Remembering Barnabas Collins: Goodbye To Jonathan Frid

Rhiannon Irons, a.k.a Ahlephia, here with a special little tribute to a legend of screen and horror.  Goodbye to a great man who will grace our screens once again with the release of Tim Burton’s Dark Shadows.  Goodbye Mr. Jonathan Frid.

Best known for his role as Barnabas Collins in the original gothic cult TV series, Dark Shadows, Jonathan Frid lived a long and interesting life both on screen and stage.

Born on December 2, 1924, John Herbert Frid made his debut on the world in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada. His father, Herbert “H.P.” Frid, was a construction company executive, and his mother, Isabella McGregor, a homemaker. He had two brothers, David (also known as Kenneth) and Douglas.

Frid served with the Royal Canadian Navy during World War II before graduation from McMaster University in 1948. The following year, he was accepted at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts in London.

In 1954, Frid moved to the United States and received a Master of Fine Arts degree in Directing from the Yale School Of Drama in 1957. In 1962 he began using the stage name Jonathan Frid.

From 1967 through to 1971, Frid was part of Dark Shadows, but also during that time he was able to sneak in the film House Of Dark Shadows, which saw his TV character, Barnabas Collins come to life on the big screen.

House Of Dark Shadows followed the life (or, afterlife if you will) of Barnabas Collins. Recently unleashed from his coffin by local drunk, Willie Loomis, the vampire (Barnabas) goes on a killing spree, while at the same time charming his present day family members. In the process he meets local girl Maggie Evans and notices that she looks exactly like his deceased fiance Josette. Barnabas assumes that she is the reincarnation of Josette, and plans to make him his unholy bride for eternity.

A cult classic, House Of Dark Shadows is about to get the Tim Burton treatment and it’s not surprisingly that Jonathan Frid is listed in the credits. Do me a favour? Before you go and see the new release of Dark Shadows, have a look at the original. The film is a testament the Hollywood of old, and Frid is complete perfection as Barnabas. (Although, I will admit, I’m curious to see how Johnny Depp will go filling his shoes)

In 1973 Frid teamed up with Shelley Winters for The Devil’s Daughter. A TV movie that sees the a young girl attend her mother’s funeral only to realise that her mother had sold her own daughter’s soul to Satan when she was born. Now she learns that she must marry a fellow demon.

While that plot sounds like a TV movie, the film itself is highly more entertaining and Frid as Mr. Howard is outstanding as he plays a mute. For any actor that would be hard, because you don’t have dialogue to fall back on. His expressions came through his body and, like a true stage performer, Jonathan didn’t disappoint.

The following year saw another brilliant performance with the movie, Seizure. In Seizure, Jonathan Frid portrays a horror novelist who has a recurring nightmare about three figures out of his book who terrorize him and his family and friends during a weekend of fun.

If you’ve ever been the victim of a reoccurring nightmare, then I strongly suggest you track down this film. Not the best film in Jonathan’s filmography, but it was fully enjoyable.

A man of both film and stage, Jonathan knocked audiences dead (figatively) with his one man acts. He also slayed audiences with his role as Jonathan Brewster in the Broadway revival of Arsenic And Old Lace. The play went on a national tour, breaking box-office records, which gave Frid opportunities to appear on radio as well as talk shows to talk about his time in the theatre as well as future shows and his screen career.

Sadly, on April 14, 2012, Jonathan Frid, the man the world had come to know and love as Barnabas Collins, passed away peacefully at Juravinski Hospital in his home town of Hamilton, Ontario, due to natural causes.

Though he never married, the thoughts and prayers and deepest sympathies from everyone here at Truly Disturbing are with his family. He may be gone, but Jonathan will never be forgotten.

May he rest in peace for all eternity.

Jonathan Frid: December 2, 1924 – April 14, 2012.

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