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'Dark Shadows' star vampire Jonathan Frid, 87

Jonathan Frid, whose role as Barnabas Collins on TV's "Dark Shadows" largely created the archetype of the soulful, tormented vampire, died Saturday in Hamilton, Ontario, where he lived. He was 87 and died of natural causes at Juravinski Hospital, a family representative told Newsday.

"It's a sad day," said director Tim Burton, whose upcoming "Dark Shadows" movie, starring Johnny Depp as Collins, features cameos by Frid and Lara Parker, David Selby and Kathryn Leigh Scott, his castmates on the 1966-71 ABC Gothic soap opera. "I'm glad I had the opportunity to meet Jonathan on the set this past spring. He left an indelible impression. Barnabas lives on!"

"Jonathan Frid was 'Dark Shadows,' " Parker told Newsday. "He was a warmhearted and compassionate man with a lovely sense of humor, and a staggeringly charismatic actor. He was largely responsible for the lasting success of the TV show," which spawned a pop-culture fad, two 1970s spinoff movies and a short-lived 1991 revival series.

"Jonathan Frid's unique contribution to the concept of the screen vampire, and indeed to the history of television, cannot be overestimated," Tim Lucas, editor and publisher of Video Watchdog, told Newsday. "He gave the children of the 1960s their own horror star, a kind of Karloff and Lugosi in one."

John Herbert Frid -- Jonathan was his stage name -- was born Dec. 2, 1924, in Hamilton.

There, he performed in local theater and studied acting at McMaster University before interrupting college to serve in the Royal Canadian Navy during World War II. He graduated from McMaster in 1948, and the following year was accepted into England's Royal Academy of Dramatic Art.

Frid made his first full appearance on "Dark Shadows" on April 18, 1967. (His hand had appeared at the close of the April 17 episode.)

His Barnabas Collins, a reluctant vampire who agonized over his predatory nature, became a breakout character on what had been a Gothic drama with no supernatural elements. Ghosts, witches and werewolves soon joined the show, which at its peak had an audience of 20 million.

He starred in the spinoff feature "House of Dark Shadows" in 1970, but largely left the screen after the show ended, starring only in the TV movie "The Devil's Daughter" (1973) and director Oliver Stone's first feature, "Seizure" (1974).

Frid returned to his roots in theater, both acting and directing, with a long list of credits that included a one-man show he brought to Hofstra University in November 1998 and October 1999.

" 'Dark Shadows' was iconic, but he was not necessarily comfortable" with the faddish craze it inspired, said Fangoria editor Chris Alexander. "He led a quiet life, didn't go to many 'Dark Shadows' conventions. He was a very humble guy thrust into a very extraordinary situation."

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