The addition of David Ford as the new Sam Evans has had an immediate and energizing effect on fellow Dark Shadows cast members, most notably with Louis Edmonds’ performance as Roger Collins.
Fresh off the Hartford Stage in a year-long run as Big Daddy in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, David Ford’s distinctly dramatic infusion of Tennessee Williams into his portrayal of Sam Evans has awakened a theatrical spirit in those among the cast who already had a strong background on the live stage.
Louis Edmonds for one got his start as a New York stage actor, working in regional theater and Off-Broadway before finally breaking through with a Broadway production of Candide in 1956. To work alongside an actor like David Ford must have been like going home, because he’s absolutely on fire in this episode, giving one of his best ever performances as Roger Collins, scene after scene.
Hereafter, when auditioning actors for new roles or as replacements for existing characters, the casting department will more and more be looking to New York City and regional theater for talent.
The arrival of David Ford represents a watershed moment on Dark Shadows, where fairly tame and ordinary melodrama has the potential to achieve the heights of high drama. This initial transformation will eventually pave the way for the casting of a certain Shakespearean actor in the role of a vampire.
But that’s months off still and, as yet, something unforeseen. One thing follows another, but only by chance – that’s the magic that made the run of the series one of a kind, and why Dark Shadows could only happen once.
For now, “the David Ford effect” is getting the production crew of Dark Shadows to rethink the show’s approach to acting and where they should be looking for the talent to add that extra spark and make scenes more riveting, with the actors themselves pulling out all the stops to move things up a notch by adding a more theatrical sense of drama to their performances beginning with today’s episode, making the pages of dialogue seem more alive and bringing to the character portrayals that one extra layer of fullness and depth.
One of the positive things that come with David Ford joining the cast of Dark Shadows is how well liked he is by cast and crew, both as an actor and as a person.
This is immediately apparent in Alexandra Moltke’s reaction as Sam Evans creeps up on Vicki Winters in the Collinwood Inn restaurant and begins talking cryptically while her back is turned: “No one here, Miss Winters, but you and I and our private thoughts.” She is startled, the character of Vicki that is, but you can see by the friendly warmth on Miss Moltke’s face how highly she thinks of the new Sam Evans:
(Alexandra Moltke likes David Ford)
You may recall that there was a similar scene between Sam and Vicki back in episode 20 right here in this very same restaurant, where she is caught by surprise while gazing down at a cup of coffee. She was startled, the character of Vicki that is, and you could see by the disdainful sneer on Miss Moltke’s face how lowly she thought of the old Sam Evans:
(Alexandra Moltke hated Mark Allen)
At the time, you wondered why Vicki would react that way to Mr. Evans, when after all they had only met once briefly on Widow’s Hill (back in episode 5) with Sam merely informing her of the tragic legends of Collinwood involving the women who had jumped from that very cliff. There was no reason for the character of Victoria Winters to loathe Sam Evans so. Here in episode 36, Vicki’s reaction to being startled by Sam is more natural and more in keeping with the limited interaction between the two characters to that point:
(Alexandra Moltke likes David Ford)
What accounts for the reaction Vicki has for Sam back in episode 20 can only be explained by the contempt she had for the actor who was at that time playing the role:
(Alexandra Moltke hated Mark Allen)
So, once more, let’s compare and contrast, just so we have everything clear:
Alexandra Moltke likes David Ford:
Alexandra Moltke hated Mark Allen:
It is often spoken by actors who worked on Dark Shadows of how they all liked one another and got on well, that it was great to work on the show, and the environment and attitudes in the studio were harmonious. Generally, that seems to have been true – but only when viewed in retrospect. But as has been reviewed in these pages, there were some growing pains along the way, mostly in the first seven weeks or so. Several actresses, Alexandra Moltke among them, had complaints about Mark Allen’s behavior off stage. Other actors temporarily walked off the show due to objections about how they were being treated by other members of the cast and crew. Then there was the constant battle going on between executive producer Dan Curtis and director Lela Swift, with Lela dissatisfied with many of the supporting actors Curtis had hired initially and resorting to verbally berating them through the control room microphone during videotaping in the hope of sabotaging their performances so that they’d leave the show, a tactic that was proven effective in many cases.
