It almost feels like the supernatural era of Dark Shadows starts right here in episode 50.
Aside from the fact that a man Elizabeth Stoddard has known for twenty-five years is still missing, these late evening scenes in and around the Collinwood estate carry a decidedly ominous tone throughout.
There’s talk of ghosts and tragic family legends, the Wailing Widows, and premonitions of death courtesy of a nine-year-old boy with a crystal ball who seems to know for certain what grim and deathly portents this night will bring forth and for whom.
Lately daytime television’s first gothic serial drama has been branching into mystery and suspense, and here in this episode story creator and developer Art Wallace is reaching back for the supernatural and noirish mid-1940s inspirations of Dark Shadows to bring a kind of otherworldly atmosphere to the current story, enough so that the viewer would possibly be wondering whether Bill Malloy’s disappearance may be the result of darker, more paranormal forces at work.
Episode 50 is about as close to the supernatural as Dark Shadows has gotten thus far without actually crossing over; it will be in one of next week’s episodes when the lines between the physical and spirit worlds really begin to blur.
As daytime serial dramas go, Dark Shadows thus far offers up a good deal less in the romance department than most other “romance/drama” shows on the air, so in the previous episode it was a rare treat to see Joe and Carolyn sharing a happy carefree moment in the Collinwood foyer after having arrived back from lunch in town.
Naturally, the scene started out fraught with tension; Carolyn was annoyed that repairs on her car had taken longer than the estimate the garage had given her initially, and then Joe had made a crack about next time consulting David’s crystal ball ahead of time. This is a sore spot between them because David had used his crystal ball to inform Joe that Carolyn would be marrying Burke Devlin instead, and Joe had passed this information along to Carolyn over lunch.
Joe: I’m sorry. My trouble is that I love you.
Carolyn: Joe, you’re an idiot.
Joe: Maybe. But I still love you.
There’s a striking poignance to this scene not only with the acting, but also the writing. For the viewer these characters go back only a few weeks, but for Art Wallace they span a good dozen years at least; prototypes for these characters had been drawn up for The House, an episode Wallace had written for the Goodyear Playhouse TV series in 1957 and also three years earlier for the anthology series The Web. With such mileage, these characters are in the writer’s blood; the acting range brought to the respective roles by Joel Crothers and Nancy Barrett is important also, but having created the characters such a long time ago and therefore understanding their motivations better than anyone, Joe Haskell and Carolyn Stoddard will never be written with such thoughtful depth of insight as presented in a scene like this. These are real people with hopes and dreams and all the shattering disillusionments brought about by the various demons that lurk within the hidden corners of the mind; but in between the setbacks and perceived barriers to happiness, there are moments of genuine caring and affection that only the warmth of a long-time personal bond like theirs can bring.
Carolyn: In spite of everything I do to you?
Joe: Aw, a fella has to take the bad with the good.
Carolyn: That’s the trouble, Joe. Can’t you see? There just isn’t much good. I… oh, I don’t know. I want you to hold me like this and then I… Joe, what’s going to become of me?
Joe: You’re going to become Mrs. Haskell, and you’re going to live happily ever after. If you just give yourself a chance. Besides, I’d like to prove that a certain crystal ball is wrong.
Carolyn: Oh, I wish I could forget about Burke and this house… Hold me, Joe!
Then along comes Burke Devlin, looking for Roger.
With Carolyn having gone upstairs to notify her uncle Roger about his unannounced and most unwelcome visitor, Burke has a few minutes to kill waiting in the foyer, so he passes the time by amusing himself with trolling Joe about Carolyn, which he leads into with a bit of art appreciation small talk.
Burke [noting the portrait above the console]: You know which one of the ancestors this is?
Burke: They’re a strange group. This family, they cling together. Protect each other, don’t care two cents about the outside world.
Joe: That’s not true, Devlin.
Burke: Oh! Oh, I’m sorry. I forgot. You plan to be joining the clan someday, don’t you?
Joe: I’m gonna marry Carolyn, yes.
Burke: And do you also plan to live here in Collinwood?
Burke: Why not? There’s plenty of room. Joe, just push aside a few cobwebs, dig up some buried bodies, hang your portrait on the wall, and you’re a member of the clan.
Joe: What are you after, Devlin?
