Episode 853: Head Games

“Don’t touch me! Let his eyes tell me what to do!”

It must have been hard, over the last several years, to always play the good girl on a show increasingly inhabited by loud ladies. Kathryn Leigh Scott started out on Dark Shadows as waitress Maggie Evans, who was originally supposed to be a tough cookie, but mellowed fairly quickly into the sweet girl next door, and stayed there.

The show’s writing team turned over several times, early on — from Art Wallace to Francis Swann to Ron Sproat and Malcolm Malmorstein, in less than six months — and when the writers change rapidly on a soap opera, you’d better have a really firm grip on your character, or you risk drifting into just playing a version of yourself. That’s what happened to Roger, who started out as a villain and got himself nerfed all the way into harmless gay uncle. Maggie was a cynical young woman taking care of her alcoholic dad, but those rough edges got sanded off clean by the time Barnabas emerged from the mystery box.

And then Julia happened — a high camp trickster, whose priorities are finding her light, getting her hands in the shot, inventing facial expressions and paying attention to other actors, in that order. She was the pioneer loud lady on Dark Shadows, establishing a no-holds-barred theatrical style that chased all the nice girls off the stage.

In 1795, other actresses got to be louder and crazier — witch-vixen Angelique, obviously, and angry Aunt Abigail, and the eternally teetering Millicent. After a while, loud lady became the default setting for new characters — Eve and Magda and Judith and Jenny and Laura and Minerva and Charity Trask, all of them strutting and scheming and getting into fights on the regular.

But Kathryn Leigh Scott was stuck in the nice girl persona — the kidnapped Maggie, the spellbound Josette, the innocent Rachel. She’s spent the last two years being upstaged by one vixen after another. And then there’s Kitty.

853 dark shadows edward kitty neck

Kitty Soames, the gold-digging governess, who seduced her well-off employer, stealing his heart and his title, and apparently ditching the kid who she was hired to teach in the first place. Her first husband is gone, and she’s run out of money, so now she’s on a mission to marry someone in a mansion. I haven’t paid a lot of attention to Kitty and her many devious facial expressions, and it’s about time I did. Kitty is Kathryn Leigh Scott’s chance to really go nuts on national television, and she makes the most of it.

There was a scene in yesterday’s episode that I didn’t really discuss because I had other things on my mind, so I want to go back to Kitty’s big entrance, and spend a little time digging into what she’s doing with her head. This is a more complicated subject than you might expect.

853 dark shadows edward kitty entrance

Tonight, Kitty is determined to get wealthy widower Edward away from his ledgers and out into the moonlight, where she can make some material social progress. Dressed in a beaded gown, she frames herself in the doorway, constructing her biggest smile, and cocking her head to the side in a way that she clearly thinks is spontaneous and inviting.

She chirps, “Ah! Good evening, Edward!” as if she just happened to be passing by. He looks up from his book for about half a second, says “Good evening, Kitty,” and then returns to the finances.

Kitty presses her lips together for a second, which is what she always does when one of her little gambits fails to land, and launches into step two — tripping into the room, with her head thrown back at a playfully acute angle.

852 dark shadows edward kitty shadow

She glides into position, resting a hand on the back of his chair, and finds that there’s a boom mic shadow in the place that she thought she was supposed to stand.

She spends the next thirty seconds at war with this shadow.

853 dark shadows edward kitty strangest

Stretching her neck, she weaves her way out of the darkness, and fixes her gaze about six inches above the camera.

“Edward,” she breathes, “the strangest thing happened to me this evening!”

853 dark shadows kitty adventure

She gets a close-up and makes the most of it, running through a couple of facial expressions that she’s been saving up.

“I was sitting in my room,” she says, “and the window was open. And the night air seemed to be calling to me!” She doesn’t believe any of this malarkey, by the way; this is just the way that Kitty makes conversation.

853 dark shadows edward kitty darn

And then, consarn it, she leans back a little, and there’s that boom mic shadow again. Her line is, “It was as if some great adventure was waiting for me, in the night,” which deserves an unobstructed view of the actress.

853 dark shadows edward kitty leans

So she leans forward a little more, determined to stay in her light. There’s a lot of advanced geometry in Kitty scenes.

853 dark shadows kitty moue

She invites him to come find adventure in the moonlight, but he says he’s expecting a phone call. She presses her lips together again, and — goddamn, boom mic! Could you stay out of a girl’s shot for two seconds? Scooch over.

853 dark shadows kitty edward light

So she makes a break for it, heading out west to the other side of the desk, where a girl can get a little space to breathe. She chuckles that she doesn’t mind about any silly old phone call, and arranges herself decoratively beside him.

853 dark shadows kitty edward personal

Edward says that it’s actually something in the way of a personal phone call, and he wouldn’t want to burden her with it. Her lips snap together again, and she raises her chin to catch the light.

And that’s really when it’s clear what Kathryn is doing. This is her version of Grayson Hall.

840 dark shadows petofi julia yelling

As an actress, Grayson Hall is essentially an architect of the face. She constructs arches, and defines angles. The foundation of her work is the pivot of the chin, always carefully positioned to catch the light correctly. She always knows exactly where her mark is — even if her personal view on that issue comes as a surprise to the director, the other actors, and any intervening furniture. If Grayson Hall is in a scene, then the audience will be aware of it. That is her job.