But now in David Ford there is a supporting actor on the show that Lela is thrilled with, so she’s on her best behavior; none of the actresses are on edge because he’s a gentleman and is liked by everyone; and, perhaps the most important thing, his intensely dramatic performances are inspiring fellow cast members to reach new heights.
In this episode, Roger confronts Sam in the restaurant at Collinsport Inn to dissuade him from taking a commission to paint Burke’s portrait. There was a similar meeting between the two in the same restaurant back in episode 22, arguing over whether it was wise for Roger to go to the police and accuse Burke of tampering with the brakes on his car and trying to get him killed. But that was when they were doing the standard television style acting, and where the camera blocking was more conventional with plenty of two-shots in between the assorted close-ups which weren’t really all that close up, and with Mark Allen doing most of his dialogue with mouthfuls of donut:
But now in episode 36, the scene between Roger and Sam is being handled by two purebred stage actors and is done almost entirely in super-tight close-ups back and forth. With a more forcefully venomous precision, Louis Edmonds drives home the portrait of a desperate man pushed to the limit in trying to maintain a sense of self-preservation, whereas the sonorous depth of David Ford’s stage voice is redolent of the long-buried agonies of shame and regret:
“You are not to phone me at my home.”
“Collins, what I did to that boy ten years ago is the shame of my life.”
Rather than the cramped confines of a network television soundstage dedicated to churning out daily half-hours for afternoon television, in the hands of such dynamic theater veterans the caliber of Louis Edmonds and David Ford it could well be something right out of Tennessee Williams on some live stage during opening night.
Louis Edmonds is particularly inspired, and this carries over into his subsequent scenes in today’s taping. His dialogue is delivered with such a measured tone of elocution that it almost at times seems playful, like when he bitingly teases David about asking Elizabeth to accompany him upstairs when told to go up to bed:
“Well now don’t tell me the devil’s afraid of the shadows he lives in.”
Could this have been one of Louis Edmonds’ famous ad libs? After Roger says the line above, the character of Elizabeth Stoddard says, “That’s enough, Roger,” but it almost looks as though the actress Joan Bennett is suppressing a slight grin:
Come to think of it, it looks as though David Henesy as well is trying to keep from laughing:
From this point on Louis Edmonds throws open the floodgates at full blast, when Elizabeth tries to remind Roger of his responsibilities to his son David:
“My son, my son, my son!”
“You think nothing else matters to me in this world but David?”
“Do as you want with him. Tie him up, throw him out, kiss him, I don’t care!”
“Collinwood, the Collins name!”
“The great dynasty you’re so zealously trying to protect for my precious David!”
“It might disappear, Liz!”
“It might vanish…”
“…from the face of this earth…”
“…and you would never even know!”
[grand, sweeping exit]
This is what “the David Ford effect” has brought to Dark Shadows; a style of dramatic acting never before seen on a daytime soap opera.
No wonder David Ford is beloved among Dark Shadows fans, especially those who follow the series from these early episodes – because David Ford does his best work on Dark Shadows between episodes 35 and 207.
“Go back to your house on the hill, Miss Winters…”
“Go back to your ghosts and your goblins…”
“But be careful… of the thing that we all fear…”
“…of the thing that came closer to me, tonight…”
“…of death, Miss Winters.”
Lately The Dan and Lela Show, the behind the scenes real-life audio drama that takes place through the control room microphone of the Dark Shadows television studio and involves mainly director Lela Swift and executive producer Dan Curtis, has taken a surprising twist. After weeks of complaining about male middle-aged supporting actors, Lela has finally found in David Ford one that she likes, so much in fact that she can’t say enough good things about his performances as Sam Evans.
There are many layers of peripheral sounds the boom mic picks up that manage to be captured as part of the broadcast of any given videotaping. Sounds from crew members in the production area like footsteps and the occasional cough, sounds of equipment moving along the studio floor or something falling with a clatter, crew members just off camera communicating with one another in loud, urgent whispers, etc. Another one of these peripheral sounds is the voice of the director coming through the microphone of the control room, which on Dark Shadows is the preferred means of directing an episode for taping. This could be heard all over the television studio, but usually requires headphones to be heard when viewing on DVD.
