Today Victoria Winters is making her first visit to the Blue Whale, while enjoying her first alcoholic beverage since arriving in Collinsport – even though she’s underage.
The character of Victoria Winters, and the actress who plays her, is barely twenty. Burke Devlin, the man who bought her the drink, is over thirty.
Evidently, the bartender didn’t ask to see the young lady’s ID. In yesterday’s episode, he wouldn’t even shut down a drunk and hollering Joe Haskell.
This won’t be the last time on the show where older men will be plying drinks on young underage girls. In those days, you could get away with that kind of thing. Dark Shadows, during that unsupervised era of daytime television, manages to do just that.
Those were the days!
Joe Haskell has decided that it’s the Collins family that stands in the way of his happiness. He wouldn’t be thinking so if the prospect of going into partnership with a coworker to buy their own fishing boat hadn’t fallen through. Regardless, Joe arrived at this decision spontaneously while in a drunken haze at the Blue Whale.
So in yesterday’s episode Joe went directly to Collinwood to let off a little steam, despite Mrs. Stoddard repeatedly insisting that he leave. Joe would pass out cold before he could make it back through the front doors, but in the meantime he gave everyone present in the great house a piece of his mind. A pity Roger wasn’t there to hear Joe’s tirade – but he’s probably upstairs sleeping it off, having guzzled five or six glasses of brandy himself over the last couple hours.
Joe [to Mrs. Stoddard]: I want you to know what you did to her.
Mrs. Stoddard replies indignantly, “Me?” She then tells Joe to leave; he says he will, but not before he says what he’s come there to say.
Joe: Carolyn? You know when you’re going to get married? Never. Now it isn’t me, it isn’t anybody. It’s you, old spinster you, sitting in your dungeon keeping your mother company.
Vicki: Mrs. Stoddard, I think I ought to go.
Joe: Oh no, Miss Winters! You stay, you hear this. You want to live in this house, you ought to hear what it does to you. You know why she doesn’t want to marry me? ‘Cause she’s scared. She’s scared to marry anybody.
Carolyn: Joe, that’s not true.
Joe: Oh yes, it is. You laugh and you make jokes and you run around like crazy, but inside you’re shaking like a rabbit. And you know why? [turning to Mrs. Stoddard] Because of her.
Joe’s on a roll, and denials and requests to leave will not stop him from getting out in the open what he feels must be said.
Joe: Carolyn, look at your mother. She’s been sitting in this house for eighteen years. She’s never even been off this hill since the day your father walked out on her. Mrs. Stoddard, I love your daughter. And I want to get married. But she won’t because she sees what it did to you. It put you in a prison. You did it to her, Mrs. Stoddard. You did it to her.
He stumbles forward, nearly wrecking a wooden cabinet against the back wall, but catches himself in time. Vicki helps him over to the sofa, and just before passing out he has a bit of parting advice to offer.
Joe: It’s a prison, Miss Winters. You stay here, you’ll be as nuts as the rest of ‘em.
Here in episode 34, after Joe has been out cold for around an hour and a half, the special effects department has a bit of fun as Carolyn teases him about his crushing hangover.
“Want some champagne, Joe?”
Now well into its second month on the air, this episode and the one preceding provide a clue as to why Dark Shadows didn’t catch on with viewers during its early months.
The show started out strongly enough – nine million viewers after one month on the air. But a sudden drop in ratings as the summer wore on would concern executive producer Dan Curtis enough to ditch the series bible written by Art Wallace (Shadows on the Wall) and temporarily transform Dark Shadows from a gothic romance to a [SPOILER ALERT!] Hitchcock-style murder mystery.
You get the sense that the ABC network wanted for young people to be tuning in to its programming lineup for the four o’clock hour. At 4:30 pm Eastern was Dick Clark’s music-oriented program Where the Action Is, which debuted exactly one year before Dark Shadows and would keep going strong into 1967. The show that Dark Shadows replaced, Never Too Young, was the first of its kind, a soap opera geared toward teens that featured Leave It to Beaver’s Tony Dow. A central hangout for the young cast was the High Dive, which hosted many real-life performing acts of the day including Johnny Rivers, Marvin Gaye, and Paul Revere & The Raiders (who were also regulars on Where the Action Is).
