His nephew wants it very clear that he in point of fact died on Saturday April 14, not Friday the thirteenth. He admits it makes for a better story the other way, but he didn’t want the better story getting in the way of, you know, accuracy and the truth. Which, given Jonathan Frid was in fact born plain John, is a bit amusing. I mean, I get what he’s doing. He’s not entirely wrong, that it’s easy to waffle a few hours—and he died in Hamilton, Ontario, so it might still have been the thirteenth somewhere, since he died in the early morning. But the truth is its own reward.
John Herbert Frid was the son of a construction executive in Hamilton. He served in the Royal Canadian Navy in World War II and went on to drama school. Or McMaster University, the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts, and eventually a Masters in Fine Arts in Directing from the Yale School of Drama. He was definitely one of the more educated actors going, on the subject of acting at least, and he did a lot of serious stage work. He appeared with Katharine Hepburn in a production of Much Ado About Nothing. Directed by John Houseman. I mean, the man had some serious stage-acting credentials.
He did a lot of early TV for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. IMDb doesn’t list them all. I suspect a lot of early CBC stuff is probably missing; it’s probably true of early BBC stuff, too, and the other not-American national television networks. But he appears to have been a pretty steady figure on the channel back in the ’50s and early ’60s. Wikipedia lists several made-for-CBC movie appearances, and it wouldn’t surprise me if he didn’t have all of them listed there.
And, okay, yes. The thing you’re waiting to hear me talk about and, let’s be fair, the only thing I’ve seen him in myself. He said he was in the process of planning to move to the West Coast to be an acting coach. He walked into the apartment and just caught his agent’s phone call. He agreed to take the role because he was told it would be a short one, and he needed to save the money for his move. So, you know, that’s what happens. 595 episodes plus a movie; turns out he never did move to the Coast.
If he basically retired from TV and movies after that, well, he went back to theatre. He did Arsenic and Old Lace on the stage, succeeded Abe Vigoda as Jonathan Brewster. He did a little TV, a few movies—Oliver Stone’s directorial debut, apparently—and of course Dark Shadows conventions. One hopes he managed to have his sense of humour about the whole thing. In fact his last film performance was in the Tim Burton version. He never married, he said because an actor brought too much insecurity into things, though whether that’s emotional or financial I don’t know. Frankly, it can be two things.