"I could always get attention at a new school by getting in the drama club plays. It was the fastest way to make my mark. I realized we wouldn't stay long enough to make it any other way." -- Clarice Blackburn
Dark Shadows Characters:
Mrs. Sarah Johnson, Abigail Collins, Minerva Trask
Appeared in: 79 episodes
First episode: #67, September 27, 1966
Last episode: 1104, September 17, 1970
Clarice Blackburn was born in San Francisco, but she only lived there four months.
"I'd love to visit it sometime," she told a New York Daily News reporter in 1960. "My salesman father and mother were always on the go. We lived in Wisconsin, Arizona, Louisiana, and Texas after California. That's probably the reason for my drive to act. I could always get attention at a new school by getting in the drama club plays. It was the fastest way to make my mark. I realized we wouldn't stay long enough to make it any other way."
She earned a bachelor's degree in speech and drama at the Texas State College for Women, then made her professional debut in 1947 on Martha's Vineyard in The Circle of Chalk.
An outstanding performance in an Equity Library Theatre production of The Great Big Doorstep in 1950 led to a job as understudy for Eva Gabor in The Happy Time on Broadway.
"It wasn't a happy time for me," she told a newspaper reporter years later. "There is nothing more frustrating for an actress than waiting to go on for a star. You hope they get ptomaine poisoning. And you hope they don't."
The Happy Time starred Shirley Booth, with whom Clarice would appear again on Broadway, in The Desk Set in 1955.
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Looking more glamorous than Mrs. Johnson, Clarice in a 1952 headshot.
Clarice's other stage appearances included a lead role in a 1953 revival of The Grass Harp, a critically acclaimed lead in American Gothic (also 1953; both at Circle in the Square), Juno (1959), The Miracle Worker (with Patty Duke in 1961), The Queen and the Rebels (1965), and Good Day (1965).
Clarice received positive reviews for several dramatic turns on television, including the role of Zeena, the sick wife in Ethan Frome (starring Julie Harris, in 1960) and The Crucible in 1967, starring Colleen Dewhurst and George C. Scott.
In September 1967, Clarice joined the cast of Dark Shadows, as Bill Malloy's housekeeper, Mrs. Sarah Johnson, who soon finds employment at Collinwood -- initially as a spy for Burke Devlin. She remained on the show until 1970, and had a cameo in Night of Dark Shadows. Her other films included Pretty Poison (1968) and Man on a Swing, a 1974 murder mystery starring Joel Grey as a crime-solving psychic.
Clarice moved on to several other soap operas, and she must have been paying close attention to the structure of her scripts. As part of the writing team for All My Children, she won Emmy Awards in 1985 and 1988.
She died in New York City, of cancer, in 1995.
|Career Highlights: |
DAYTIME TV: Guiding Light (Edith Spurrier, 1987-88, 1992), One Life to Live (Hattie Fredericks, 1973-74), Love of Life (nurse; college dean), As the World Turns (Marion Connelly, 1976-78; Mrs. Jarvis), Where the Heart Is (Amy Snowden, 1970-73), Secret Storm (Mary Lou Northcote, 1970), The Doctors (Theodora Rostand, 1965-66), The Eternal Light: A Field of Buttercups (Mrs. Steffa, 1969), Toby (teacher, 1970).
PRIMETIME TV: The Defenders, East Side-West Side, N.Y.P.D. (1968), Xerox Special: The Crucible (Abigail, 1967), Robert Montgomery Presents: September Affair, Studio One (1956), Armstrong Circle Theatre: Lizzie Borden (1961), U.S. Steel Hour, Kraft Theatre, DuPont Show of the Week: Ethan Frome (1960), The Big Story.
TV COMMERCIALS: Cheer, Bel-Air Cigarette Coupons, Chef-Boy-Ar-Dee (voice-over).
SCREEN: Man on a Swing (1974), Night of Dark Shadows (Mrs. Castle, 1971), Pretty Poison ,aka She Let Him Continue, (1968), The Violaters.
STAGE: The Grass Harp, American Gothic, Exhaustion of Our Son's Love (Sara Calendar, 1965-66, Clarice won Obie Award), The Queen and the Rebels (1965), Good Day (1965), The Infernal Machine (1958), The Great Big Doorstep (1950).
BROADWAY: The Happy Time, Desk Set (1955), Juno (1959), The Miracle Worker (Mrs. Keller, 1961).
TV WRITER: Love of Life, All My Children (Clarice won Emmy Award for AMC).
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Dark Shadows Online © 2004 Craig Hamrick