This Day in Horror: Happy Birthday Jonathan Frid
Born on this day in 1924: Jonathan Frid
Frid played vampire Barnabas Collins in Dark Shadows, the Gothic soap opera that ran from 1966 to 1971. Frid’s character was credited as saving the series, which, in its first ten months on air, was consistently among the lowest-rated daytime soaps. ABC had given series creator Dan Curtis until the end of the season – twenty-six weeks – to get the ratings up, otherwise it would be canceled. Curtis had always wanted to do a vampire film, and with little to lose, he brought a vampire to daytime television. The introduction of Barnabas Collins saved Dark Shadows. Though still in last place, its ratings nearly doubled.
Frid, who had primarily worked on stage before landing the Dark Shadows gig, had planned to move to the United States to pursue a career teaching. He got the call about winning the role, and was assured it was a short-term gig, which would allow him to save money for his move. But the popularity of Barnabas made him a full-time cast member and he scrapped his plans to teach.
When Dark Shadows ended in 1971, Frid returned to the stage full-time, making occasional appearances in film and television. He appeared at Dark Shadows conventions, even after his retirement in 1994, and even reprised his role of Barnabas Collins in a Dark Shadows audio play. His final film appearance was a cameo in Tim Burton’s 2012 Dark Shadows feature.