Over this past week of episodes, ever since Bill Malloy became the de facto star of Dark Shadows, there’s something you notice: He doesn’t have a set of his own.
Every main regular player has their own set created to define their base of operations, a place where they seem at home and appear to have the advantage when playing host to visitors: Burke Devlin has his grand three-room suite on the top floor of Collinsport Inn; Roger has his place beside the Collinwood drawing room liquor cabinet – matter of fact, in today’s episode a new set has been created for him, a luxurious office space at the cannery; even Joe Haskell had an office set created for him, which was shown in episode 41 during his phone call with Mrs. Stoddard.
Bill Malloy on the other hand makes most of his phone calls relating to the present storyline from the pay phone at the back wall of the Blue Whale; to meet with the principals involved in his plans, he uses a table right smack in the center of the room. In today’s episode he’s even calling Roger at Collinwood using the phone in Roger’s office, and arranges a meeting with Burke at the Blue Whale from the same location. He never has a phone or room to call his own; as a sudden main player, his character is really little more than a “floater.” The writing staff even addresses this point in today’s episode, just in case the viewer has been wondering about the same thing:
Burke: Are you making the Blue Whale your office now?
Bill: Sometimes you get the most privacy in the most public place.
Oh, alright; so long as you don’t mind the details of your private plans being randomly picked up by other Blue Whale customers and possibly the bartender as well.
Today Bill Malloy is talking card games. He tells Burke that he’s put most of his cards down, and now he’s ready to play his hole card. The term “ace in the hole” has the following definition: “A hidden advantage or resource kept in reserve until needed.” It’s derived from stud poker; while you place your bets, you hold a key potentially winning card face down, or “in the hole,” until you’re ready to play it.
Bill indicates to Burke that the hole card he’s ready to play could possibly be walking right into the Blue Whale at any moment, adding that he’ll know him when he sees him; that means the viewer will as well.
As mentioned in the post for episode 3, there is in the writing of these early Dark Shadows episodes an inherent but subtle spirit of satire where it concerns commonly held impressions of the upper classes, in this case of course the Collins’ of Collinsport, in which during the introductory conversation between Victoria Winters and Carolyn Stoddard it was revealed with casual but shameless innocence that Carolyn had a crush on her uncle Roger.
In his first week as a writer of Dark Shadows episodes, Francis Swann doesn’t squander an opportunity to exploit this more uniquely eccentric aspect of the idle rich, as right here in this episode the crushing Kitten comes cruising into Roger’s office while on the way to meet up with her non-kindred second choice, boyfriend Joe.
Just before this takes place, there’s something else that Swann provides as a sendup of Collinsport’s founding denizens: Here at last the viewer gets to see Roger Collins at work, a candid glimpse at how he conducts himself in an official capacity on behalf of the family business; and what’s the first prop visible to the viewer in that lavishly decorated office?…
…with the man himself hard at work honing up on his game of darts.
Behold, the busy workaday life of one Roger Collins.
Finally bored with darts, Roger stands by his desk for a moment unsure of what to do with himself, when in comes Kitten for a peck on the cheek and other sundrie pleasantries:
Roger: Well, Kitten! To what do I owe the honor of this welcome intrusion?
Carolyn: I am shamelessly chasing Joe Haskell…
Carolyn: …but I thought it would look better if I said I was looking for you. And being scrupulously honest, I look for you first.
Roger: That’s my fate, always second choice.
Carolyn: Oh, not always. You’re my number one favorite uncle.
Roger: Well, there’s not much distinction winning a popularity contest when you’re the only contestant.
The phone then rings to bring a business matter to Roger’s attention, who then directs the caller to another department based on the work charts he drew up.
Carolyn: I’m impressed! You actually do something around here.
Roger: Well, surely you don’t think I was paid my munificent salary for being a figurehead.
Carolyn: Why not? You make a very good figurehead.
Roger: I see you’re growing into a woman!
Note Roger’s suggestive leer as he acknowledges the blossoming of her womanhood with words conveyed in an equally provocative drawl. Note also the realistic appearance of the stitches for the scar on Roger’s forehead sustained courtesy of the accident caused by his son. Despite that it will shift position somewhat in upcoming episodes, the makeup department does an excellent job of getting it to fade somewhat over time; just another hallmark of the realism Dark Shadows was going for in its very early days.
Carolyn: You noticed.
Roger: I noticed that you came here completely full of purpose, gave me a bogus alibi, and then beat seven times round the bush and didn’t say anything. That’s a woman.
Carolyn finally breaks from the indelicate musings of their consanguineous conversation to mention that she saw Bill Malloy earlier at the Blue Whale. Roger quickly turns serious and leans forward.