The last episode of Never Too Young was shown on Friday, June 24, 1966, and the following Monday Dark Shadows premiered, with Where the Action Is still following in the 4:30 Eastern time slot. The solid ratings for Dark Shadows in its first month may have been the result of curiosity among the viewership left over from the teen drama that preceded it, which may have initially taken well to seeing Carolyn doing the Frug at the Blue Whale in episode 2 in addition to the elaborate (for its time) sets and overall spooky mood and strikingly dark and atmospheric musical score.
But the novelty may have soon worn off for younger viewers, for reasons that episodes 33 and 34 are bringing to light.
As recounted above, Joe Haskell has brought it all out in the open, what holds Carolyn back from reaching out and moving on with her life. All of what Joe mentioned in his drunken tirade from episode 33 is a reiteration of the character outline given by story creator and developer Art Wallace in his series bible:
“…Carolyn was propelled by twin devils…freedom and fear.”
“She had seen what commitment could do. She had seen and lived with the results of her mother’s marriage. And, deep within her…unrecognized by herself…lurked the barrier that said, ‘Don’t commit yourself to any one man. Marriage breeds unhappiness…loneliness…dark corners. Don’t get trapped in it.’”
“So she played the field. At seventeen, an attractive, vivacious young girl who enjoys every moment of life…but, deep within, is fearful of what life can do.” (Shadows on the Wall, p. 18)
You have to wonder what kind of impression the character of Carolyn Stoddard would have made to young viewers in 1966. Here she is having grown up in a mansion with forty rooms and her only option in life is to be married off before her eighteenth birthday to a local fisherman, or else face a life of lonely spinsterhood. In that respect, Dark Shadows seems to belong to the sensibilities of previous decades.
The birth year of Art Wallace is not listed, but as he began writing for television in the late 1940s, one can be certain that he was middle aged when he began writing for Dark Shadows. Many of the principal characters, including the prototypes for Elizabeth Stoddard, Carolyn, and Joe Haskell, were carried over from an earlier television project he had written for an anthology series called The Web (The House, which aired in 1954). Also in that earlier story, young Carolyn is haunted by the lingering image of the father who long ago walked out and is further torn by the yearning for freedom and the fear that such a prospect brings. Like her future Dark Shadows counterpart, she faces being stifled by the gloomy atmosphere of the house she was brought up in or the lone option of being married off to a local fisherman. The house doesn’t even have a television set to take her mind off her troubles, when in 1954 a TV was on in the average home for nearly five hours a day (four hours and forty minutes, according to a write-up in the January 23, 1965 issue of TV Guide).
That’s another thing about Dark Shadows that seems to suggest that it belongs to an earlier time than the 1960s – the complete absence of such a modern and commonplace appliance as a TV set. No one in Collinsport has a TV, not even the richest family in town with the forty-room mansion.
The fact that Art Wallace did not update a previously created character like Carolyn may have been a hindrance to the prospects of Dark Shadows achieving early success in the ratings, particularly with the ABC network dropping the show into a time slot which for the past year had been devoted to attracting a younger demographic. To young viewers in 1966, Carolyn Stoddard may not have seemed contemporary. Still, she longs to find herself. As she confides to Vicki in episode 33:
Carolyn: You want to find out who you are. Well so do I. But I don’t know how to go about it.
Vicki: Well I haven’t been doing a very good job myself.
Carolyn: Oh, but you try… at least you try.
That alone would seem to put younger viewers on her side; but it’s her lack of options in life that make her seem so outdated. You have to wonder: Why doesn’t her mother at least send her to college? If she doesn’t know what she wants to do right off, she can at least meet other people her age and broaden her mind. Why should it be that for a girl brought up in a forty-room mansion her only option in life is the self-limiting working class existence as a fisherman’s wife?
By contrast, Peyton Place also has its roots in the 1950s as first realized by novelist Grace Metalious. But for the TV series that made its debut on ABC nighttime in the fall of 1964, its large writing staff were all under the age of thirty-five, thus bringing a more contemporary portrayal of the younger characters. For instance, by Peyton Place episode 30, broadcast in early 1965, Allison Mackenzie, raised by a single mother who runs a local bookstore, is already filling out a college application while still a high school senior.
