Jenny Collins, Megan Todd
in: 66 episodes
# 595, October 4, 1968
# 971, March 16, 1970
Throughout her life, Marie Wallace has found many ways to express her boundless creativity: as an actress, a model, a photographer, a website producer, and most recently, as an author.
On Dark Shadows, Marie brought one of the most deliciously delusional members of the Collins family to life: the wild-haired, ranting maniac Jenny Collins. But in real life, her charm and grace have endeared her to fans and costars alike. Marie's longtime friend, comedienne Ruth Buzzi, described her in the preface to Marie's autobiography: "I've always thought that Marie belongs in the White House. She has grace, intelligence, beauty, sincerity, kindness and an incredible knack for making you feel that you're really special. These traits would make her the perfect First Lady. But since she doesn't have any political aspirations, I consider her the first lady of Broadway."
In fact the New York City native has made numerous Broadway appearances, including roles in the original productions of Gypsy (with Ethel Merman, 1959) and Sweet Charity (with Gwen Verdon, in 1966). But her acting career had more humble beginnings: She feel in love with performing at Christ Church Methodist in Manhattan.
The minister there, Ralph W. Sockman, was a nationally syndicated newspaper columnist and radio show host. His theatrical nature and strong voice inspired Marie, and he became one of her early role models. "If he had chosen to be a Shakespearean actor, he would have been the greatest we've ever heard," she wrote in her autobiography. "And just as important, that's where the theatrical bug really bit me. At first I was just reading the Bible aloud in class, and the teacher complimented me on my voice. From that point on, I worked to make it as mellifluous as possible, at least to my own ears."
In the church basement, Marie joined an acting troupe called the Park Avenue Players, with many professional performers and directors who worked there between paying gigs. Her stage debut was with the Players, as Aunt Jenny in I Remember Mama; and she continued to work there (for no payment) for a couple of years, studying the techniques of her castmates and beginning to learn how to act.
When she hit her late teens, the Players work gave way to actual paying jobs, as a model. Tall, with classically beautiful features and frey red hair, she was popular on runways and in photographers' studios. She considered this simply a means to an end, however; she enjoyed modeling to a degree, but she was deeply in love with acting. Modeling earned her enough money to take some acting and dance classes and buy tickets to as many New York shows as she could afford, to continue to learn acting by observation. Some of the role models she observed in the late 1950s were Ruth Draper, Alfred Lunt and Lynn Fontaine ("...perfection itself...I was mesmerized at every performance"), Colleen Dewhurst, Geraldine Page, and Maureen Stapleton.
Fortuitously, Marie took part in a TV acting workshop at New York University, where she caught the eye of an NBC-TV casting director (Martin Begley, brother of actor Ed Begley). He hired her to act in a lab designed to give network executives hands-on experience in the relatively new medium of television. This year-long job opened the door to TV for her; she landed walk-on parts on The Garry Moore Show, The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson, and Your Hit Parade. "Hardly acting jobs..." she said years later. "They were more like modeling, with me in a bikini or some other sexy costume" -- but she was on her way. Before she knew it, she got a couple of stage roles. And in 1959 she danced her way into Broadway history, as one of the leggy chorus girls in Ethel Merman's smash hit, Gypsy.
About this time, Marie married a successful plastic surgeon named Gregory Pollock. Though he was considerably older than Marie, the couple had much in common. A former actor himself (he'd appeared as an extra in a handful of films made at a movie studio in Astoria, Queens), Greg was very supportive of his wife's chosen profession.
As Marie's star rose, she added to her list of
Broadway credits, appearing with legendary performers: with Bert Lahr in The Beauty Part;
opposite Robert Preston in Nobody Loves an Albatross (1963-64); in The Right Honourable Gentleman (1965-66) with Coral Browne
and Frances Sternhagen.
Then in 1966, she won one of her all-time favorite roles, in a long-running hit: She originated the part of the seductive Ursula in Sweet Charity (1966-67) starring
Gwen Verdon and directed by Bob Fosse. In that production, she shared a dressing room with a rising young star: Ruth Buzzi, who became a lifelong friend.
She also continued to make occasional TV appearances, with small roles on such classics as Car 54 Where Are You?, The
Phil Silvers Show, The Perry Como Show, and Victor
Borge’s 20th Anniversary Show, among others.
Soon after Sweet Charity closed, Marie's husband answered a phone call from her agent and said of course Marie would be interested in auditioning for a soap opera. Luckily, she was interested, and her agent arranged an audition. At their first meeting, DS casting director Linda Otto strongly believed that while Marie was a talented actress, she simply wasn't the physical type producer Dan Curtis was looking for, for this particular role. Marie's agent persisted, however, and the actress did get a chance to meet with Curtis, resulting in a "call back" -- a second, more formal audition.
At that second audition, Marie was up against two other actresses: a blonde and a brunette, each with long, flowing, Vampira-style hair. After sizing up the competition, the redhead stepped into a corner and teased her comparably short hair into a sexy, bushy 'do. Using this look as her motivation, she stalked through the audition like an angry lion -- just the attitude Dan Curtis wanted. She was hired later that day.
