Episode 73: The Backstairs of Main Street

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With a population of around three thousand, Collinsport is one of those places that could aptly be described as a small town.


If somebody among their number should happen to meet with sudden death under mysterious or suspicious circumstances, the locals will surely be talking about it with each new development that arises, on street corners, while waiting in line at the bank or department store, or even while stopping in for breakfast or lunch at the Collinwood Inn restaurant, where such talk can be overheard by the waitress who will then pass the information along to her father, for decades one of the local established artists who apart from the occasional ad agency commission works most of the time getting his canvases ready for the influx of the lucrative summer tourist season.


Today though the coroner’s decision on how Bill Malloy actually died is expected to be handed over to Sheriff George Patterson, whose office Sam Evans had that afternoon just happened to visit on purpose while supposedly on his way into town to purchase art supplies. According to Maggie, talk among the restaurant patrons hinted that the coroner would in fact be returning a verdict of wrongful death by homicide, which as the sheriff had told Sam would automatically make him a suspect in an ongoing and highly public murder investigation, a prospect which thoroughly ruins his appetite for the free ice cream sundae his daughter had just placed on the restaurant counter before him.



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With the transition to the middle of Act I, you can hear the wind whipping and whistling hard around the walls and windows of Collinwood. Nine-year-old David Collins has just come in from playing outside, but his aunt Elizabeth, really his only ally in this house of disapproving adults, calls him into the drawing room simply to let him know that the governess has been looking for him to start with the day’s lessons. It wouldn’t make sense however to take up almost a full page in episode script time just for such a throwaway moment as that; may as well instead get to some unspoken yet essential truth about what the grownups involved really think about one another.


There is one other ally that David looks up to: Burke Devlin, and David is certain that his only friend in the world would never kill anyone. The wind lashing about outdoors would suggest a certain desolation to go along with the stature of the family that built this town, ever more so for a boy who had already been living in Collinwood, a new and labyrinthian place of mystery for him to explore endlessly, more than a month without anyone his own age to even talk to in addition to the week so far of homeschooling  with Miss Winters as his patient governess; those imaginary ghost friends said to haunt the abandoned old house elsewhere on the great estate are his only playmates. So perhaps David Collins should be forgiven for resenting the way people keep treating him like a child, especially considering how he just intuitively cuts through his aunt Elizabeth’s rhetoric as she cautions him about Burke Devlin, but with David insistently pointing out to her exasperation that despite what she tells everyone, she actually believes that Bill Malloy was murdered and that her worst nemesis may have done it simply because that’s what she wants to think.


This is the David Collins character being utilized more in the classical sense as a choral figure, illuminating the underlying theme of suspicion that ties the whole Bill Malloy mystery together, but with the added impact this thread of suspicion has in turning folks around town against one another based on what below the surface each would prefer to think of certain others in their midst. Carolyn defends Burke but feels guilty because she finds him exciting; Elizabeth grapples with the issue of Burke’s vendetta against the family’s business holdings; and of course Roger has his own guilt in Devlin’s manslaughter charge from ten years ago to keep from becoming public knowledge. Caught in the middle is Sam Evans, beholden somehow to Roger as he avoids Burke if at all possible, deeply shamed by a sense of betrayal toward Devlin who was once a trusted friend. David is himself no different; in his mind it had to have been his father who killed Bill Malloy, because he hates his father and wants for him to be sent away to prison before he can get the chance to send David away to boarding school or even an institution for troubled youth.


Even in the eyes of people who didn’t actually know and dislike him so vehemently as did his own son, Roger must have known the value in accounting for his whereabouts the night Malloy died, especially with Burke Devlin making a lot of noise about town with what he alone suspected, which is why Miss Winters wasn’t around that morning for David’s lessons. Having put Devlin off the trail by getting Vicki to come downstairs the previous night and provide the alibi he’d already been calmly insisting to Burke right there in the drawing room, Roger evidently wanted to be certain of getting all the mileage he could on this new and independent source of validation by having her agree to accompany him to the sheriff’s office just in time to enter a statement into the report before the sheriff could at last place the file in the hands of the county coroner for final deliberation on Malloy’s most likely cause of death. To accomplish this bit of subterfuge, all Roger had to do was be especially charming toward Miss Winters for once by treating her to breakfast at the hotel restaurant and then whisking her off on a grand tour of the inner workings of the Collins family business as epitomized by the local cannery. Naturally he forgot or just didn’t bother to notify anyone at Collinwood, because Roger only ever thinks of himself anyway.   


“She never gave me any lessons today aunt Elizabeth, she never showed up at all.”