So to younger viewers tuning in to Dark Shadows in the summer of 1966, there might not have been a lot for them to relate to: an orphan governess, which conjures up shades of nineteenth century literature a la Charlotte Brontë and Henry James; a disturbed and hateful young boy who tries to get his father killed; and a spoiled and moody rich girl who has all the life options of a 1930s farm girl.
Kids weren’t running home in 1966 to watch Dark Shadows, they were walking, perhaps only to catch the end credits before tuning in to Where the Action Is. Ironically, they would have missed seeing one of the regular singing stars from Where the Action Is, Tina Mason, on Dark Shadows as a patron at the Blue Whale in episode 33 and again here in episode 34.
Now that the intense drama of the missing brake valve story has subsided, these two present episodes are cycling back to the hopeless romance of Joe and Carolyn, and once more picking up the thread on anything Victoria Winters can find out about her invisible past – which, as this episode shows, is still nothing.
Vicki has finally accepted Burke Devlin’s previous offer of dinner, provided that he show her the report his private detective had written up on her. She goes to the Blue Whale to seek him out and even agrees to go with him back to his hotel room for said dinner. The viewer hopes for something, anything to reveal more about the story of Victoria Winters. So it’s disappointing at what she finds when she finally does get to read the report:
Burke: So, any help?
Vicki: Nothing I didn’t already know.
That’s not what a viewer wants to hear said in a soap. Instead of fresh information, the viewer is treated to a recap of what brought Vicki to Collinsport, the words written on her “birth certificate,” the questions she has about why Mrs. Stoddard hired her in particular having reached out all the way to New York for someone she didn’t even know, the anonymous mailings of money that were sent to the foundling home for her care, the postmark of Bangor, and the fact that Bangor is only fifty miles from Collinsport, etc. It’s all the things that were discussed in episode 5, episode 13, etc., but now Burke Devlin is hearing it for the first time.
If there’s anything to be taken from this episode, it’s that Burke and Vicki have a definite rapport and a certain chemistry, and furthermore it’s obvious that he really has a genuine liking for her. Most important, if these two hit it off, it means that Burke will have further reason to perhaps be a more frequent visitor at Collinwood. With Devlin’s vendetta against the Collins family, it would be more entertaining if he could be there to wind them up in person.
Vicki: It’s as though I walked into a whirlpool.
Burke: Maybe you have. Vicki, how important is this to you, really?
Burke: Well, there are some things that are going to be happening up at Collinwood. Unpleasant things.
Vicki: Oh, they couldn’t get any worse.
Burke: What you’ve seen is just a ripple. You haven’t touched the whirlpool, but it is there.
He’s right; and in the relatively sane and languid summer of 1966, no one involved in the making of Dark Shadows could have had any idea how all-consuming that whirlpool would turn out to be.
For now, the show points the way forward in presenting the possibility of a new couple, by bringing two of the most attractive members of the cast together, and thus ensuring that the story’s main full-time antagonist Burke Devlin is kept in the center of the action, as well as socially connected to the people at Collinwood.
Despite that the show may not at present have much to offer younger viewers, for Dark Shadows the strong characterizations and exploring the more interesting possibilities for relationships between the characters remain its principal strong points.
This edition of The Dan and Lela Show, the audio drama starring director Lela Swift and executive producer Dan Curtis that plays out through the control room microphone of the Dark Shadows television studio, has the two players at loggerheads this time over one of the Blue Whale extras that Lela wants Dan to hire.
In the opening scene, it’s the same lineup of extras on the set of the Blue Whale as in the previous episode: Harvey Keitel, singing star from Where the Action Is Tina Mason, Lenore Ellis, and Jeff Gold. During yesterday’s taping, Lela took an immediate fancy to Keitel and strongly suggested that Dan hire him as part of the main cast.
Shown prominently throughout episode 33, as this episode gets underway you hardly notice them. Their faces are either only half in frame or blocked by those of the regular players.
(Harvey Keitel, in partial view behind Alexandra Moltke)
(Tina Mason, in partial view behind Mitch Ryan)
Watching from the control room, Lela wastes no time in raising this point with Dan.