Marie first played Eve, a creature created by Collinsport physician Julia Hoffman, Frankenstein-style: The doctor assembled her out of various corpses, and shocked her to life in her creepy lab. Created as a mate for Adam (Robert Rodan), Eve accidentally ended up with the soul of the most evil woman who'd ever lived, which of course complicated things at Collinwood for a while. Her first episode aired October 4, 1968.
Marie played Eve for about two months -- and her characterization was even immortalized on a Viewmaster reel. (Click here to read about that popular DS collectible.) In late November, fed up with her manipulative behavior, Adam strangled Eve and stuck her body in a closet. Dr. Hoffman's attempt to resurrect the creature left Eve in skeleton form.
But there was soon meat on her bones again; a death sentence on Dark Shadows rarely meant that an actor was really out of work: Four months later, in March 1969, Marie returned to the ABC studios to play another role. By then the storyline had shifted back in time, to 1897, focusing on a popular new character: Quentin Collins, played by David Selby. Quentin's wife, the mentally unbalanced Jenny Collins, was revealed to be living in Collinwood's tower room, locked away with two dolls she imagined to be her children.
Crazy Jenny, with wild, unkempt hair and a demented cackle, became a fan favorite, as well as Marie's favorite DS role. As Dark Shadows reached its highest ratings, Marie and her costars found themselves in a publicity and merchandising whirlwind. She was featured in various teen magazines, like 16, and profiled in soap opera magazines. Aimed mostly at children, who made up a large part of the DS audience, memorabilia flooded the market, and Marie was part of it. She was pictured on bubblegum cards and various other collectibles.
By early May, Marie was "dead again" as Jenny was killed by Quentin. (Jenny played an important part in the show's overall story: Because of her murder, her sister Magda (Grayson Hall) placed the werewolf curse on Quentin.)
Sixty episodes later, in late July Marie rejoined the cast one last time, this time as Megan Todd, co-owner of an antique shop in Collinsport. In one of the show's most convoluted storylines, Megan was the foster mother of an evil Leviathan child who rapidly aged into Jeb Hawkes (Chris Pennock). Eventually, Megan became a vampire, giving Marie some extra-spooky scenes, lurking outside Collinwood, staring through windows with bared fangs.
The day the character met her demise, in March 1970,
Marie got a call from her agent with the offer of another job. "I said,
'I've just been staked,' I'd better take
it!," she recalled years later.
Of course she realized that the staking didn't mean she couldn't return to DS in the near future -- in fact, she was soon called with the offer of another short-term role. But the new offer was too tempting to turn down. Not only was it a long-term, full-time contract, she would create a major role as part of the core cast of a brand-new NBC soap: India Delaney on the 1970 Another World spin-off Somerset.
As a member of the original cast, she felt like part of a show-biz family on the Somerset soundstages. And it was a family she would soon need to lean on, in order to get through a personal crisis. Her joy at being part of the new show was tempered by the failing health of her husband, Greg.
As recounted in her autobiography, on the very day she posed for her first soap-magazine cover (Afternoon TV), as her career hit a high point, her personal life reached an all-time low. After she returned from the photo shoot, she sat beside Greg sickbed, in their apartment. They spoke quietly for a few minutes, and then literally in her arms, he died.
She returned to work as soon as possible, which helped her cope with her grief. She remained on the show until 1972.
The following year, she found herself in a star-studded Broadway revival of The Women. She played scheming husband-stealer Crystal Allen (a delicous role devoured by Joan Crawford in the 1939 film version). Her cast mates were stage and screen legends Kim Hunter, Myrna Loy, Rhonda Fleming, Alexis Smith, Dorothy Loudon, and Jan Miner.
More stage work followed, including Mert and Phil, on Broadway with Estelle Parsons; and a touring production of Sly Fox starring Jackie Gleason.
In 1978, she returned to the world of soaps, playing Johnsie Lafite on The Guiding Light.
In the early
1980s, Marie went to Los Angeles on a television assignment and
stayed for two years, making guest appearances on several shows,
including Fame and Fantasy Island. While there,
she also appeared in commercials
Though she did well professinally in California, Marie missed New York. She returned to the Big Apple, and besides continuing to work on stage, in New York and in regional theater, she began to establish a new career, as a professional
Gradually she shifted most of her creative energies to photography, choosing freelance assignments over going through the grueling process of auditions. She shoots commercial assignments and event photography for many clients in New York and exhibits art photography in Manhattan shows and galleries.
She does occasionally return to the stage. In the winter of 1993, Marie worked with Jonathan Frid as he made
his directing debut on a stage production of The Lion in Winter,
at the Georgia College Theatre in Milledgeville, Georgia. Heading
up a cast of students, Marie played Eleanor of Aquitaine.