Roger: Malloy? What about him?
This is only to set up the following scene; Carolyn builds toward the moment by saying that she’d never known Bill Malloy to behave as he was, adding that he had something terrible to tell her mother and there was something that had to be done with or without her approval. Carolyn is about to give her impression of the way he sounded while he was up at Collinwood during Mr. Harris’ visit when along comes Malloy, storming right in without knocking and slamming the door behind him.
Bill Malloy: Roger?! I told you I had to see you!
Roger: This is my office, Mr. Malloy! I will see you when I decide, not at your pleasure. Now get out!
Bill: No sir! I’m staying right here until this is settled.
Bill completely ignores Princess and Roger tells Kitten that she should run along, so Carolyn will just have to settle this afternoon for being Cookie to Joe.
As noted above, Bill has had cards on his mind lately, while Roger is more interested in darts… which could prove dangerous for Bill if he chooses to place himself in Roger’s way.
Nonetheless, Bill comes right out with what’s on his mind.
Bill: If you ask me, it was Elizabeth who kept you out of prison in the first place.
Roger: But, of course, I didn’t ask you.
Bill: What I know isn’t as important as what somebody else knows.
Bill: Sam Evans.
Roger: Oh, so, Sam Evans is your mysterious source of information. A man who is drunk more often than he’s sober.
Bill: Let me quote the exact words Sam Evans said to me: “I am the only thing that stands between Roger Collins and a prison sentence.”
Before making his exit from the office, Bill insists that Roger go to the police and turn himself in. By the malevolent manner in which he grips the dart he takes up from his desk after Bill has left, it appears that Roger may be considering other ways of resolving the matter.
One could argue that it was specifically for this very scene in today’s episode that the set for Roger’s office was created. At last there is someone else besides Sam Evans who knows the secret that Roger keeps; it was a scene that had to take place so that Bill Malloy could move ahead with his plans. It couldn’t play out in the Blue Whale, not with them both having things out at the top of their voices; likewise, even with the double doors of the Collinwood drawing room closed, with it being the middle of the day someone else in the house would undoubtedly have heard Bill and Roger in their heated shoutversation. As shown in the set design section below with the copy of Sy Tomashoff’s blueprint sketch for Roger’s office, the set had to be in studio and ready for construction by Thursday August 11 for the Friday taping. Important information involving Bill Malloy and the situation between Burke and Roger and the Collins family had to be revealed in a private setting so that absolutely no one else would hear. So they created a set for Roger’s office at the cannery, all because Dan Curtis felt he needed to divert from the series bible in order to revive the show’s lagging ratings.
That’s the magic of Dark Shadows, just one example of why it can never be remade. There are those who would like to see Dark Shadows return in some form, in the hope that it could somehow be revived to live on and on. But that would mean a new production crew, a whole new cast, etc., and for story simply treading over old ground. The thing is, Dark Shadows isn’t a franchise like Superman or James Bond; it was a groundbreaking cultural phenomenon whose evolution and success happened purely by chance, because a man like Dan Curtis was willing to just cast his fate to the wind. If the original formula proved less fortunate in the ratings game than anticipated, then simply improvise and try out something new and see what happens.
To change the direction of the story and put Bill Malloy front and center with one of the existing storylines, you suddenly need to create a new set like the one for Roger’s office so that a crucial bit of information can be divulged. Without this new change in story, the set for Roger’s office might not otherwise have been created. As it happened, this new set design would be highly influential as to how Dark Shadows would be staged over the years, affecting the appearance of other sets; for instance, props like the barometer on the wall that would later be in the Collinwood study, and the “Smith Brothers” portrait that would decorate many walls around Collinsport, including the apartment of Professor Stokes and the front room at Nicholas Blair’s house. The basic set design itself would be frequently redressed throughout the run of the series; we’ll see it again as the meeting room outside the Collinsport Gaol in 1795, Professor Stokes’ apartment in 1968, among many other incarnations.
All because Dan Curtis would cast his fate to the wind. You can’t recreate the magic and chance that went into the evolution of Dark Shadows, nor can you recast the faces of the actors who originated their roles. It would be like trying to remake the Beatles. They did that once, and Beatlemania on Broadway was the result. Remember the reviews people who saw that production were giving to journalists outside the theater? When asked what they most liked about it the majority would say, “The lights.” In trying to recall the magic of the Beatles phenomenon, they only succeeded in impressing the audience with a light show.
