name of Burke Devlin once.
Finally, she regains her composure and issues an apology to Vicki:
Mrs. Stoddard: I’m a foolish woman, Miss Winters, and I say many foolish things. I want to apologize for the way I talked to you.
Vicki: Well, I know how worried you must have been.
Mrs. Stoddard: Worried? Yes I was, and I still am. But I’m afraid I was trying to deny reality, and trying to make you suffer for it.
Vicki: I’m sure David will be alright.
Mrs. Stoddard: I hope so. He belongs to this house, Miss Winters. And there’s no peace here. Not for me, not for Carolyn, not for poor little David. And I’m not sure there ever can be peace.
Notice how she doesn’t mention the name of her brother. This could be the Dark Shadows way of advising the viewer to pay Roger no mind. After all, he’s the villain of the piece. Besides, as of the production of today’s episode, Art Wallace is only planning to have the character of Roger Collins killed off – the series bible calls for it.
With executive producer Dan Curtis having given director Lela Swift a break for a few episodes to think about her continued misbehavior during the taping of episodes despite his repeated warnings, Curtis pretty much says it all as he consults with interim director John Sedwick during the opening theme segment:
Dan Curtis: Should be a nice, quiet episode without Lela in the control room. I finally got fed up with her complaining about my supporting actors all the time…
There isn’t much talk coming through the control room microphone during the taping of this episode, except for the final scene in Burke’s room where Burke steps over to the window to comment on an approaching storm. The camera angle shows a piece of equipment on the floor evidently left over from perhaps the dress rehearsal, and Dan chews out his stand-in director about it:
Dan: Jesus Christ! What the fuck is that huge cable doing across the floor of the set? Don’t you clean up before you start taping? That’s one thing Lela would never let happen.
John Sedwick: I’m sorry, Dan. That’s something I overlooked. This is all new to me. I’ll get it right for the next episode.
To provide some idea of what a set on Dark Shadows would look like before the taping of an episode, here’s the floor of the Blue Whale set ahead of the taping of episode 1:
(Photo from Dark Shadows: The First Year by Nina Johnson and O. Crock, Blue Whale Books, 2006)
A moment after the exchange between Curtis and Sedwick concludes, as Burke sends David out of the room to wash up for the drive back to Collinwood, Mitch Ryan pats David Henesy on the backside to send him on his way; just a sportsmanlike gesture, the way a coach would interact with a young ballplayer. But Dan can’t resist taking the opportunity to gossip in the absence of his regular director:
Dan: He patted him right on the ass. I wonder what Lela would think about that. Lela has an ass fetish. Everything she talks about, it’s always about ass with her. There’s no end to it.
JS: That Fred Stewart episode was crazy!
Over the end credits, the discussion about Lela continues:
Dan: One other thing about Lela. She only complains about trousers when they’re worn by men, never when they’re worn by women. Have you noticed that?
JS: Sure I’ve noticed it. I think she’s a lesbian but won’t admit it…
The Dan and Lela Show will return to its regularly scheduled programming, after a short break.
“Mother, we just have to face the fact that either David’s found himself a corner we don’t know about, or he’s decided to hit the road.”
Burke assures David that he would never lie to him.
David plants the missing brake valve in Burke’s room.
Mrs. Stoddard is distant toward Vicki when she asks about the search for David.
“If it weren’t for you, David never would have left the house.”
“The only truth I can see, Miss Winters, is because of your accusations, David is no longer here.”
Carolyn reassures Vicki not to blame herself for David.
Burke and David become instant friends.
Carolyn tries convincing her mother that Vicki wasn’t lying about David.
“Carolyn, what’s happening to us?”
Mrs. Stoddard receives word of David’s recent whereabouts from Maggie Evans.
Mrs. Stoddard explains to Vicki why there can never be peace for anyone living at Collinwood.
After sending David to the other room to wash up, Burke looks under the sofa cushions and discovers the real reason why David came to see him.
Elizabeth: David’s only nine years old, he wouldn’t run into the dark.
Carolyn: Well, it wasn’t dark when he left. Besides, if I were in his spot I might have done the same thing.
Elizabeth: If anything happens to him… Carolyn, I love David.
Carolyn: He’s a horror, and you know it.
David: I’ve been waiting to talk to you.
Burke: Well if you’re a salesman, I don’t want a thing.
David: I’ve been waiting for almost two hours.
Burke: Well, in that case, you’d better come in… I admire persistence. Do you know what that word means, David?
David: How did you know my name?
