Episode 36: The David Ford Effect

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The addition of David Ford as the new Sam Evans has had an immediate and energizing effect on fellow Dark Shadows cast members, most notably with Louis Edmonds’ performance as Roger Collins.

 

Fresh off the Hartford Stage in a year-long run as Big Daddy in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, David Ford’s distinctly dramatic infusion of Tennessee Williams into his portrayal of Sam Evans has awakened a theatrical spirit in those among the cast who already had a strong background on the live stage.

 

Louis Edmonds for one got his start as a New York stage actor, working in regional theater and Off-Broadway before finally breaking through with a Broadway production of Candide in 1956. To work alongside an actor like David Ford must have been like going home, because he’s absolutely on fire in this episode, giving one of his best ever performances as Roger Collins, scene after scene.

 

Hereafter, when auditioning actors for new roles or as replacements for existing characters, the casting department will more and more be looking to New York City and regional theater for talent.

 

The arrival of David Ford represents a watershed moment on Dark Shadows, where fairly tame and ordinary melodrama has the potential to achieve the heights of high drama. This initial transformation will eventually pave the way for the casting of a certain Shakespearean actor in the role of a vampire.

 

But that’s months off still and, as yet, something unforeseen. One thing follows another, but only by chance – that’s the magic that made the run of the series one of a kind, and why Dark Shadows could only happen once.

 

For now, “the David Ford effect” is getting the production crew of Dark Shadows to rethink the show’s approach to acting and where they should be looking for the talent to add that extra spark and make scenes more riveting, with the actors themselves pulling out all the stops to move things up a notch by adding a more theatrical sense of drama to their performances beginning with today’s episode, making the pages of dialogue seem more alive and bringing to the character portrayals that one extra layer of fullness and depth.

 

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Episode 34: A Ripple in the Whirlpool

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Today Victoria Winters is making her first visit to the Blue Whale, while enjoying her first alcoholic beverage since arriving in Collinsport – even though she’s underage.

 

The character of Victoria Winters, and the actress who plays her, is barely twenty. Burke Devlin, the man who bought her the drink, is over thirty.

 

Evidently, the bartender didn’t ask to see the young lady’s ID. In yesterday’s episode, he wouldn’t even shut down a drunk and hollering Joe Haskell.

 

This won’t be the last time on the show where older men will be plying drinks on young underage girls. In those days, you could get away with that kind of thing. Dark Shadows, during that unsupervised era of daytime television, manages to do just that.

 

Those were the days!

 

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Episode 25: People Management

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Victoria Winters is searching for her past. Having been raised in a foundling home in New York, she has taken a job hundreds of miles away in Collinsport, Maine, as a companion and governess to a nine-year-old boy only because of the anonymous letters that would arrive each month at the foundling home containing fifty dollars in cash for her care beginning when she was two years old. Because the postmark on the envelopes was from Bangor, only fifty miles away from Collinsport, now eighteen years later she thinks that by taking on this position she might find out something about her mysterious past, something more than the surname she was given because of the season of the year she was left on the front steps of the foundling home in a cardboard box, with only a ten-word note and a first name.

 

Two days after having stepped off the train in Collinsport, a letter sent special delivery has arrived from the foundling home detailing a visit they received from a private investigator wondering why she was hired to work for the Collins family and by whom.

 

No one wants to know the answers to these questions more than Victoria Winters herself, but to her dismay none of the people around her care to even discuss the matter. The only interest in her letter comes from someone who has no reason to be even remotely curious – the young boy she tutors.

 

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Episode 23: Doing a Little Digging

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To many Dark Shadows fans, the notion of the Collinsport police in general and the sheriff in particular is something of a joke, given how in later years of the show the town seems to be run by the vampires and assorted monsters and ghosts who predominate at any given time.

 

But the beginnings of Dark Shadows are a different matter, with its leanings toward more of a sense of realism. Here in the early days, police are competent and thorough; any criminal in their midst would have cause to worry, especially if the perpetrator in question is a nine-year-old boy who’s guilty of attempted murder.

 

Episode 23 is our introduction to Constable Jonas Carter, the only sworn officer of the law in the history of Dark Shadows who ever solved a crime.

 

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Episode 21: The Road Not Taken

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Dark Shadows was originally about the story of Victoria Winters, an orphan governess from New York City who accepts a job in a small town Down East where she will live in a large dark house by the sea and tutor a nine-year-old boy. She accepts the job because she hopes it may lead to information about her undiscovered past, in particular the anonymous monthly payments from Bangor that started arriving at the foundling home when she was just two years old.

 

As envisioned by story creator Art Wallace, who wrote the outline Shadows on the Wall that became the show’s series bible early on, the story of Victoria Winters was fully realized from the start, with a beginning, middle, and complete story resolution. But unforeseen circumstances along the way prevented the story from being told in full as originally planned. Other things got in the way; the murder of a Collins family friend and business associate, a couple of ghosts, a fire goddess from a spirit netherworld, a vampire, time travel, witchcraft, and on and on, until finally the actress playing the role said enough was enough.

 

Perhaps the biggest factor was the frequent turnover in the episode writing staff. Enough time went by and enough writers came and went that the original framework laid out for the story of Victoria Winters was simply forgotten, a beginning left dangling somewhere in the middle for more than two years of episodes. Below is an examination of the original story resolution, as outlined before Dark Shadows first went on the air.

 

The story of Victoria Winters is the road not taken.

 

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Episode 13: Meeting in the Odd Places

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It’s a Wednesday in 1966, and Burke Devlin has been hanging out in the drawing room at Collinwood since Monday. Fortunately, there’s plenty of brandy on hand to keep him hydrated while he chats with Liz and waits for Roger to show up, who’s been avoiding the drawing room since last Friday, ever since Carolyn brought Burke to Collinwood.

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Episode 8: Answers for the Future

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If there’s one aspect of Dark Shadows that comes across as comedy, it’s the notion of romance. Naturally, because this is Detergent Land Drama, one shouldn’t expect to begrudge the characters with any happiness in that area, at least not for the long term, but when it comes to even finding a suitable mate the folks at Collinwood, and anyone who chances to come into even remote contact with them, are positively doomed!

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