Dark Shadows: Review: Book: Remembering Jonathan Frid

FridEdited by Nancy Kersey and Helen Samara

Evil Twin Publications, out now

In which friends, colleagues, family and fans share their memories of the actor best known as reluctant vampire Barnabas Collins, affording readers rare glimpses of the man behind “TV’s cool ghoul”…

An actor who never deliberately sought fame or celebrity, Canadian-born Jonathan Frid (1924-2012) became the unlikeliest of teen idols when Dark Shadows became a hit with America’s youth a year into the show’s run. Intensely private, he presented a polite but reserved façade to the public, but within his small, ever-changing circle of friends he was known to be gregarious, wryly humourous and often generous to a fault. (Editor Nancy Kersey notes that Frid “disliked having longstanding emotional ties to any one thing, which is why his social circles changed every five to ten years.”)

While many of the essays collected herein praise Frid’s work ethic, generosity and good deeds, this is no hagiography. Contributors don’t shy away from chronicling Frid’s cantankerousness, perfectionism and mercurial nature; he didn’t suffer fools gladly and could easily bare his metaphorical fangs at a moment’s notice when displeased, as more than one convention organiser discovered!

Stuart Manning – author of Big Finish’s The Night Whispers in which Frid reprised Barnabas for the first and only time – memorably recalls how, after years of working and reworking the script to Frid’s ever-shifting specifications and dealing with the actor’s ambivalence towards the project, concluding that “I don’t think it was our finest Dark Shadows drama, but it’s without a doubt one of our most important.” However, he and other contributors are quick to point out that many of Frid’s negative moments most likely stemmed from his declining faculties and his frustrations at this. Many long-term friends and associates’ remembrances conclude sadly with Frid no longer recognising them as more than Dark Shadows fans.

VERDICT: Although a book of this type cannot help but be slightly repetitive by virtue of its subject matter, Kersey and Samaras have done an admirable job of presenting a well-rounded, “warts and all” portrait of the famously publicity-shy actor… 7/10

John S. Hall

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