Saturday, March 13, 2010
Underrated Performer of the Week: Jonathan Frid
Born in Ontario in 1924, John Herbert Frid began acting in prep school as a teenager. He studied drama at McMaster University in Ontario, though his college days were interrupted by a stint in the Royal Canadian Navy during World War II. After the war, he graduated from McMaster and attended the Royal Academy of Dramatics Arts in London.
Returning to Canada in 1949, he worked in repertory companies and on television. Five years later, he enolled in the Yale School of Drama, eventually earning a Master's degree in directing in 1957. His first love was acting, though, and he played a wide range of roles for the next ten years--from Shakespearean characters to Starbuck in The Rainmaker. He gradually became interested in teaching drama and was looking for a position at a college when he was offered a brief stint as a vampire in a daytime soap called Dark Shadows.
After its burst of mainstream popularity, Dark Shadows faded slowly as must-see daytime television. The series ended in 1971. Frid, though, continued to stay busy. He starred in the made-for-TV movie The Devil's Daughter (with Joseph Cotten and Shelley Winters), headlined Oliver Stone's 1974 horror film Seizure, and returned to theatre.
Frid began doing readings at Dark Shadows conventions in the 1980s. He enjoyed that so much that he eventually developed the Readers Theatre and a one-man show. He also continued to perform on the stage in productions such as Arsenic and Old Lace and Mass Appeal.
Jonathan Frid never married. He is now 85 and semi-retired. But his legacy lives on--Johnny Depp may play Barnabus in a new version of Dark Shadows being developed by Tim Burton.