Episode 72: Great Moments in Mayonnaise: Cooking in Collinsport

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“Ooh, this mayonnaise doesn’t smell fresh to me. I think you better complain to the firm that made it.”

Beats complaining to the team who wrote it – the episode scripts for Dark Shadows.

In those days the major companies that made all the brand-name products were still thought of by some folks as firms rather than corporations, because at least you could still complain to a firm about something and even expect a human response as well as a solution.

Then again no public relations department of any firm would have known what to do with “Mrs.” Sarah Johnson, the first and only housekeeper on television you could think of offhand who regards her menial job with the devotion of a loving wife that never was, except that today she is a bereaved widow who has nowhere left to go in life since the only man she prepared homemade mayonnaise for has gone away forever. One could only hope she carried the same torch for her actual real-life late husband from some years ago, at least throughout that first day or two of mourning.

One striking feature of today’s Dark Shadows episode is that the boys are taking a powder while the main and supporting cast is filled out with female characters only, the most striking of which is Mrs. Johnson who could well be on her way toward taking a job as hired help at Collinwood. In her first two episode appearances last week, her devotion to Bill Malloy as well as fervent wish that his death should be avenged were apparent. Today’s episode however presents a more comically mundane treatment of the character, where it becomes evident that the thorough efficiency that must have been a prerequisite as Mr. Malloy’s long-term housekeeper extends to everyday food items with an almost hypochondriacal fury.

“Is your lettuce well washed?”

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Then Maggie makes a joke about having washed the lettuce herself in the laundromat, and then you realize what may or may not yet be known to the Dark Shadows cast and crew: Art Wallace has less than three weeks left as a writer on the show, the story background of which he created to fill out the original dream scenario by executive producer Dan Curtis. The professional association of Wallace and Curtis for the creation and beginning of Dark Shadows was more the work of agents than personal preference.

Then Maggie makes a joke about having washed the lettuce herself in the laundromat, and then you realize what may or may not yet be known to the Dark Shadows cast and crew: Art Wallace has less than three weeks left as a writer on the show, the story background of which he created to fill out the original dream scenario by executive producer Dan Curtis. The professional association of Wallace and Curtis for the creation and beginning of Dark Shadows was more the work of agents than personal preference.

Whatever the case, you have to wonder whether Art Wallace had already given his notice, considering how scripts for Dark Shadows episodes were in those days written at least two weeks in advance and Wallace’s final episode writing credit will be for episode 86. More problematic could have been how in the weeks and months since the show began Dan Curtis for the sake of television network ratings and story pacing has gone increasingly off the original story outline as provided by Wallace in the series bible Shadows on the Wall. Here is Sarah Johnson mourning over the passing of a man she worked for, over some thirty years, and Art Wallace is making fun of her by having the hotel restaurant waitress joke about washing the day’s lettuce in laundry machines.

“I have no desire to get sick, not while evil walks the streets of this town!”

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Today though the evil in Collinsport is all about the mayonnaise that in the eyes and senses of Mrs. Sarah Johnson is no longer fit to eat.

“I always made by own mayonnaise…”

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This is more of a way in for the soon to be departing Art Wallace to make Mrs. Johnson despite her mournful state seem outright creepy, saying things you’d never once want to be hearing but would be obligated toward politeness anyway, as if to say, perhaps in the face of the executive producer, Well you killed off Bill Malloy and now you’re not going to allow Roger Collins to be killed off as planned, so how am I going to write this thing now, and after all who really cares about Bill Malloy this way, who really after all, just this creepy old gal who throws away good food because of a sense of evil about the town… Perhaps, but who would ever know.

Maggie: I bet it was good too.

Mrs. Johnson: Mr. Malloy liked it. When you’ve been a man’s housekeeper as many years as I have, you learn to know what he likes.

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You can tell by the sudden reaction on Maggie’s face how Mrs. Johnson’s conversation such that it is will soon be tumbling down that slippery slope and past the point of no return, brought to you by the very same television writer who bestowed to ABC daytime the forbidden yet never-ending moments between Kitten and Uncle Roger, the only actual romance playing out at Collinwood thus far.

