Friday, January 01, 2010
"Holiday Greetings"!; remembering Conard Fowkes
Copyright 1910 (just turned 100). I guess non-"Merry Christmas" Christmas greetings predate even Irving Berlin's Happy Holiday (1941)!
In other news, actor Conard Fowkes has passed away at the age of 76. He played Victoria Winter's first boyfriend, Frank Garner, on Dark Shadows during its pre-Jonathan-Frid days. I wish they'd kept him there--His Frank was what the perennially stressed-out Victoria needed, and he was a nice straight man to the oddball regulars (playboy Roger, stern Elizabeth, confused Joe, emotionally troubled David, loose Carolyn, etc.). He showed up when the show was going through its first (and mostly forgotten) supernatural phase, a phase highly aggressive in its weirdness, with phoenix Laura Collins a detailed run-through for Angelique the witch, whom everyone remembers instead of her. (Most of Angelique's music cues first appeared during the Laura storyline.) The early Barnabas episodes to come were sedate and slowly-plotted by comparison.
Conard's character provided perfect balance to the bat-poop craziness of the immediate pre-vampire period, in which David was almost sacrificed to fire by his supernatural mom (the upside-down flames being one of the great early Dark Shadows FX goofs), in which graveyards became regular plot devices, in which ghosts popped up whenever the storyline needed a kick, and in which any resemblance to a normal soap become incidental.
Ordinary-leading-man types are greatly underrated as actors, in my opinion, especially in the world of soaps. Conard was, by far, the best regular regular in Dark Shadows' history. And maybe the only conventional character not to be killed off for being so (he simply vanished from the storyline). I think the show suffered from the general absence of normal characters like Conard's Frank--over-the-top horror, like vaudeville comedy, expires without its Abbotts and Rowans. Dark Shadows compensated for this, to some extent, by making Jonathan Frid both the monster AND the show's most stable (semi)human element, but that was a very hard balance to maintain. Ultimately, they didn't.
A million thanks, Conard, for your brief and brilliant visit to my favorite soap.