Lela: Dan, why aren’t you showing any of the Blue Whale extras?
Dan: Because, Lela, this scene is about the conversation between Burke and Vicki. Who cares about the Blue Whale extras?
Lela: But Dan, what about hiring Harvey Keitel?
Dan: For Christ sakes, Lela. Do we have to go through this again? Yesterday I told you no, and today it’s still no. So just forget about it. I told you I can’t work him into the story.
Lela: But Dan, I know he’ll be great on Dark Shadows. I can tell.
The disagreement carries on into and through the opening theme.
Dan: Who cares about Harvey Keitel?…
Dan: …I’ve made up my mind and that’s final.
Lela: Dan, we need to get Harvey Keitel on the show! Harvey Keitel will be huge on Dark Shadows. You should listen to me on this one. I know what I’m talking about…
Dan: Who cares about Harvey Keitel? I told you…
Following the opening theme, there was a commercial break before Act I resumed to continue the scene at the Blue Whale between Burke and Vicki. But a change has been made. Harvey Keitel is nowhere to be seen. There is someone else instead, sitting alone at the bar.
(Unidentified extra who took over for Harvey Keitel)
Lenore Ellis, the extra who was dancing with Harvey Keitel in yesterday’s episode and was sitting with Keitel at one of the tables adjacent to the regular players, now sits there alone and has taken the seat previously occupied by Keitel.
(Lenore Ellis, in partial view behind Alexandra Moltke, as a Blue Whale extra sitting alone after Harvey Keitel was replaced)
As the scene gets underway, Dan has a piece of news for Lela.
Dan: I replaced Harvey Keitel, Lela, during the commercial break. What do you think of that? Now you can’t hound me about hiring an actor that isn’t even in the building.
Lela: Dan, that was a miserable thing to do!
Dan: Well I’m a little grumpy today, with you telling me who to hire after you made me fire all those supporting actors. Now I can’t make my full year’s salary because of all those contracts I had to break. And now you want me to spend more money hiring an actor I can’t even use in the story. I’m getting tired of all your suggestions, Lela. You’re the director. Just direct Dark Shadows. That’s all you have to do. Do you understand me?
Later in Act I, when Joe Haskell is coming to in the Collinwood drawing room, Lela still has more to say on the matter.
Lela: Dan, that was a nasty trick you pulled, getting rid of Harvey Keitel like that before I even had a chance to talk to him.
Dan: Oh, Lela! Why are you persisting with this?
Lela [in a “singsong” tone]: Because, Dan, you don’t recognize when an actor is great for your own show.
Dan: Oh, is that so? Well what about all those great actors I hired? I don’t hear you complaining about Joan Bennett.
Lela: I’ll give you Joan. But you needed a star on the show to get on the air. I’m talking about supporting actors being right for their roles.
Dan: Oh, for Christ sake! Lela, you talk about supporting actors again, I’ll fire you too!
Just to ensure that his point is made, Dan puts his foot down one more time as the closing theme starts.
Dan: One more time, Lela! I want you to stop suggesting who I should hire and who I should fire. Is that understood? The person directing my show is not in charge of casting…
Until next time, that has been The Dan and Lela Show.
“If we have to go to your hotel room, then that’s where we’ll go.”
“How did I get here?”
“What did I say to your mother?”
“Oh boy. I think I’ll kill myself.”
“I was in the bar, I ran into Burke Devlin.”
Joe realizes he forgot to pay for his drinks back at the bar.
While waiting for dinner to arrive, Vicki fills Burke in on the details of her life at the foundling home.
“Well, you don’t look like a piece of steak.”
“I don’t want you paying for my drinks, Devlin. Let’s get that straight.”
“If I’m breaking in on something, I’m sorry…”
“Have a pleasant evening.”
Vicki: I don’t like being stared at.
Burke: Well you’re much too pretty not to be used to it by now.
Vicki: I’ve traveled so many miles. And if you can help, well I’d be foolish not to come a short distance from Collinwood to here.
Burke: Miss Winters, the distance between here and Collinwood is a good deal farther than you think.
Carolyn: How’s your head?
Joe: Oh, great, just great… How did I get here?
Carolyn: Oh, I thought you were gonna pull the where am I bit.