For instance, at the start of the opening scene, you see David Henesy at the top of the foyer landing leaning on the rail. You hear a crew member call to him from the floor, “David, get ready…”; then you hear Lela through the control room microphone cueing for Joan Bennett’s entrance through the door beneath the landing: “And, Elizabeth!” The crew member from the floor then voices an instruction: “David, move back…” after which he steps away to hide from Elizabeth by leaning back against one of the stained glass windows. These stage directions can be heard throughout the taping of an episode; with everything exquisitely timed down to the last second, there is more to getting through an episode taping than actors hitting their marks and delivering their dialogue.
As Elizabeth is entering the drawing room, in a moment before any dialogue is spoken, you can hear Lela before the microphone in the control room consulting with Dan:
Lela: Dan, I have to tell you something over the opening theme, my thoughts on David Ford.
Lela: Dan, David Ford is the best actor on Dark Shadows. He’s kicking everyone’s performance up a notch. David Ford is the best actor we have right now on the show.
Dan: Wow, Lela, that’s high praise…
In Act I, after Sam hangs up the phone during his call to Elizabeth Stoddard at Collinwood and is moving slowly from the phone booth back into the restaurant, Dan provides Lela with a bit of information on how David Ford is working at fitting himself out for the role of Sam Evans:
Dan: David Ford has stopped shaving. He wants to look like Sam should have looked in the bible [Art Wallace’s series outline Shadows on the Wall]. Now we’ll have two bearded guys on the show. Think about that.
Lela: Dan, I just care about his acting. I’m not concerned about beards.
Dan: I’m just pointing out how he’s fitting into the role.
Lela: He already fits in.
When they come back from commercial to start Act II, Lela is at the tail end of a discussion they must have been having during the break:
Lela: Dan, I just care about David Ford’s effect.
Following the intense acting performances by Louis Edmonds and David Ford in the scene from Act II in the Collinwood Inn restaurant, after the scene shifts to the Collinwood drawing room, Lela is ecstatic with praise:
Lela: That was brilliant! Dan, that was fantastic acting, from both Louis and David. That’s what we need. David Ford’s effect is theatrical. We can use that effect to heighten the drama.
In Act III, after Alexandra Moltke exits the scene by the door at the top of the foyer set, you can hear Lela from the control room:
Lela: Get Alexandra to come up to the control room. I want to ask her a question… [spots the actress in the studio] Alexandra, come up to the control room. I want to ask you a question… Alex, what do you think about David Ford, from rehearsing with him?
Alexandra Moltke: Such a refreshing change from Mark Allen. I like him very much. But Nancy Barrett really likes him.
Following Louis Edmonds’ thunderous drawing room performance in Act IV, as he’s making his exit by ascending the steps of the foyer set, Lela can be heard to react from the control room:
Lela: Louis Edmonds is on fire! That’s David Ford’s effect. Get Louis to come up to the control room. I want to get his opinion on David Ford.
A moment later, Louis Edmonds provides Lela with his impression of David Ford:
Louis Edmonds: David Ford!… David Ford!… is a fantastic actor! And I’m inspired!
Earlier in the taping, during the Act II drawing room scene with Elizabeth and Vicki, after enthusiastically praising the work of Louis Edmonds and David Ford in their preceding scene from the restaurant set and discussing with Dan the theatrical results of David Ford’s effect on the show’s renewed approach to acting, Lela ran a casting fyi by her executive producer:
Lela: We’ve been looking in the theater for Matthew Morgan’s replacement.
She reprises this topic over the closing theme:
Lela: Dan, I can’t wait until you see the actor we got to play Matthew Morgan. His name is Thayer David. He’s been on Broadway for the last year…
Until next time, this has been The Dan and Lela Show.
Vicki, agonizing over the recent events at Collinwood, begins to realize that it will be impossible for her to stay on as governess to David.
Vicki informs Mrs. Stoddard that she is leaving Collinwood.
Eavesdropping from the foyer, David feels that he has won.
Mrs. Stoddard understands why Vicki should be afraid of David.
“This house is strange, and I’m sure none of us are exactly what you expected.”
“One by one, the people who should have given him love and understanding have turned their backs on him.”
“You can bring love and understanding to David.”
Still eavesdropping, David is angered when Miss Winters agrees to stay on at Collinwood.