Burke says he’s looking for Bill Malloy, Joe asks why he’s looking for him at Collinwood, and then Carolyn appears to inform Burke that her uncle isn’t at home.
On his way out the front door, when Carolyn asks if there’s any message she can leave with her uncle, Burke only says he wants to talk to him, and not over the telephone. Carolyn wonders if it’s about Bill Malloy and when Burke answers in the affirmative she wonders if Burke has any idea where Bill Malloy might have gone, to which he replies: “Gone? No. How he got there, yes.”
Then he leaves a cryptic thought for Joe:
Burke: Joe, remember. Dig up the dead bodies first.
Carolyn: What did that mean?
Joe: Nothing. Just a not so funny joke.
So much for levity.
Episode 50 picks up just a few hours later as night is falling over the great estate, with Vicki restless and stepping outside for a walk up to Widow’s Hill where she finds Carolyn brooding alone by the edge of the cliff, with Carolyn having had ample time to once again grow despondent since the events of that afternoon.
The opening scene sets the foreboding tone for the episode as Vicki begins wondering about Carolyn’s reason for being there like this.
Vicki: Carolyn, do you come out here often? At night, I mean.
Carolyn: Nope. Only when I’m looking for something special.
Vicki: Like what?
Carolyn: That’s right, Vicki. Ghosts.
When the wind picks up strong and howling around the point, Carolyn makes mention of the “widows” who are said to haunt the top of this hill, and Art Wallace uses “scene connector” dialogue to link the transition from Widows’s Hill to the Collinwood drawing room. A scene connector is when dialogue spoken by a character at the end of one scene is picked up by an actor in the next scene, only in a different context; in this instance, the scene connector is “help me”:
Carolyn: They’re here. The widows, they heard me.
Vicki: Now that’s the wind and you know it.
Carolyn: Is that how it’ll end for me, Vicki? Like it did for them? Wandering around our old house, wailing, wanting so much, and ending up with nothing.
Vicki: That’s how it will end if you want it to. I never will get used to that sound, I guess.
Carolyn: You know what they’re saying? They’re saying, Help me, help me please, somebody help me…
David: …Help me, aunt Elizabeth, please.
Elizabeth: Really, David, I don’t know what you expect me to do. If you can’t sleep, why don’t you read for a while?
David: But I’m scared. There are things in my room.
Elizabeth: What kind of things?
David: I don’t know, I can’t see them, but they’re there.
Elizabeth: Then I’ll tell you what to do. Go upstairs, turn on all the lights in your room and they’ll go away.
As it happens, David finds an alternate solution to the stress of insomnia: frighten someone else in the house, like his governess.
The start Vicki gets from this will only pale in comparison to what awaits later on as she accompanies Carolyn back out to Widow’s Hill to search for the wristwatch Carolyn feels may have been misplaced there.
About the body of the drowned man they discover in the water along the rocks below: Can the viewer be absolutely certain that it’s Bill Malloy?
Think of the premonitory manner in which episode 49 concluded, with Sam Evans making a dire prediction of death while in the process of applying a violent gesture toward the portrait of Burke Devlin he’d been working on.
A thick streak of paint across the image of Burke Devlin, like blood.
Now, look at the overcoat that Bill Malloy would always wear, note how dark the color.
(Frank Schofield as Bill Malloy in episode 9)
Now observe the color of Burke’s overcoat, a lighter perhaps beige color.
(Burke visits the sheriff’s office in episode 28)
Now the image of the drowned man at the foot of Widow’s Hill; the color of the coat is not dark enough to be Bill Malloy’s. Perhaps the man there is Burke Devlin, or perhaps neither. The actor is positioned so that you can’t make out the face, and thus no beard. It could be either/or.
A viewer in 1966 wondering about this possibility the Friday this episode aired would have all the way to the following Wednesday to think about it, especially since Burke Devlin won’t be appearing in any episodes between now and then.
It’s getting to be like Dark Shadows can do or be whatever it wants.
From here, there’s no turning back.
Frank Schofield as a young man, many years before his acting career would end up face down in the water.
From the control room:
[SPOILER ALERT!]: This section contains control room discussion during the taping of episode 50 mainly 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…
[Widow’s Hill, Carolyn spots Vicki approaching]
Lela: Dan, I don’t think you should be showing a drowned man on daytime television.
Dan: Lela, we have to do something big, and this is what we’re doing.