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Considering how in countless Dark Shadows episodes to come where Mrs. Johnson’s terrible cooking skills become something only to joke about, her penchant for seeking out only the cleanest and freshest foods available is amusing in itself. If Mrs. Johnson should take on that full-time live-in housekeeper position for which providing meals would be included, a strong antacid would always have to be near at hand.

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If you want to cut the mustard with Mrs. Johnson, you’d better be up for fresh mayonnaise.

1960s magazine ad for peanut butter and mayonnaise… sandwiches.

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Especially in the capably sarcastic and outgoing writer’s hands of Art Wallace, Mrs. Johnson here in episode 72 comes across as someone who just creates new and ever varying reasons to get on the wrong side of anyone she happens to interact with in Collinsport – the above-described evils of which may have more to with indigestion than anything else. It isn’t anything a replacement writer on the staff somewhere down the road couldn’t fix.

“The pie was delicious…Here you are, and here is a dime for you…”

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“Stay tuned for Where the Action Is next, here on ABC.”

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“Hello stranger, how long has it been…”

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Set Design:

The Collinsport Inn phone booth has long been a set design mystery unto itself, given such little overall import because it’s only used for scene-clinching snippets that it’s treated more like a restaurant place setting, in that it can be packed up and rearranged at will. In each location it faces in different directions according to the dramatic requirements of a given episode scene; sometimes in the diner facing the counter, the diner side entrance door, or the way into the hotel lobby, and speaking of the lobby several points of view as well like today where it faces directly back into the diner, which here in episode 2 places it somewhere atop the lobby front desk…

“That’s right, Mr. Devlin…”

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…given where the set piece would have to be placed to be facing for the television viewer directly back through the doorway into the restaurant.

Victoria Winters and Burke Devlin arrive at Collinsport Inn from the train station during episode 1, with the doorway to the restaurant (aka “coffee shop”) shown at far left.

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Bloopers/Story Continuity:

During Act I as Carolyn rails against Vicki for her association with Burke Devlin, Nancy Barrett gets the family relationships mixed up, perhaps having memorized Joan Bennett’s lines for a similar polemic at the hands of Mrs. Stoddard in the very next scene: “Vicki, you were hired to give my little nephew his school lessons…”

In Act II, Carolyn is trying to get her mother interested in hiring a housekeeper and Nancy Barrett flubs slightly: “…While I’m in town, I right – might run into Mrs. Johnson…”

In Act IV, after the tense moment between Mrs. Stoddard and Vicki has passed, Joan Bennett momentarily juggles pronouncing “buried”: “…Sometimes I feel as if I were bur – buried [spoken as berried] here…”


Food & Drink in Collinsport:

Maggie during Act III brings a slice of fresh baked apple pie along with coffee to Mrs. Johnson’s table where Carolyn has come in to ask if anyone has seen Burke Devlin. Carolyn is being used by Burke as the go-between to see whether Mrs. Johnson can be set up for a live-in housekeeping position at Collinwood.

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On the Flipside:

Over the closing theme of Dark Shadows episode 72, broadcast on October 4, 1966, ABC announcer Bob Lloyd provides a voiceover promo spot for a show that had been an iconic staple in the network’s Tuesday night lineup four seasons running as of the fall of ’66.

Bob Lloyd: A girl is killed, and Richard Kimble is mistakenly identified as the person responsible. Watch The Fugitive in color tonight, on ABC.

“The Fugitive… in color”

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“Brought to you by…”

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Prolog: A big city, a jungle of anonymity, where nobody looks too close, and everybody is locked in with his own big problem. A hiding place for a man who, for the moment, calls himself Carl Baker.

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Yes, that is indeed Richard Anderson in the opening scene as Lieutenant Sloan. As many Dark Shadows fans would know offhand, Anderson would in seven years be starring in the Dan Curtis TV movie The Night Strangler, just one of many Dark Shadows and Dan Curtis crossovers to be found in this iconic Quinn Martin production.

For Dark Shadows crossovers, there’s a real doozy relating to next week’s Fugitive episode (#95 in the series, aired October 11, 1966), one that may just change the shape of Widow’s Hill, and will be part of the Flipside feature in the post for Dark Shadows episode 77.

Stay tuned…

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Coming next: Episode 73: The Backstairs of Main Street

— Marc Masse

(aka PrisoneroftheNight)

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