Jonathan Frid (December 2, 1924 – April 14, 2012) was a Canadian actor, widely known for his role as vampire Barnabas Collins on the gothic television soap opera Dark Shadows. Jonathan Frid, a little-known, 43-year-old Shakespearean actor, became an unlikely sex symbol when he was cast as Barnabas Collins, a 175-year-old vampire who presented himself to his 20th century family as his own great-grandson. He was also deep in the closet; at the time, so was Jonathan Frid. While he never publicly came out, he did, during the many years he lived in New York City, patronize several gay bars. He allowed himself to be photographed with Louis Edmonds, his openly gay co-star, on a gay beach in New York.
Frid was born of Scottish and English ancestry in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada. His birth name was John Herbert Frid. He was the youngest son of homemaker Isabel Flora McGregor and Herbert Percival "H.P." Frid, a construction executive. His father Herbert Frid was one of the founders of HCF in 1954 and his mother Flora served on the Foundation’s Board in the 1960s. Their generous philanthropy continues to this day through the Community Fund’s Herbert P. & I. Flora Frid Fund. 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 (rather than John 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 is widely known for the role of vampire Barnabas Collins on the original gothic serial Dark Shadows, which ran from 1966-71. He also starred as Barnabas 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.
Although he spent much of his life in New York City, he remained a Canadian citizen and kept strong ties to Hamilton, ultimately moving back to Ancaster in 1994.
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."
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