Lela: Frank Schofield isn’t at all happy about being shown as a drowned man.
Dan: He’ll be paid for the episodes we use the footage in.
Lela: Frank will be coming into the control room to talk to you about it. He wants to be let out of his contract.
Dan: Oh, for Christ sakes! Just what I need.
Lela: Dan, why do you have to show him as a drowned man?
Lela: Dan, Frank Schofield is not happy being seen face down in the water like that. He says it’s beneath his dignity.
Dan: Oh, Lela. I told you, Frank Schofield is being paid.
[Act I begins, Widow’s Hill, Carolyn and Vicki talking]
Lela: Dan, it isn’t a question of being paid. Frank is worried about being seen as a drowned man.
Dan: Who cares? People in murder mysteries get killed all the time.
Frank Schofield: Well I’ve never been in one of these murder mysteries, Dan. A Hitchcock story is not what I signed a contract for to do on this show.
Dan: Frank, just bear with me.
Frank: Maybe you can release me from my contract so I don’t have to be shown as a drowned man.
Dan: It’s too late for that, Frank. This episode has been finalized.
[Act I, Widow’s Hill]
Carolyn: That’s me, up and down, in and out, never the same girl twice.
Lela: Dan, what the hell kind of a line is that to put in a soap opera? This is an after-school time slot, there could be young kids watching.
Dan: Who cares, Lela? It isn’t me, it’s Art Wallace. Go complain to him.
Lela: For Christ sakes, Dan! In this episode you’re showing a dead man face down in the water, and now you just had Carolyn saying the most suggestive thing ever said on daytime television. And you want to stay on the air?
[Throughout the middle of the taping, Frank Schofield will repeatedly try getting Dan to change his mind, but to no avail.]
[Act II begins, Carolyn playing piano in the drawing room]
Frank: Dan, I want you to let me out of my contract. I hate Alfred Hitchcock. This is not what I signed a contract for. I didn’t sign up to be a drowned man in a murder mystery.
Dan: Frank, I said I’d keep you in the cast so you can keep working.
Frank: It’s no longer about that. Dan, I don’t want that footage to go out on the air.
Dan: Frank, I’m sorry. But it’s too late now to change the episode.
[Toward the end of Act II, as Roger enters the foyer and then goes to the kitchen to get a sandwich]
Frank: Lela, isn’t there something you can do? There has to be some way of getting this episode changed.
Lela: Frank, there’s nothing we can do. Once Dan makes his mind up, that’s it… and this episode is finalized.
Frank: For Christ sakes! Then it’s really going out on the air that way?
[Alexandra Moltke and Nancy Barrett scream through the final scene from the Widow’s Hill set]
Frank Schofield: Listen to ‘em scream… My whole career…
Frank: Dan, for crying out loud. Why did you have to show me face down in the water like that? Everyone I know is going to see me like that. I’ve never been in a murder mystery story before. That’s going to ruin my whole reputation. I spent years building up my reputation as an actor, and now it’s gone overnight.
Lela: Dan, why did you have to do that to Frank’s career? You should have kept him alive as Bill Malloy.
Dan: Don’t worry about it, Frank. We’ll give you some other things to do.
Frank: Dan, you keep saying that! You want to know how sick and tired I am of hearing it?
Bob Lloyd [ABC announcer]: The famed Green Hornet comes to television. Watch the advance premiere of The Green Hornet in color, one week from tonight, here on ABC.
Frank: You just showed me drowned in the water. What else is left for me to do? I just want to keep on working. And now you’ve ruined it for me.
Bob Lloyd [ABC announcer]: Dark Shadows is a Dan Curtis production.
Dan: Frank, just trust me on this…
Until next time, this has been The Dan and Lela Show.
The opening scene begins with location footage of Alexandra Moltke exiting through one of the doors of Seaview Terrace (aka Carey Mansion), used to represent the exterior of Collinwood.
To start Act I for the scene on Widow’s Hill, location footage of the breakers near Seaview along the coast of Newport, Rhode Island is shown.
At the start of Act II, in the drawing room Carolyn sits at the piano tapping out the main melody of Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star, published in London in 1806 by poet Jane Taylor and her sister Ann Taylor, who wrote the lyrics. The melody for the music is taken from a French children’s song published in 1761 called Ah! Vous dirai-je, Maman (Oh! Shall I tell you, Mommy).