Backstairs_David explains that Miss Winters never even showed up for the day's lessons_ep73


Not that David would mind, considering how he likes Miss Winters about as much as he does his father, both of whom he wishes would just go away. His aunt Elizabeth reminds him that Miss Winters will remain his tutor well into the future, and that he should just learn to accept her presence in his daily life. David maintains that he still doesn’t like her and maybe never will, but his aunt Elizabeth points out that he’s never even given her a chance. David nonetheless is somewhat worldly wise, and insists that you shouldn’t have to even try liking someone.


David: Either you like somebody, or you don’t like somebody.

Backstairs_David tells his aunt Elizabeth that he likes her and Burke Devlin_ep73


Elizabeth reminds him that he is still just a boy, and that liking people is not exactly one of his strong points. David attempts to counter his aunt’s logic by saying that he does in fact like her – and Burke Devlin.


“I don’t think I like the company you’re putting me in.”

Backstairs_Elizabeth doesn't like to be put in the company of Burke Devlin_ep73


There’s someone in today’s episode who really doesn’t like the company certain persons about town keep putting him in, and that’s Sam Evans.


“Hey, did you hear the latest scoop? I understand the coroner’s going to make his report on the Malloy thing today.”

Backstairs_Maggie tells her father the latest gossip about Bill Malloy_ep73


Out of all the persons most centrally connected to the Bill Malloy case, the prospect of the coroner’s ruling on the cause of death seems to worry Sam the most. Perhaps it was something the sheriff said just that very day, when Sam had wandered in for an update on the report George was preparing for the coroner – kind of on impulse but sort of really on purpose.


Sheriff Patterson seemed amused by the timing of Sam’s visit, considering how just a couple hours before Burke Devlin and then Roger Collins had dropped in for the very same reason. When he got the call that Sam was waiting outside his office to see him, Patterson set everything aside pretending like he actually had no work at all to do that day.

Backstairs_Sheriff Patterson pretends to have nothing to do as Sam enters for a surprise visit (2)_ep73


Sam: Uh… what made you so sure I’d be dropping in to see you?

Sheriff Patterson: Well, Malloy is dead, isn’t he?

Backstairs_Sam wonders why the sheriff was expecting him to drop in (2)_ep73


Sam nonetheless keeps to the scheme that he had worked up in his mind, that he was on his way to the stationary store to pick up some sketch pads and then kind of just wandered in on a whim.

Backstairs_Sam claims he just dropped in on impulse_ep73


Sheriff Patterson of course is not buying it, being well trained in detecting patterns in behavior from person to person, especially those intensely interested on the outcome of a possible finding of homicide.


Sheriff Patterson: Everywhere I turned, there were you, Burke Devlin, and Roger Collins right smack in the middle of it.

Sam: I had nothing to do with it!

Backstairs_Sam adamantly maintains he had nothing to do with Bill Malloy's death (2)_ep73


Sam tries downplaying the significance of this point, but there’s just no backpedaling with Sheriff George Patterson once he has his mind made up, as he reminds Evans of one crucial factor that could weigh heavily in the coroner’s findings.


“Attitude, Sam. How you, Burke Devlin, and Roger Collins have reacted.”

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“Oh now, wait a minute…”

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“…You think I’m getting nervous, well that’s just the way I come across.”

Backstairs_Sam explains his nervousness as just his general demeanor_ep73


Sam ultimately comes to realize that his curiosity in the matter may not have been wise to express.


Sam: Uh… look George, maybe you’re right. Maybe I oughta be patient and wait, huh?

Sheriff Patterson: Not much else you can do.

Backstairs_Sam thinks he should just be patient and await the decision of the coroner (2)_ep73


As Sam follows through on his sudden change of heart and makes for the door, the sheriff leaves him with something else to worry about.


“Don’t worry, Sam. I’ll be in touch.”

Backstairs_Sheriff Patterson assures Sam he'll be in touch_ep73


During his visit to the sheriff’s office, George had mentioned that the coroner’s decision could mean the difference of whether Sam Evans would still be a painter with dozens of sunsets left to capture, or in fact a murder suspect.


This should indeed be of grave concern to Sam Evans in particular, because in those few minutes of talking with the sheriff he finally realized what it was like to have felt like Burke Devlin did ten years ago, just walking into a situation and being framed for something he knew he hadn’t done.


There was nothing left to do but wait, with Sam feeling the irony of the Burke Devlin story etched firmly across the worried furrows on his face… …which for the moment anyway would not in itself be spoken of as backstairs news on Main Street.