No need for a reboot. Dark Shadows holds its enduring place as an important part of television history; it will stand through the ages, long after you and I are gone. All because Dan Curtis would cast his fate to the wind, with the result of creating something unique and lasting based on chance occurrences around a constellation of circumstances whose critical arrangement was a once in a lifetime eventuality… a bit like hitting a bullseye with your eyes closed. See if you could do it again.
[SPOILER ALERT!]: This section contains control room discussion during the taping of episode 45 between Dark Shadows director Lela Swift and executive producer Dan Curtis about Dan planning for changes in story direction as well as the cast of characters. You may wish to skip this section if you haven’t gotten as far as episode 53, or better still episode 108.
The series: The Dan and Lela Show; the main players: director Lela Swift, executive producer Dan Curtis, with special guest Frank Schofield; the setting: television studio control room; main prop: the control room microphone; opening scene: teaser…
[Blue Whale set, Bill Malloy on the pay phone]
Lela: For Christ sakes, Dan, I want you to change the script for Monday’s episode.
Dan: Lela, I can’t change the script. It’s already been finalized.
Lela: Dan, you don’t have to kill off Bill Malloy.
Dan: Lela, I told you, I’m doing it for the ratings. We need to have something big happen.
Lela: For Christ sakes, Dan! You can’t just get rid of Frank Schofield.
Dan: Lela, let’s save it for the opening theme.
Lela: Dan, I don’t want Bill Malloy killed off like this. Frank Schofield is too good of an actor to just let go.
Dan: Lela, I told you. Frank Schofield is not being let go…
[middle of Act I, Roger’s office]
Dan: Lela, look at that beautiful set Sy Tomashoff designed. Isn’t that set fantastic? That’s going to look great on television!
Lela: Why, Dan, I thought you hated Sy Tomashoff.
Dan: I don’t hate Sy Tomashoff. I’ve had my problems with him, but I don’t hate him. I think he’s a wonderful set designer.
[end of Act III, after Roger has hung up on Bill Malloy]
Lela: Dan, you’ve got to change your mind.
Dan: Lela, there is nothing I can do…
[start of Act IV, break in dialogue as Bill Malloy dials the phone in Roger’s office to call Burke Devlin]
Lela: Dan, can’t I get you to change your mind about killing off Bill Malloy?
Dan: No, Lela, you can’t.
Lela: But Dan, he’s really worried about his career. How will he find work if he gets killed off? That’s like the kiss of death for an actor.
Dan: Lela, I told you, we’re going ahead with this. It’s something we have to do to save the show.
Lela: But Dan!… You don’t have to do this.
[scene switch to Collinwood drawing room]
Dan: Lela, stop fighting me on this!
Lela: Dan, I’ve got to get you to change your mind about killing off Bill Malloy.
Dan: Lela, there is nothing you can say to get me to change my mind. I’ve thought this over very carefully. I’m following advice from someone outside the show.
Lela: Who are you following advice from?
Dan: Someone I used to work with back in my sales days…
[halfway point through Act IV, just before the scene change]
Lela: But, Dan, who asked him?!
[middle of Act IV, scene switches to Blue Whale]
Dan [wearily]: For Christ sakes, Lela. Will you please stop fighting me on this decision I’ve had to make? He’s a trusted friend and an old associate…
Frank Schofield: Dan, can’t you do something about having my character killed off? I want to keep on working. I’m afraid I’ll have to go back to regional theater.
Lela: Dan, we can’t let him go back to regional theater.
Dan: Don’t worry, Frank. We’ll work something out.
Frank: Regional theater is for amateurs, Dan!…
Until next time, this has been The Dan and Lela Show.
The number for the pay phone on the back wall of the Blue Whale is Collinsport 7022.
The Collins cannery has someone working in their marketing department named Hanley. This is one of those Dark Shadows characters who are mentioned in episodes but who never appear in the series. In this episode someone calls Roger’s office while Carolyn is visiting; Roger then directs the caller that the job in question should be handled by Hanley in the marketing department, based on the work charts that he drew up.
In today’s episode, during Bill Malloy’s confrontation with Roger, Bill says, “…why don’t you run right over to the sheriff’s office and tell Jonas Carter that Sam Evans is slandering you?” This is an indication that they still haven’t found an actor to recast the role of the Collinsport sheriff. Michael Currie last appeared as Jonas Carter in episode 32; Dana Elcar will take over, but as a new character, when he debuts as George Patterson in episode 54.