This is the second instance of the drawing room piano being actually played by a cast member; back in episode 31 Mitch Ryan was tapping out the main melody of Chopsticks (aka The Celebrated Chop Waltz, by Euphemia Allen, published in 1877 under the pseudonym Arthur de Lulli).
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, when Carolyn is in the drawing room and on the phone speaking with Joe, a long sound of motor traffic, apparently a truck accelerating, is heard from outside the television studio. This traffic noise can be clearly heard when listening through headphones.
In Act II, Joan Bennett does a “look-ahead” in her dialogue; a look-ahead is when an actor mixes up a word that should come later with a word spoken that moment. In this instance the words are “office” and “hours”: “Carolyn, I just don’t understand about uncle Roger. I asked him to come back from the hou – office hours ago.”
A moment later, with the camera looking in at the drawing room as Elizabeth and Carolyn stand at the window, a teleprompter intrudes on the shot from the right.
The camera operator outside the drawing room window then shifts the camera to the left to omit the teleprompter, but in the process ruins the symmetry of the blocking.
In the same scene, the shadow of camera equipment can be seen sweeping across the floor of the drawing room.
In Act II, Joan Bennett says, “Bill Malloy’s disappearant is a fact also.”
During the above discussion, mention was made of the three people and Widow’s Hill, which Carolyn thinks Vicki should be made aware of. Finally, Mrs. Stoddard tells Vicki about the legend of Collinwood, about how two people had thrown themselves to their death from atop Widow’s Hill, and that a third death in the same manner had been prophesied; however, Carolyn herself had already told Vicki of this legend back in episode 9.
(Carolyn begins telling Vicki about the former governesses who have jumped from Widow’s Hill, episode 9)
After Vicki and Carolyn step out through the front doors of Collinwood, and before Elizabeth encounters David up on the landing of the foyer, a crew member is heard to cough once from the production area.
Just before the transition to the closing scene on Widow’s Hill, the camera is still on David and Elizabeth at the top of the landing after David says, “They’re going to find death”; the screaming coming from the nearby set for Widow’s Hill can be heard from the foyer, and you can see David Henesy visibly shudder and flinch as it starts.
Food & Drink in Collinsport:
In Act II, Vicki brings a tray of tea service into the drawing room.
Having arrived home at a late hour and not having had any dinner, Roger steps away to the kitchen to get a sandwich. Seated with Elizabeth in the drawing room as the middle of Act III begins, he describes the sandwich and beverage he is having while naming another food he is not having: “Cold chicken sandwich and a glass of milk; it’s better than caviar at this time of night.”
However, Elizabeth’s pointed questions about Bill Malloy soon curb his appetite, and in no time he’s at the liquor cabinet with a brandy.
On the Flipside:
On the day that Dark Shadows episode 50 was taping, Friday August 19, 1966, episode 40 was airing; following in the 4:30 p.m. Eastern time slot on ABC was season 2 episode 244 of Dick Clark’s music program Where the Action Is.
Among the featured performers was the Syndicate of Sound, a West Coast rock band who hit the top 10 that year with a song called Little Girl, one of the all-time enduring staples of the “garage rock” subgenre.
“Hey, little girl, you don’t have to hide nothin’ no more…”
The 1960s was a colorful time, and the color pink one of the signature shades…
Allison Parks, 1966 Playmate of the Year, pretty in pink with her new ’66 Dodge Charger.
Pink was likewise the color for 1965 Playmate of the Year Jo Collins and her ’65 Sunbeam Tiger.
The initial award of a car to Playmate of the Year began in 1964, with the Ford Mustang being given a shade of Playmate Pink, shown here with that year’s choice Donna Michelle.
Elsewhere, the color pink was a popular movie theme, highlighting the comedic brilliance of Peter Sellers who by 1964 had starred as Inspector Clouseau in the first two films of Blake Edwards’ Pink Panther series.
There was the Jell-O brand of pink pudding.
If you ate too much pink pudding, there was Pepto-Bismol to provide fast relief.
In no time you’d be feeling up to going back outside and enjoying the type of pink sunset New England locales like Collinspport are noted for.
(Above photo taken by the Eco Bear Biohazard Cleaning Company at Jabez Corner in Plymouth, Massachusetts on March 23, 2014)
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 51: The Mind Plays Tricks
— Marc Masse
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