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

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“Pull the string and I’ll wink at you, I’m your puppet…”

[Mira Sound Studios, New York City; session photos by recording engineer George Schowerer]

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Background/Production Notes:

Newly filmed location footage is inserted during the opening narration of Sam Evans walking along the “Collinsport street…”

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…then toward the sheriff’s office…

Location footage_Collinsport street_Sam Evans heads for the sheriff's office (2)_ep73

…and finally to begin Act III along the exterior of Collinsport Inn.

Location footage_Collinsport Inn_Sam Evans stops by the restaurant after visiting the sheriff's office_ep73

Daily studio schedule for Dark Shadows in 1966

7:00-11:00 a.m.   Lighting

8:30-10:30           Morning Rehearsal

10:30-11:30         Break/Make-Up

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

3:30-4:00             Knockdown

3:45-4:15             Technical Meeting

4:00-6:30             Dry Rehearsal for Next Episode

4:00-7:00             Reset Studio

Bloopers/Story Continuity:

In the opening scene as Sheriff Patterson pretends to have nothing to do when Sam enters for a surprise visit, you see David Ford’s arm extended in shadow across the bubble plastic “glass” part of the door holding the handle while awaiting his cue to enter the set.

Backstairs_Sheriff Patterson pretends to have nothing to do as Sam enters for a surprise visit (1)_ep73

With the transition to the middle of Act II, David is shown in the foyer seated on the table as he dials the phone to call in for Burke’s room at the Collinsport Inn, beginning as a close-up then panning gradually back during which you see the shadow of the camera equipment as it pulls away.

David has come down from Collinwood looking for Burke Devlin and will begin asking around in the restaurant. As Maggie pours a cup of coffee for Sam in the middle of Act IV while referring to her Pop as “the leading pessimist of our time” David Henesy can be seen in shadow standing outside the door to the hotel lobby, awaiting his cue to enter the set.

Backstairs_blooper_David Henesy casts a shadow in the door of the hotel lobby_ep73



The Collinsport coffee mug set remains in the sheriff’s office today, having landed there in episode 71 after having been introduced by Sam Evans in episode 49.

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Food & Drink in Collinsport:

With Act IV transitioning to its final scene, Maggie pours her Pop a cup of coffee.

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In a reprise of David’s visit to the Collinsport Inn restaurant back in episode 28, Maggie whips up a “super sundae” for David, but who declines when he decides to leave at the mention of his father’s name, leaving Maggie with the task of eating the sundae so it won’t go to waste.

Backstairs_food & drink_Act IV_Maggie decides to eat the sundae David refused_ep73

On the Flipside:

Imagine a time in the 1960s when the Beatles of all things were no longer as popular as the collective history that’s been handed down through the ages would have one believe.

Such a time was the summer of 1966, less than three years after “Beatlemania” hit with such force that its cultural impact would still be felt and discussed more than half a century later.

Where the Action Is was a musical variety program on ABC created and hosted by Dick Clark and broadcast in the 4:30 pm Eastern time slot specifically for kids who would have a bit of television programming to call their very own, highlighting the reliable genre of popular top 40 music the younger generations of the mid-1960s were tuning into the most.

After a certain point though, the Beatles during this crucial period were being considered less and less a part of that musical zeitgeist, as noted in the following interview clip with Dick Clark addressing this issue with Mike “Smitty” Smith, drummer for the WTAI house band Paul Revere and the Raiders.

Dick Clark: You still enjoy listening to them?

Mike “Smitty” Smith: I still enjoy listening to them, yes I do, but I’ve noticed that they are losing quite a bit of their popularity.

WTAI_Dick Clark interviews Mike Smith of Paul Revere and the Raiders_10 Aug 66_Beatles decline_ep73 

This interview was done for the August 10 broadcast of WTAI. The Beatles’ latest album had been released the previous Friday on August 5, the acclaimed though decidedly experimental Revolver, which would stand as their latest recorded album output for ten months until the following June when their next LP release Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band would encapsulate for general audiences the burgeoning psychedelic phase in popular music as of that time.

Despite many good and even great songs on the U.S. Revolver release, the sentiments expressed by the Raiders’ Mike Smith may have resonated profoundly with the younger WTAI audience of the day, who may not have found such an eclectic disc of musical experimentation as accessible as those more basic and fun-spirited selections to be found in the 4:30 pm time slot with WTAI, especially with the latest Beatles LP coming up short on actual hits as epitomized by such tracks as Tomorrow Never Knows.

(Tomorrow Never Knows, early sessions take 1)

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Coming next: Episode 74: Celebration Day: Death Has Come At Last

— Marc Masse

(aka PrisoneroftheNight)

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