Joe: Honey, I know where I am. All I don’t know is how I got here.
Carolyn: You floated.
Joe: Did I do anything foolish?
Carolyn: You made an enemy. That’s what you did.
Joe: What did I say to your mother?
Carolyn: Oh, a few friendly little things like she ruined my life by bringing me up in this house.
Joe: Oh boy. I think I’ll kill myself.
Carolyn: Finish that coffee first.
Joe: I was in the bar, I ran into Burke Devlin. I told him what I thought of him, too. Now that is one thing I’m not sorry about.
Carolyn: You really made a night of it, didn’t you?
[Joe is looking up at the portrait of Jeremiah Collins over the mantel when Carolyn enters with more coffee]
Carolyn: Now there’s a man who had you beat by a mile.
Joe: Who, him?
Carolyn: Mm hm. My great-grandfather. The days when he wasn’t drunk, those were the special ones.
After filling Burke in on the particulars on what she was left with on the doorstep of the foundling home, Vicki comments, “Sounds like East Lynne, doesn’t it?” This refers to the 1861 novel by British author Evelyn Wood, which was widely adapted for the stage over many years and subsequently into motion pictures in 1931 and 1952. Vicki says this because she realizes how unlikely the story of her background would seem to most people.
Dark shadows extras: The Blue Whale has the same extras appearing as in yesterday’s episode: Harvey Keitel, Tina Mason, Lenore Ellis, and Jeff Gold. They are only in the opening scene and again at the start of Act I [minus Keitel] and just partially visible, either half in frame or obscured by the regular players. So if you blink, you may miss them!
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, as the opening location footage for Collinwood dissolves into a close-up of Vicki at the Blue Whale, music cue number 75 (“Slow Blue Whale”) begins with a warped sound from the turntable in the control room being started up as the needle is being dropped onto the record.
In the final scene of episode 33, when Vicki arrives at the Blue Whale to meet with Burke it is shown that under her coat she has a collared shirt…
…the same speckled white blouse in her scenes with Carolyn…
…but in today’s episode, for the continuation of the scene with Burke at the Blue Whale she is wearing instead a sleeveless dress as if to suggest there had been special preparation for an important date.
In the opening scene, Mitch Ryan says: “Mist – uh, Miss Winters…”
In Act IV, Alexandra Moltke has a slight line flub: “It started coming when I was two years old. An envelope every month. Fifty dollars in cash. No return address, no signature, just the money. Every month without fail for si – until I was sixteen.”
While handing money over to Burke to cover the drinks bill from the bar, Joel Crothers drops one of the coins which then makes a silvery clattering sound on the floor.
Food & Drink in Collinsport:
At the Blue Whale Vicki has a glass of sherry while Burke has a beer.
During their conversation, various other foods and beverages are discussed:
Burke: I never figured you for the sherry type.
Vicki: I didn’t know there was such a thing.
Burke: Oh, yes. Now, Mrs. Stoddard, she’s the sherry type. Her daughter Carolyn, well that’s strictly soda. She’d like to think it was something stronger, but it’s always soda.
Vicki: And what am I?
Burke: I’m not sure. It’s a toss-up between chocolate malt and champagne.
Vicki: That’s quite a range.
Burke: Well, maybe we can find out which it is over dinner. The lobsters are fine. You get the best in the world here.
Vicki: I’m not very hungry.
Burke: Then how about some steamed clams?
Vicki: Well couldn’t we not think about dinner for right now?
Burke: If you’re worried about calories, you can forget the butter sauce. It’s just as good without it.
Vicki: Actually, it’s me I’m worried about.
Burke: The champagne you, or the malted you?
Up in Burke’s hotel room, after presenting Vicki with the choice of steak or lobster, Burke phones down to the hotel restaurant and orders them two steaks (medium rare), two salads, and two black coffees. After checking with Vicki, Burke tells them no dessert.
When Joe comes to in the Collinwood drawing room, Carolyn brings him a cup of coffee.
Soon after, Carolyn brings him another coffee and a sandwich, which he doesn’t eat.
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 35: A Great Dramatic Reading
— Marc Masse
© 2018 Marc Masse and Dark Shadows
from the Beginning. All rights reserved.
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