At the start of Act III, Carolyn stands in the drawing room before the portrait of Jeremiah Collins reading aloud to herself from the Collins family history book: “Jeremiah Collins, sixth-generation descendant of the founder of Collinsport, in 1830 married Josette Lafreniere (pronounced La-fren-yare) of Paris, France.” This passage contains two items uniquely contributed by today’s episode writer Francis Swann: Josette’s original surname and city of origin. Art Wallace never revealed Josette’s maiden name nor from where exactly she had originated in the series bible Shadows on the Wall, only her married name and country of origin. When creating the outline for Collins House, he provides the following details for Josette Collins:
“In 1830, Jeremiah Collins, a sixth generation descendant of the founder of Collinsport, shocked his family and the community by returning from Europe with a French bride.
“Josette Collins found she was an alien in a hostile land. Shunned by Jeremiah’s family, hated by the community, her life was tormented by increasing loneliness.
“Two years after the birth of her son, Jeremiah’s French bride fell…or jumped…to her death from the edge of Widow’s Hill. Her body was found the next morning on the rocks far below.” (Shadows on the Wall, pp. 4-5)
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
This episode provides the first appearance of the set for Roger’s office at the cannery; below is a description I provided for the Dark Shadows wiki…
The set design for Roger’s office is one of the most frequently redressed flats throughout the show’s run. The hearth and fireplace was built as a separate insert. The hearth is 3 feet 6 inches in height and is framed by plastic brick. The lintel frames running around the room over the doors and windows are made of clear pine, and the horizontal and vertical wood paneling is made of knotty pine planks. The walls are made of coarse plaster. One of the most identifiable features of this set design is the two windows side by side at the far wall, built with two pairs of two-fold shutters with recessed panels. The window panes are three wide and six deep, and the window glass is made with pebble plastic. Each window is 4 feet 8 inches in height, 2 feet 8 inches wide, and there is a 4-foot width between the two windows.
…based on a copy of Sy Tomashoff’s original blueprints.
At the close of Act II, there are a couple of bloopers associated with the bullseye Roger manages to achieve with his dartboard. First, unlike with the previous darts, there is no sound to accompany this one; second, also unlike the ones before, it points at a downward angle, from likely having been pinned there by a crew member crouching below and just out of camera range.
At the start of Act III, Roger enters the drawing room after Carolyn has finished reading a passage from the Collins family history; overhead, the boom mic is visible.
Also in Act III, as Roger takes a phone call from Bill Malloy, the shadow from the arm of the boom mic settles against one of the drawing room doors.
In Act IV, Mitch Ryan creates the sort of blooper which I have termed the “look-ahead”; the look-ahead is a speaking blooper where the actor combines the beginning of a word that comes later in a given line of dialogue with the first part of a word being spoken right at that moment. A look-ahead is the easiest, most understandable blooper an actor can make; because the actor is looking ahead in the memorization of dialogue, they may get tripped up by starting to speak a word that should come later. In a scene with Bill Malloy at the Blue Whale, Mitch is thinking of the word “more” when he is saying “far,” in the process making this look-ahead blooper: “Modern medicine has increased my life expectancy mar – far more than that.”
Roger’s office contains the debut of a prop that will be making many appearances in numerous sets around Collinsport throughout the run of the series. It’s a portrait of a Victorian-era man with a large handlebar moustache; I call it the Smith Brothers portrait, because it resembles those faces seen on those old Smith Brothers cough drop boxes. Here in Roger’s office it hangs between the two windows of the far wall.
The barometer hanging on the wall in the corner by the door will eventually be seen in the Collinwood study from 1967 onward (beginning with episode 214).
Food & Drink in Collinsport:
Just like at the Bangor Pine Hotel, when you order a scotch and water at the Blue Whale the two items are served separately; with a tall glass of ice water at his side, Burke holds a shot glass of scotch as Bill Malloy sips coffee with cream.
In the Collinwood drawing room, Roger has a drink while trying to make amends with Carolyn.
When Bill Malloy returns to meet once again with Burke at the Blue Whale, Burke is working on another scotch and water.
On the Flipside:
The day that episode 45 was taping, Friday August 12, 1966, Dark Shadows episode 35 was airing. Following in the 4:30 p.m. Eastern time slot was Dick Clark’s youth-oriented music program Where the Action Is with the broadcast of season 2 episode 239.
Opus 17 (Don’t You Worry ‘Bout Me) by the Four Seasons (original studio recording):
Dick Clark: “Nearly six hundred to seven hundred special guest stars have appeared on Where the Action Is over the last few months…”
Dick Clark: “A lot of ‘em have had hit records, but nobody can match the record of these fellows…”
Dick Clark: “The golden sounds of success, from the Four Seasons.”
“I can see, there ain’t no room for me…”
“You’re only holding up your heart in sympathy…”
“If there’s another man, then girl I understand…”
“Go on and take his hand, and don’t you worry ‘bout me…”
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 46: Destroy Me, Pt. 1
— Marc Masse
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