Frid served in the Royal Canadian Navy during World War II. He graduated from McMaster University in Hamilton in 1948, and the following year was accepted at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts in London.
He moved to the United States in 1954, and received a Master of Fine Arts (MFA) degree in Directing from the Yale School of Drama in 1957. In 1962 he changed his stage name to Jonathan Frid. He went on to star in the first productions at the Williamstown Theater in Williamstown, Massachusetts and many stage productions in Canada, England and the United States. ~ Wikipedia
“Jonathan Frid, in his life and his work, represented a bygone period of great dedication, civility and romanticism. As with Barnabas, he seemed to be a figure from another era but, like that fictional creation, Jonathan has transcended time with a legacy that is destined to live on for centuries to come.” ~ Jim Pearson, Dark Shadows archivist
Read Jim Pearson's excellent article about Jonathan Frid at the time of his death below (foot of page).
Jonathan used the curmudgeon word more than once to describe himself as he got older. Having never met Jonathan, I see in him a spirited and sensitive man of great intelligence, with complete dedication to his craft and the drive and ambition to succeed.
He was larger than life. People flocked to him, and he enjoyed being the center of so much energy and enthusiasm, enough to match his own.
I admire him. I'm a little obsessed with him. I feel that he is the opposite of me in many ways.
True, we both love(d) men. Neither of us ever had children. But, I am a late-bloomer, and a life-long tomboy. John lived during a time when most men grew out of boyhood, and usually did so early in life. He avoided the post-modern neuroses of constant self-analysis—and in his personal life, the sometimes demanding gab of women (you know we are like that at times).
John lived one life, rounded by a little sleep, whereas I have lived several, with the same mortal inheritance. I see my mortality in him. In my little way, I keep faith with the part of him that still lives, in his legacy.
TV icon inspired new film starring Johnny Depp
He has performed with Katharine Hepburn and Jean Stapleton, better known as Edith Bunker. As a student at the Yale School of Drama he was on a first-name basis with Paul Newman. His film credits include Oliver Stone’s first picture, Seizure, released in 1974.
For most fans, Jonathan Frid is best known as Barnabas Collins, an imprisoned vampire on TV’s Dark Shadows. His character was a fan favourite on the Gothic soap opera from 1967 to 1971.
Frid, originally from Hamilton, spent 40 years living in New York before returning home and settling in Ancaster in 1994.
On April 14, Frid passed away peacefully in his sleep. He was 87.
Actor Johnny Depp is among Frid’s biggest fans. Frid makes a cameo in a soon-to-be-released movie starring Depp, Michelle Pfieffer and Eva Green. The film is set for a May 11 Canadian release date.
Frid’s nephew, Don Frid, recalled a meeting between Depp and Jonathan during production of the new Dark Shadows movie.
“If it wasn’t for you, we wouldn’t be here today,” Depp told Jonathan.
Frid learned the basics of acting during his time at the Hamilton Players Guild and McMaster University.
A Second World War veteran who served in the Royal Canadian Navy, Frid returned to McMaster, graduating in 1948.
He then studied at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in London, before moving on to Yale in 1954 where he earned a master’s degree in directing. He appeared as a stage actor in theatres across the U.S. including the American Shakespeare Festival where he performed with Katharine Hepburn in Much Ado About Nothing and the Merchant of Venice.
He planned to teach acting in San Diego when an opportunity arose with Dark Shadows. When a producer handed him a piece of paper, Frid initially thought it was a pink slip. Then he realized it was fan mail.
Don said his uncle’s character connected with fans in a unique way.
“The reason (the show) took off was the period of time, during the Vietnam War,” he said. “It was an escape from reality.” As Barnabas Collins, Frid’s character is a vampire who frequently returns to his ancestral home to watch over the affairs of his dysfunctional descendants.
Frid also starred in the 1970 film House of Dark Shadows, which was based on the TV series. The movie was a hit for MGM studios.
After relocating to Ancaster, Frid led a quiet, private life, his nephew said. Over the years he was a regular at Ancaster’s Coach and Lantern Pub and Sammy’s Restaurant, where a low-key celebration of his life was held on April 18.
“He was a shy guy and he didn’t want a lot of fuss,” said Don.
Ironically, life in Ancaster afforded a certain level of privacy for Frid. While Dark Shadows was a hit throughout North America, ABC’s Buffalo affiliate passed on the show, making it difficult to find in the Golden Horseshoe area during its initial run.
Don said his uncle was a “confirmed bachelor” who never married and never had children. Nevertheless, he cherished his extended family and wanted to move closer to his hometown during his retirement.
Frid’s family founded Hamilton’s Frid Construction Company.
John Herbert "Jonathan" Frid (December 2, 1924 - April 14, 2012) was a Canadian actor, known for having played the role of vampire Barnabas Collins on the gothic television soap opera Dark Shadows.
Early life and career
Frid was born of Scottish and English ancestry in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada. He was the youngest son of homemaker Isabella Flora (née McGregor) and Herbert Percival "H.P." Frid, a construction executive.