“I don’t want her to stay!”
“I don’t think you’ll have much choice in the matter, David.”
“Remember what I said to you.”
Mrs. Stoddard: So you’re afraid of him too. I shouldn’t be surprised.
Vicki: Oh, it isn’t that. I wasn’t thinking about fear.
Mrs. Stoddard: Well of course you are. David threatened you, just as he threatened his father. And then he tampered with the brakes on his car. Why shouldn’t you be afraid of him? Heaven knows I am.
Roger: Who answered?
Sam: Oh, I don’t know. Your sister, I suppose.
Roger: Did you leave your name?
Sam: Do you think I’m a fool?
Roger: Yes, I do.
Sam: You always have the polite answer, don’t you Collins?
Roger: Politeness is a passing phase, Mr. Evans. And I plan to substitute something a good deal more biting if you ever again call me at my home.
Sam: Your sister couldn’t recognize my voice. She’s only spoken to me a few times in her life, and that was more than eighteen years ago… before she buried herself in that dark and gloomy monument to pain.
Elizabeth: You made a threat to Miss Winters, and I don’t want any more of that. She’s going to stay here, tutor you, and you’re going to cooperate. Is that quite clear?
David: All she wants to do is get me in trouble.
Elizabeth: I don’t think you need her help for that, David. Not after what you’ve done.
Elizabeth: You almost got your father killed. And that wasn’t Miss Winters’ fault.
David: But I –
Elizabeth: Don’t try to deny it to me, not now.
David: You hate me, just like everybody else does.
Elizabeth: I don’t hate you, David. If I did, you wouldn’t still be living in my house. But I am angry with you, very angry indeed.
David: I don’t care.
Elizabeth: Well you’d better start caring. The world isn’t a very happy place for boys who don’t care what people think. It’s lonely, and cold.
David: Aunt Elizabeth, help me, please help me!
Elizabeth: I’m trying to, but you’ve got to help too.
David: I won’t do anything else bad. I promise I won’t! But you mustn’t stop loving me.
Elizabeth: You’re my family, how could I stop?
[Roger enters from the foyer]
Roger: Easily enough, Liz. Just look at the boy and realize what he is. A potential murderer.
Roger: Well, it’s the truth, isn’t it? Unless you prefer to ignore the truth. It’s a pleasure, David, truly a pleasure to come home from a nice friendly chat in town and be greeted by the smiling face of my beloved son.
David: I promised aunt Elizabeth I wouldn’t do anything else bad.
Roger: Well, we are fortunate, aren’t we Liz?
Elizabeth: Roger, we agreed to forget about the past.
Roger: The past doesn’t exist for you, does it Liz? Well it does for me, here and now. Today and tomorrow. [steps toward fireplace] Where’s the rest of our happy group?
Elizabeth: Carolyn’s in her room and Miss Winters went into town. [to David] And I think you should go to bed.
Roger: You heard the mistress of the house, didn’t you? To bed.
David [to Elizabeth]: Will you go up with me?
Roger: Well now don’t tell me the devil’s afraid of the shadows he lives in.
Elizabeth: That’s enough, Roger. [to David] Of course I will.
Roger: Pleasant dreams, David. Just keep remembering how lucky you are to be a member of our family. [David exits, Roger turns to lean on the mantle, looks up at the portrait of Jeremiah Collins, ponders ruefully]: Our family.
Sam Evans: What brings you down from the tower on the hill?
Miss Winters: Well, I thought I’d go to a movie, but I was too late. I don’t like coming in on the middle of things, do you?
Sam Evans: Well, if I had my way, Miss Winters, which I do not, I’d much prefer the middle. Neither the beginning nor the probable end is very pleasant to contemplate.
Episode 36 is the first episode not to have a tag (short closing scene after Act IV), though it was originally scripted to include one. Somewhere between script writing and taping the episode for broadcast it was decided that the format would be changed. Hereafter, Dark Shadows episodes will be structured with a teaser (short opening scene ahead of the opening theme/waves intro) and four acts.
In this episode, there is the mention of a character who never appears on the show. Ned Calder is an old business associate of Elizabeth, and in the final scene Elizabeth attempts to contact him by placing a person-to-person call to Portland.
