With headphones, listen to the audio clip below. It’s from episode 20, where Act II begins following a commercial break and you see the location shot for the Evans cottage. Barely one second into the clip as you hear the sound effects for crickets chirping, first you hear a crew member mentioning the actor playing Sam Evans, when the voice of Alexandra Moltke breaks in, sobbing and obviously in shock, telling Lela what Mark Allen had done just before the commercial break.
Crew member: Lela, do you know what Sam Evans just did? –
Alexandra Moltke: Oh Lela, he just jerked off in my dressing room.
Maggie Evans [soundstage]: Pop!
If you can hear the contents of the above audio clip, you may click below to access the main body of the post for tales of the greatest off-stage television studio story never told, again.
This time in audio.
Hidden audio – for this listener, it began with episode 11. Listening to this episode, one can detect, beneath the monaural layering of actors’ voices on the soundstage plus the occasional sounds of crew members’ voices as well as noises from their equipment in the nearby production area, the faintly peripheral yet frequently distinct sounds of voices, mostly those of the same man and woman, always arguing and often ferociously.
In those moments when during an episode taping there are complete gaps of silence, where actor dialogue, sound effects, and music cues fall momentarily silent all at once, it is possible to make out very clearly what is being said, the source of which is most often the Dark Shadows television studio control room microphone, leaking into the final broadcast as taped live. If you know that in those days to save on expenses that television shows often relied on using tape reels that were second hand, that is from tapes of previously recorded broadcast television shows that were “wiped” so they could be reused (the main reason why so much of the history of early television is lost forever), then you might be inclined to just dismiss these Dark Shadows “control room microphone” moments as remnants of the erased former broadcast “leaking in” to the reused version of a given tape reel.
Here’s something from episode 11, where the voices of Dark Shadows director Lela Swift and executive producer Dan Curtis could be heard very clearly throughout. At the tail end of that episode, the music supervisor flubbed a music cue resulting in a lengthy gap of silence between the end of the fourth act and what should have segued immediately into the closing theme, where you can clearly make out the voice of Lela and then Dan:
Lela: I can’t stand you!
Dan: Lela, alright…
Lela understood the way actors worked emotionally it seems, and if she didn’t like someone she would just come right out and say it – directly into the control room microphone so that everyone in the Dark Shadows television studio could hear it. Likewise, if she really did like someone she would also come right out and say it that very moment. Take for instance Joseph Julian, a character actor who had been in numerous television productions by the time he appeared in the first two episodes of Dark Shadows as Burke Devlin’s private investigator Wilbur Strake hired to look into the background and business holdings of the Collins family.
“Best I could learn Mr. Devlin is that Elizabeth Collins Stoddard hasn’t left that hill in eighteen years.”
Lela: I like this guy!…
One actor Lela took an instant and personal disliking to was George Mitchell, a solid veteran character actor who on Dark Shadows originated the role of Collinwood caretaker Matthew Morgan. Below is a clip at normal volume of the scene change during Act II from the Collinwood basement to the upstairs drawing room.
Finally, barely halfway through Mitchell’s Dark Shadows debut as the gruff and guarded caretaker, Dan had to reprimand Lela about talking about the actor through the control room microphone during taping, which we can hear by holding a “magnifying lens” to part of the above scene in question.
Dan: I want to tell you something, Lela. I want you to stop talking about George Mitchell. You’re making him nervous.
Lela: Oh but Dan, I can’t even stand to look at – [him]
Other actors in the original roster of the male supporting lineup will provide Lela with endless reasons for complaining, especially when some of the actresses start complaining about them, like Mark Allen, the first actor on Dark Shadows to play Sam Evans. Below is a scene from Act II where David is alone at Collinwood for a while with one of his toy robots, with the clip below at normal volume as heard in the original broadcast.
Holding a similar magnifying lens to a key interval in the above audio clip, the name of the actress who issued the complaint against Mark Allen is revealed.
Lela: Kathryn Leigh Scott… No! Kathryn Leigh Scott has a complaint about Mark Allen. Mark Allen has been misbehaving during rehearsals.
Complaints against Mark Allen only increase in both frequency and severity. Here’s a short interval from Act I of episode 18 played at normal volume.
This is when Mark Allen starts becoming a huge liability to the show, as revealed by Dan’s incredulous response as he tries to get his head around the matter.
Dan: …Tell me he didn’t rape anybody.
Lela: Well no, he didn’t rape any-…
[To be continued with Revisited, Pt. 2]
The above exposé was not originally intended at the outset of this blog, but was something that became evident along the way. Having considered at the time that I might face general disdain for exposing the fact that behind the scenes, at least in those first few months of Dark Shadows, interactions between actors, as well as between crew and cast, were not always that rose-tinted Shangri-la so consistently promoted through all those latter-day fan conventions, I proceeded anyway because I knew I had a scoop, one that would finally explain all those unforeseen cast member changes during the first weeks and months of the show, where Dan Curtis was breaking contracts with numerous, well-known character actors he had hired himself, among them Mark Allen.
Looking back, I would do things exactly the same. I typically always run afoul of any type of body politic anyway, even something as innocuous as an individual kingdom of television fandom, with the inevitable uberfans whose tireless efforts shape and define a given fandom, so that they get to determine whose voices are heard and whose get banished. I belong to the latter; it isn’t even a badge of honor, just a way of life.
Yet, just because I no longer participate in the Dark Shadows fandom doesn’t mean that I would ever stop being a Dark Shadows fan, which for me goes all the way back to 1970, nor would I ever consider discontinuing with this blog, which remains for me a creative joy and labor of love. However, I do realize that the behind the scenes “hidden audio” was for many an unpopular topic best disregarded or skipped over entirely, so I have decided to drop this element as a regular feature… except in those instances where an unforeseen change in casting or episode scripting could not otherwise be explained.
So, no hard feelings toward those who feel I don’t belong in their Dark Shadows fandom. We assess our place in the world, and we simply move on with life. I’m still a lifelong Dark Shadows fan, so I’ll keep on doing my lovely Dark Shadows blog. Besides, as the old saying goes, I’d never trust any club that would have me as a member.
Coming next: Episode 71: School’s Out for Roger
— Marc Masse
© 2020 Marc Masse and Dark Shadows
from the Beginning. All rights reserved.
Unauthorized use and/or duplication of
the content herein is a violation of the
terms and standards as set forth under
U.S. copyright law.