Frid served in the Royal Canadian Navy during World War II. He graduated from McMaster University in Hamilton in 1948, and the following year was accepted at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts in London. He moved to the United States in 1954, and received a Master of Fine Arts (MFA) degree in Directing from the Yale School of Drama in 1957. As a student at Yale in 1956, he starred in the premiere of William Snyder's play A True and Special Friend. He went on to star in the first productions at the Williamstown Theater in Williamstown, Massachusetts and stage productions in Canada, England and the United States.
He began using the stage name Jonathan Frid in 1962, and made his Broadway debut as an understudy in the 1964 play Roar Like a Dove.
Early television roles with the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation included parts in Julius Caesar, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea,Our Town, and The Picture of Dorian Gray.
Frid as Barnabas Collins, 1968 Frid is widely known for the role of vampire Barnabas Collins on the original gothic serial Dark Shadows, which ran from 1966-71. He starred as Barnabas Collins in the 1970 movie House of Dark Shadows. In 1967, Frid had made plans to move to the U.S. West Coast to pursue a career as an acting teacher when he won the role that ultimately made him a household name. As Frid explained on his Web site, he had barely entered his apartment as the phone call from his agent came informing him that he had won the role of Barnabas Collins. He agreed to accept it after being told it was a short-term one that would provide him with extra cash while he prepared to move. As the character's popularity soared, Frid scrapped those plans.
After Dark Shadows ended in 1971, he returned to performing in live theatre full-time with starring roles in the Broadway plays Murder in the Cathedral as Thomas Becket and Wait Until Dark as Harry Roat. Frid had previously played the role of a psychiatrist on the CBS Television soap opera As the World Turns. In 1973, Frid appeared in the TV movie The Devil's Daughter, starring Shelley Winters, and the following year starred in Oliver Stone's directorial debut, Seizure. In 1978, he returned to Canada for a time and later returned to New York City in the early 1980s.
Frid began performing readings at Dark Shadows fan conventions in the 1980s and while developing ideas for his one-man shows. He succeeded Abe Vigoda, also a Dark Shadows alumnus, as Jonathan Brewster in the 1986-87 Broadway revival of Arsenic and Old Lace.
In 1994, he retired and returned to Canada. He continued to perform one-man shows for charities in both Canada and the United States. In 2000, he starred in the play Mass Appeal which enjoyed a successful, limited run in Hamilton and at the Stirling Festival Theatre in Stirling, Ontario.
Frid attended Dark Shadows conventions in New York in August 2007, Burbank, California, in July 2008, and Elizabeth, New Jersey, in August 2009. In 2010, he returned to the role of Barnabas for the first time in 39 years in a Dark Shadows audio drama, The Night Whispers. Along with former Dark Shadows castmates Lara Parker, David Selby and Kathryn Leigh Scott, he spent three days at Pinewood Studios in June 2011 filming a cameo appearance as a guest in the "happening" scene for the 2012 Tim Burton Dark Shadows film, which became his final film appearance.
Frid died at Juravinski Hospital in Hamilton, Ontario, of pneumonia and complications after a fall. While some sources at the time variously reported the date of his death as April 13 or April 14, Frid's nephew, David Howitt, confirmed that Frid died in the early hours of April 14, 2012. Howitt added that while Friday the 13th "makes for good press... it's good to get it right."
1970 House of Dark Shadows, Barnabas Collins
1973 The Devil's Daughter, Mr. Howard
1974 Seizure, Edmund Blackstone
2012 Dark Shadows, Guest (final film role)
Most everyone has seen the photo of Jonathan with co-star Louis Edmonds—who was openly gay—at the Fire Island gay beach.
Also somewhat familiar is this photo of Jonathan in his apartment with young journalist Michael Lipowski, who interviewed Jonathan as publicity for Jonathan's upcoming film, 'Seizure.' I also encountered this same sweet photo of them together on Jonathan's memorial page after he passed, where Michael posted it on April 26, 2012 with this caption:
"During the release of his film 'Seizure.' Taken in his New York apartment, and one of the happiest moments of my life."
Today I found another photo of Jonathan with a very happy young man who appears to be Michael. This is the only photo I have knowingly found of Jonathan with one of his paramours.
In setting up a dramatic reading, Jonathan mentioned that when he was starting out in life, he had struggled to find his place in the world, and had used this experience in his portrayal of Barnabas Collins. (I wish I could find it... Something Jonathan said at the beginning of a performance).
Of course, I have no way of knowing, but I immediately wondered if this challenge was—at least in part—that of coming to terms with his sexuality.
He had a natural flamboyance that may or may not had anything to do with being gay. But I surmise he may have had some pressure to tone down anything that seemed to reveal his sexuality. Then there were the photographs outside the Playboy Club.
Leave him alone. Let John be John.
Did he arrive and leave alone at restaurants, plays, and performances in order to avoid being photographed with those in his circle of gay friends, and/or his boyfriend(s)?
I see defiance in the photo of him with openly gay costar Louis Edmonds at the Fire Island gay beach. A little moment of John being John.
I claim an interest in Jonathan's sexuality as it mirrors some of my own complicated expression, and lack thereof. The connection I feel with him includes this private part of his life, and is interwoven with my motivation in creating and maintaining this website for and about him. PS I don't need to hear anyone else's opinion about this.