In 1999, she had a brief role as Molly O’Day on One Life
To Live. She's also a fan favorite at the annual Dark
Shadows Festivals, often performing dramatic one-woman shows
and readings. In 2003, she played a new character, Jessica Loomis in the Dark Shadows radio drama Return to Collinwood; she reprised the role in 2005's Vengeance at Collinwood. (Both were staged at DS Festivals.)
In 2005, Marie published her memoirs, On Stage and In Shadows. To read much more about her interesting life and career, you can order the book on Amazon.com.
(India Delaney, 1970-72), Guiding Light (Johnsie La Fite, 1989),
Another World, Guiding Light (1984), One Life to Live (Molly O'Day, 1999).
TV: Fame (Mrs. Murphy, 1982), Fantasy Island, Garry Moore Show, Car 54 Where Are You?, The Phil Silvers
Show, The Perry Como Show, The Gershwin Years, Victor Borge's 20th
COMMERCIALS: Revlon, Breck, Gillette, Prudential, United Airlines,
A&P Mouthwash, A-1 Steak Sauce, Right Guard, Hartford Gas, Orange
Plus, Westside Federal Savings Bank.
Vengence at Collinwood (Jessica Loomis, 2005), The House (Caroline, 2004), Return to Collinwood (Jessica Loomis, 2003), The Lark (Queen Yolande and Mother, NYC, 1989), Barflys Part
I (Connie Mae, NYC, 1988), Alone Together (Connie Mae, 1987, Nebraska),
Along Came a Spider (Cynthia, 1985, NYC), In the Boom Boom Room
(Helen, 1985-86, NYC), Forty Carats (Ann Stanley, 1984), Mummer's
End (Peaches Catania, 1977, Washington, D.C.), Night of the Iguana
(Maxine Faulk, 1976-77, Rochester, MI), Born Yesterday (Billie Dawn,
1975, Rochester, MI), Goodbye Charlie (Rusty), I Ought to Be In
Pictures (Steffy), Burlesque (Bonnie Kene, 1969), Romantic Comedy
(Blanche), Deathtrap (Myra), Listen to the Lions (Fuzzy Delgado),
Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (Martha), Harlequinade (1959), Bell
Book and Candle, Electra, The Only Game in Town (Fran), Bartholomew
Fair (Ursula), Star Spangled Girl, Ring 'Round The Room (Lady India),
Period of Adjustment (Dorothea Bates), Enter Laughing (Angela Marlowe),
Angel Street (Nancy).
Last Licks (Fiona Raymond, 1979-80), Mert and Phil (The Beauty Lady,
1975), The Women (Crystal Allen, 1972-73),
The Right Honorable Gentleman (Helen Garland, 1965-66), The Beauty
Part (Roxanne deVilbiss, 1962-63), Sweet Charity (Ursula, 1966-67), Nobody
Loves an Albatross (Linda, 1963), Gypsy (Chorus Girl, 1959).
TOURS: Carousel (Mrs. Mulin), Sly Fox (Miss Fancy, 1977-78).
• Book Recordings for Jewish Guild for the Blind.
• Member of American
• Wrote autobiography, On Stage & In Shadows, 2005.
• Was born on Roosevelt Island, in New York City; and grew up in the Yorkville neighborhood on Manhattan's Upper East Side. Has lived on the Upper West Side since the 1960s.
• While living in California in the 1980s, briefly dated her DS costar Michael Stroka.
• Worked with All My Children and Bonanza star David Canary in regional theater a couple of times. Marie, Canary, and Katherine Helmond (Soap, Who's the Boss) starred in a production of Night of the Iguana together.
• Among many acting classes and workshops she's taken over the years, Marie once worked with David Craig, husband of comedienne Nancy Walker (Rhoda's mom).
• At her audition for Dark Shadows, Marie saw a familiar face: DS hairstylist Edith Tilles has been the first stylist to work with Marie when she started her modeling career.
• Initially, the makeup design for Marie's first DS character, Eve, called for a jagged scar around her neck -- because Dr. Hoffman had assembled her, Frankenstein-style, from several bodies. After makeup tests (pictured in On Stage and in Shadows), it was decided the scar looked like a necklace, and the idea was dropped.
AVAILABLE ONLINE NOW!
Marie Wallace's enormously entertaining career memoir, On Stage & In Shadows! Click here to go to Amazon!
||On Stage and In Shadows includes exclusive photos from Marie's personal scrapbook, including these photos of her dear friend, comedy legend Ruth Buzzi -- in this reduced copy of a page from the book.
Those fans who have been fortunate enough to get to know Marie a bit at DS Festivals know how warm, genuine and charming she is -- and that personality spills across the pages of On Stage and In Shadows. Reading it is like spending a pleasant afternoon with Marie, discussing her life and career.
Marie has been personally promoting and selling the book at various public appearances, but you can also purchase it at all the major online booksellers, including Amazon.com, Barnes and Noble.com and others.
Visit MarieWallaceOnline , part of Dark Shadows Online.