Jonathan Frid Biography 1924-2012
Canadian actor Jonathan Frid received his master’s degree in drama from Yale University. Frid spent the first 20 years of his professional life as a Shakespearean actor in both Ontario and the United States, and as a daytime-drama performer on such American series as Look Up and Live and As the World Turns. Work was seldom steady, and Frid was often as not in the unemployment line instead of the dressing room. Going the casting office rounds in 1966, Frid was hired by producer Dan Curtis to play a crucial role in a new ABC soap opera, Dark Shadows. At first glance, this was nothing out of the ordinary for a fortyish utility actor; but at second glance, there was nothing ordinary about Dark Shadows. The first Gothic daytime drama, Dark Shadows was chock full of ghosts, family curses, howls in the night– and one 175-year-old vampire, Barnabas Collins. Frid’s interpretation of Barnabas leaned more toward the erotic than the horrific, and before long the actor was receiving 1500 fan letters a week (mostly from young ladies who expressed a desire to have their necks bitten) and was the somewhat dazed object of numerous fan clubs.
Striking while the iron was hot, Frid became a fixture of the talk-show circuit, reciting poetry and Shakespeare at the slightest provocation. The actor extended his Barnabas Collins characterization into a 1970 feature film, House of Dark Shadows. Frid was rather tired of the character before the daytime serial ended in 1971, but found that Barnabas had so effectively typed him that he was virtually unable to find any non-supernatural roles. Jonathan Frid hasn’t been heard from much in recent years. (Ben Cross played Barnabas Collins in the short-lived 1991 primetime revival of Dark Shadows), but the faithful haven’t forgotten him, as witness the many “official” Barnabas Collins Fan Clubs still dotting the landscape in the early ’90s.