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 Act II, there is a minor line flub with Joan Bennett as Elizabeth explains to Vicki why she was brought to Collinwood: “I brought you here because I thought you could help us all… Carolyn will be free to leave this house, she’ll know I’m not alone. You can bing – bring love and understanding to David.”
At the start of Act III, as David scampers away when Elizabeth opens the double drawing room doors, a crew member on the floor can be heard to say, “Watch yourself.”
Also in Act III, as the drawing room discussion between David and his aunt Elizabeth is wrapping up, David Henesy seems momentarily unsure of what he should be doing in the scene. First he stands up, then sits back down: He stood up too early, and you can hear a crew member in the studio instructing him to sit back down. Then, responding to another crew member instruction, gets back up and walks across the floor to find his mark for a two-shot; during this moment, you can hear footsteps moving swiftly across the studio floor in the production area, which sound like women’s heels.
In Act IV, toward the end of the scene between Sam Evans and Miss Winters in the Collinsport Inn restaurant, as one camera is in for a close-up on Sam the shadow of a second camera can be seen being pulled away, momentarily sweeping across the left side of David Ford’s face.
In the final scene, after Elizabeth has tried telephoning her old associate Ned Calder, there is a flashing white box appearing in the top right corner of the screen; it blinks on then off twelve times.
At the start of Act IV, Sam is seated in the restaurant at Collinsport Inn drawing on a napkin. It’s a sketch of the brake valve from Roger’s car.
It isn’t a masterpiece, but it shows how well David Ford fits the role of Sam Evans; it shows an artist actually in the midst of creating an image – just another one of those nice little touches that make you say, David Ford is Sam Evans!
I wonder how much that sketch would bring in today at Dark Shadows conventions – if only it hadn’t been immediately crumpled and discarded.
Food & Drink in Collinsport
With the staff of Collinsport Inn restaurant away on errands, Sam goes behind the counter and helps himself to a cup of coffee, black:
He asks Miss Winters if she would like some coffee as well, but she declines:
In Act IV, Roger pours himself a brandy in the drawing room. This is still the same evening as back in episode 31, where he poured the first of many drawing room brandies. This must be his sixth or seventh glass this evening; at this point, it’s hard to keep track of Roger’s drinks count.
On the Flipside
Over the end credits, ABC announcer Bob Lloyd says, “Stay tuned for Where the Action Is, next on ABC.”
Following the broadcast of episode 36 of Dark Shadows on Monday, August 15, 1966 in the 4:30 pm Eastern time slot was season 2, episode 240 of the Dick Clark hosted music program Where The Action Is.
In this episode, Tina Mason, a regular singing star on the show, is performing.
You may recall that Miss Mason appeared on Dark Shadows as a Blue Whale extra in episodes 33 and 34.
(Tina Mason dancing at the Blue Whale in Dark Shadows episode 33)
During the taping of Dark Shadows episode 33, the director of that episode, John Sedwick, commented from the control room on the striking resemblance between Tina Mason and Dusty Springfield.
In the Where the Action Is episode that aired on August 3, Tina Mason was covering a song recorded by Petula Clark. But since the taping of Dark Shadows episode 33, it seems she has taken the Dusty Springfield comment from the Dark Shadows director to heart; here in the Where the Action Is episode that airs on August 15, she has changed her tune considerably, performing I Know (You Don’t Love Me No More), a song originally written and recorded by American soul singer Barbara George, with soul a genre that brought Dusty Springfield the distinction of being England’s first white female soul singer. In this episode, as the clip begins, Dick Clark notes that Tina Mason is sporting a new hairdo, one strikingly similar to how Dusty Springfield wore hers around this time.
(Tina Mason in the August 15, 1966 broadcast of Where the Action Is)
(Dusty Springfield performing on the UK television show Ready Steady Go!, April 15, 1966)
Elsewhere in the broadcast, one of the commercial breaks features an ad for Old Man Adams Sour Gum.
Betsy Durkin is the Cherry Bud Sour Girl.
“Ooooh, Mr. Adams!”
In 1968, Miss Durkin would become the second actress on Dark Shadows to be cast in the role of Victoria Winters.
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 37: One of Our Ghosts
— Marc Masse
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