(Astrology Explored) The show was campy, with overly dramatic writing and acting, the production values, because of the manner in which it was taped, poor. Actors regularly flubbed lines, props occasionally fell, recording booms sometimes appeared in the frame. Once, one actor’s period gown was accidentally set on fire by the lit candles on the set while she was trying to recite her lines. Yet for all its flaws, Dark Shadows became a hit with young baby boomers hitting their teen years, and the reason for this for a large part was the introduction of the original tortured vampire, Barnabas Collins as played by Jonathan Frid.
Sadly, Mr. Frid recently passed on April 13, 2012 weeks before the scheduled release of Tim Burton’s remake film “Dark Shadows” based on the iconic character Frid brought to life.
Running after the daily soap operas their mothers watched, the half hour, Monday through Friday show captured a previously untapped audience. Up to this point the only programming that played to pre-teens and young teenagers were shows like American Bandstand. But this wasn’t how the show started out. The original premise of the series, that of a young woman with a mysterious past looking to discover the secrets of her life as the governess of a rich but reclusive Maine family, failed to capture the interest of the housewives of the day.
The campy daytime soap was a year old and struggling in the ratings in 1967 when series creator Dan Curtis took his daughter’s advice to “make it scarier.” He introduced Barnabas Collins, and the ratings took off.
World War II interrupted his studies at Hamilton’s McMaster University, and after serving in the Royal Canadian Navy he graduated in 1948. Frid attended the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in London the next year and returned to Canada in the early 1950s.
After earning a master of fine arts in directing from Yale University’s drama school in 1957, he appeared in many classical regional and touring productions. Twice in the late 1950s he shared the stage with Katharine Hepburn.
In the beginning, his intentions had been to get a lot of acting experience in order to become a great drama professor. In 1967, he returned home to New York after a long national tour, planning to move to California and find a teaching position. But his agent called him to go on an audition for an ABC soap opera called Dark Shadows. The job would be for just a few weeks. Interested in the extra money for his move to California, he decided to go on the audition. Frid won the role of vampire Barnabas Collins.
The ratings, which had been near the cancellation point, shot up overnight, and Jonthan Frid became a household name and a national phenomenon. And the “few weeks of work” turned into four years.
Frid never quite understood why the baby boomers found his character so fascinating:
In 1970, 45-year-old Frid told Women’s Wear Daily, “I always feel like an ass being a teenage idol in a teeny-bopper magazine.”
Yet his character had a multi-dimensional complexity that was unusual for the television of that time:
Barnabas proved himself to be a man of contradictions many times. Although capable of great kindness and foresight, he could also be vindictive and sufficiently passionate to commit severe blunders for purely emotional reasons.
Barnabas Collins was horrified by the vampire monster within and driven by his human passions. In one sense this character mirrored the struggles of his young audience trying to make sense of a Mom and Apple Pie society that denied important rights to major segments of the population while engaged in a brutal war in a foreign land splayed across the nightly news.
Barnabas Collins was introduced to the American public on April 17, 1967 the episode starting at 4:00 PM.
Jonathan Frid was was born on December 2, 1924 in Hamiltion, Ontario, Canada, time of birth unknown.
At first glance, the Sagittarian Sun of Jonathan Frid seems to belie the dark character he came to play. Though Barnabas’ Sun was in Aries, trine by zodiac sign to Frid’s Sun, it was an Aries that was shadowed by placement in the eighth house of transformation. Looking a Frid’s chart, with its three planets in the zodiac sign of Sagittarius and a Grand Trine in fire signs one gets the sense a naturally sunny and fun loving disposition, with a love of words, drama and the spotlight. With his Mars in the zodiac sign of Pisces, he was an gentle man, reticent to display anger, and with a natural instinct to help, even against his own best interests.
What ties the myth to the man though is a strong association with the nodal axis of the character. The south node of the Barnabas character was in the Pluto ruled sign of Scorpio, while Barnabas’ eighth house sun was conjunct the North Node. This symbolism is rich with underworld and supernatural themes. Any point in Scorpio talks about the Plutonian propensity to be aware of how very thin is the veil of reality. Scorpios live with one foot in earth plane and the other in other dimensions. Trying to walk the earth while resonating with other realities does strange things to a soul. Aware that most other people do not experience life in this manner, they develop a crusty shell that attempts to hide the secret that makes them different. Scorpios think of themselves as guarded, but other people sensing there is more to the Scorpio may experience them as cold, withholding, or even deceitful. With Frid’s Venus and Saturn in the sign of Scorpio he certainly understood all about secrets and lies. He talks about the the character of Barnabas thus:
“Still, Barnabas, for all of his ‘oddities’, would never ‘fluff’ what he had to say. Hesitate, yes. After all, he had to use caution with every word he uttered. Remember, as a vampire his life was one long lie.”
Prior to Jonathan’s portrayal of Barnabas Collins, vampires were simply villains, agents of disruption and death.
Frid came to this role in midlife, during his Uranian Opposition. Amy Herring tells us about the Uranian Opposition:
You have come to roughly the middle of your life. In the cells of your body, you recognize this fact and are filled with a sense of urgency. . . we sense that we don’t have any more time to waste going in the wrong direction.
In Frid’s case, the Uranus that opposed his natal opposition was conjunct Pluto. Not only does this stress the Plutonian theme of his character, it also mirrored the unrest of the times, where the population at large sensed that “a big lie” stitched together the fabric of society. The Uranus/Pluto opposition signals dissatisfaction with the status quo. It accompanies dynamic changes in the social contract between the larger population and authority. While the audience held it breath waiting to see how Barnabas’ humanity held out against his destructive inner demons, we were also waiting to see how humanity at large held out against our own.
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