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R.I.P. JONATHAN FRID (December 2, 1924 – April 13, 2012)

on April 20, 2012 | 3 Comments

Jonathan Frid, the actor known to millions of fans as reluctant vampire Barnabas Collins in the 1966-71 gothic daytime series Dark Shadows sadly passed away on April 13 at the age of 87.

Born in Hamilton, Ontario, Frid served in the Royal Canadian Navy during World War II. Graduating from Hamilton’s McMaster University in 1948, he went on to study at the prestigious Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts in London, England. Returning to Canada in the early 1950s, Frid appeared in numerous radio and television productions for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) before relocating to the United States in 1954, where he enrolled at the Yale School of Drama and earned a degree in directing.

But Frid’s directing career would be put on hold when he was cast in numerous theatre productions throughout the late 1950s and early ’60s, including national tours of Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice and Much Ado About Nothing, appearing alongside Hollywood icon Katharine Hepburn.

Deciding to make the move to teaching, Frid was to take up a position as a drama instructor at a college in California when he received a phonecall from his agent that would change his life: would he be interested in the role of a vampire for a soap opera? Since it was to be a short-term gig (thirteen weeks), Frid expected to be done in time for the start of classes in the fall. Of course, that never happened. And the rest is history.

In addition to his work in Dark Shadows, Frid would appear in the series’ first spin-off feature, 1970′s House of Dark Shadows (pictured left as Barnabas in an outtake from the film with actress Grayson Hall as Dr. Julia Hoffman), as well as the TV movie The Devil’s Daughter (1972) and Oliver Stone’s first feature, Seizure (1974). Returning to the stage in the 1980s, he acted in such productions as the 1986 Broadway revival of Arsenic and Old Lace, alongside All in the Family star Jean Stapleton. He also finally had the opportunity to put his directorial skills to use with a production of The Lion in Winter, starring fellow Dark Shadows alum Marie Wallace.

In 1994, Frid made the move back to Canada where he appeared in a series of one-man shows, and also formed his own company to raise money for numerous charities. He continued to act until the early 2000s, when he turned his energies into creating and maintaining his website,, and appearing at numerous Dark Shadows conventions alongside other DS cast and crew.

Forty years after the demise of Dark Shadows, Frid would portray Barnabas Collins one last time in the 2010 audio drama The Night Whispers (RM#102), which also featured his former co-star John Karlen, as well as Barbara Steele, who appeared in a 1990 remake of the series. He would make one final screen appearance in Tim Burton’s upcoming remake starring Johnny Depp, along with DS stars David Selby, Lara Parker and Kathryn Leigh Scott.

R.I.P. Jonathan Frid, December 2, 1924 – April 13, 2012

Tags: Barbara Steele, Barnabas Collins, Dark Shadows, David Selby, Grayson Hall, House of Dark Shadows, John Karlen, johnny depp, Jonathan Frid, Kathryn Leigh Scott, Lara Parker, tim burton, vampire

Responses to R.I.P. JONATHAN FRID (December 2, 1924 – April 13, 2012)

  1. James says:

    I never imagined I’d be as devastated as I feel right now. I saw one of his one-man shows 20 years ago. If I’d known how important and underrated he would be, I would have gone to some of the DS conventions to see him. I had the opportunity to go see the Lion in Winter and passed. I could kick myself. I wish somebody out there could edit down the DS episodes into a DECENT display of his talents. All those “Best of” DVDs are atrocious and NOT the best of anything.

  2. James Burrell says:

    Hi James,

    Yes, I too had wanted to meet him at one of the past few Dark Shadows Festivals but found myself unable to take time off to attend them. I had planned to attend the one in New York this summer and was looking forward to meeting him.

    But its great that you had the opportunity to take in one of his one-man shows.

  3. Catherine Frid says:


    Johnathan was my second uncle. My parents had met with him but I alas, never met him. The theatre bug is in the blood though.

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