Burke: Well you’re a very famous fellow. The disappearing David Collins. The boy who vanished in the restaurant while his father was looking for him. Tell me something, David. Where were you hiding?
David: In the phone booth.
Burke [laughs approvingly]: Hey, a born spy, huh? Tell me something else. Why did you try to sneak into my room?
David: I didn’t.
Burke: David, let me tell you something. I’ve broken lots of promises in my time. To doctors, lawyers, firemen, even an Indian chief. But to a nine-year-old boy, never.
Carolyn: Oh, Vicki, don’t blame yourself for David. He was a problem long before any of us had ever heard of you.
Episode 29 is the first to require more than one take. Episode 1 was done in three takes, but was not necessary. Having had the luxury of a long preparation for the debut, the makers of Dark Shadows just wanted to guarantee that the first episode would be good. As a rule, multiple takes for an episode taping were never done unless absolutely necessary.
The opening of this episode shows a back lawn view of Seaview Terrace (aka the Carey Mansion) in Newport, Rhode Island, to represent the exterior of Collinwood…
…with the camera moving in for a close-up on one of the windows intended to represent the drawing room at Collinwood…
…which then dissolves to the studio set as Elizabeth Stoddard stands at the window worrying over David’s disappearance.
This is one of the “in between” episodes where caretaker Matthew Morgan is mentioned by name but does not appear in the episode, in the teaser where Carolyn provides her mother with an update on the search for David: “I asked Matthew to go down to the main road and see what he could find.” George Mitchell, who originated the role of Matthew Morgan, left after episode 16. The character will be mentioned again by name in episodes 30 and 32, but won’t appear onscreen again until Thayer David assumes the role in episode 38.
The start of Act I shows location footage taken in Essex, Connecticut, of the Griswold Inn, to represent the exterior of Collinsport Inn…
…which then dissolves into the studio set for Burke’s room.
In Act III, when Carolyn takes a phone call in the drawing room, this is the only time in the entire series when the hotel restaurant/diner/coffee shop is described exactly as it was originally scripted beginning with episode 1: “It’s Maggie Evans. She works in the Collinsport Restaurant.”
This is the second episode to feature the special effects of thunder and lightning. Thunder is first heard in Act II when Carolyn pays a visit to Vicki’s room. The first flash of lightning appears in Act IV when Burke looks out the window of his hotel room to check for the approaching storm. Thunder and lightning effects were first used in episode 14 for the Collinwood sets.
This is the first episode to be directed by then associate director John Sedwick.
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, the long camera shot looking in through the Collinwood drawing room window all the way across to the foyer picks up the shadow of the boom mic and its arm extending across the wall of the foyer. As Carolyn enters the drawing room, the shadow moves upward as the boom mic is being raised.
In Act I, when Vicki suggests to Mrs. Stoddard that the police should be called, Joan Bennett says: “What story do you want me to tell them, Miss Winters? The same story you told me? That my nephew is responsible for my, his br, father’s accident?”
In Act I, as Vicki follows Mrs. Stoddard into the drawing room, the shadow of the boom mic moves up the foyer wall as the device is being raised.
At the end of Act I, as Vicki begins making her exit from the drawing room, she walks under the boom mic, the shadow of which meets her forehead.
The shadow of the boom mic arm can be seen across the top part of the chair to the left of the fireplace, before being moved out of view.
In Act II, in Vicki’s room, as Carolyn tries consoling Vicki over responsibility for David’s disappearance, above the armoire in the background the top edge of the set is visible.
In Act II, in Burke’s room, Burke mispronounces David’s name: “Hey, come on, Damie, tell me what’s on your mind.”
In Act III, in the Collinwood drawing room when Mrs. Stoddard gets on the phone with Maggie Evans, Joan Bennett says: “This is David aunt, David’s aunt…”
In Act IV, in Burke’s room a boom mic shadow settles against the shade of a lamp beside the sofa.
In Act IV, in Burke’s room a long, thick studio cable can be seen stretching diagonally from the sofa to the wall at stage left.
Food & Drink in Collinsport:
In Devlin’s room at the Collinsport Inn, Burke fixes David a drink he calls the Burke Devlin Special, a concoction of a couple of different fruit juices, which he mentions he used to enjoy as a kid.
It’s hard to tell from black and white, but it appears to be a mix of pineapple and orange.
In the days before health food stores began appearing to popularize blended fruit juice drinks, there was the Burke Devlin Special.
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 30: The Rain in Maine Falls Plainly All in Vain
— Marc Masse
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