296 dark shadows julia maggie

Now, Kathryn Leigh Scott has been on the show with Grayson Hall for a couple years now.

733 dark shadows rachel magda murder

And she’s had plenty of opportunities to study the technique.

572 dark shadows maggie julia listening

And at a certain point, you just say, to hell with the chiropractic bill, I’m going to go ahead and give it a shot.

853 dark shadows kitty edward lift

So when you watch a Kitty scene, keep an eye on her chin; it’s amazing. If you’ve got 852 available, check out this moment, when she comes into the foyer and tells Edward that someone was watching her in the woods. There are four distinct moments where you can see her reminding herself to lift up her chin, all in the space of ten seconds. It finishes with a spectacular lift — and then double lift, with a bonus eyebrow arch. It’s really something.

This is what camp is, by the way, if anyone’s been wondering. Obsessing over a ten-second clip of an actress raising her chin, and forcing your friends to obsess over it too. This is what gay men do, when we’re tired of brunch and non-procreative sex.

853 dark shadows kitty angelique strangle

And then she snaps her tether, and strangles her blonde vixen rival, clenching her teeth and still keeping her chin above sea level at all times. This! If you ever need to explain camp to the people in your life, here’s my recommendation: This.

853 dark shadows kitty

Now, I could do this all day — or two days, really, cause we haven’t even touched today’s episode yet — but it’s probably more fun to let you discover the many wonders of Kitty’s head placement for yourself.

All I can really say is that there’s a very brief scene in today’s episode when Kitty and Julia are in the same shot together.

I’m not going to spoil it by telling you what happens. Just watch the scene, that’s all I ask. Just go and watch the scene.

Tomorrow: Positively Like a Beatle.


Dark Shadows bloopers to watch out for:

At the start of act 1, the camera swings wide, showing Angelique in the foyer, waiting for her cue to enter the drawing room.

During her Josette freakout, Kitty looks at Edward and says, “Joshua! Joshua Collin!”

Tomorrow: Positively Like a Beatle.

853 dark shadows julia kitty help

Dark Shadows episode guide

— Danny Horn

25 thoughts on “Episode 853: Head Games

  1. “Positively like a Beatle.” That was definitely a Joan Bennett quote! Looking forward to reading tomorrow’s post – as I do all of them.

  2. My mother could have shown KLS how to grit her teeth. Mom was always doing that when I was spending too much time watching TV instead of getting to my homework.

  3. I thought beautiful actresses (and beautiful women in general) didn’t have to resort to making faces and chin jerking to get attention but KLS sure is doin’ it as Kitty.
    It works better when Grayson does it but I can’t fault KLS for breaking out of her usual mold.

  4. Kathryn Leigh Scott is excellent as dastardly villainesses in her guest shots on Magnum PI, Police Squad and Hawaii Five-0. I wish she got to play more such characters.

    1. KLS’ “Police Squad” episode is hysterical. And her guest spot on “Star Trek: The Next Generation” as a Vulcan-like leader was terrific and gives her great cred on yet another geek series.

  5. When anyone tells me Kitty is Josette’s reincarnation, this is the episode I point to.

    If Kitty really were Josette, Angelique would know it. And she barely has a reaction to Kitty throttling her.

    If Kitty really was Josette, you know Angelique – who roared onto 1897 ranting at Josette’s portrait about how much she hated her – Angelique would drop everything and cast a spell to send Kitty over Widow’s Hill.

    And install a trampoline at the bottom, just so she could do it all over again.

  6. Kathryn Leigh Scott was an under utilized actress on DS.
    She was stuck on the Josette “lookalike” mode after the Barnabas story kicked into gear. Of course Kitty turned out to be a Josette reincarnation alas.. but KLS clearly played Kitty’s devious and scheming nature until the Josette character took over.

    That was the only “bad” character she got to play as memory serves..

    1. KLS’ skill at playing mean was also on display briefly when Maggie was in Barnabas’ thrall. When she kicks her watchdog Joe out of Evans Cottage so she can be with Barnabas, she is chillingly cold, cruel, brusque and self-centered. KLS was just as convincing playing that facet of Maggie as Jonathan Frid or Lara Parker was in portraying those elements of their characters’ behaviors.

      KLS has done so much good work in movies and on TV shows over the past half-century, I wish someone would do an in-depth career interview with her about all her non-Dark Shadows acting credits. Instead just about whenever anybody interviews her, 90% of the interview is about Dark Shadows. There’s not much left she hasn’t already answered about that series.

      1. I really like angry KLS. Sweet KLS can get boring, especially if she’s being a goldfish. For example: when Maggie was being courted by the obviously unsuitable Nicholas, but she had to sit and pretend that she was falling in love with somebody that her character would clearly never be in love with. At times like that, she kind of takes a day off from acting and just says the lines.

        But angry KLS is always on fire; she’s really fun.

        1. Why do you think that in my continuation I made Maggie a Congresswoman who can order Barnabas deep-sixed if he threatens to expose things she wants forgotten (like that she was at one time in a psychiatric institution). Nasty, devious Maggie is a LOT of fun

        2. The Blair-Maggie storyline fizzled because they never sold what Maggie would see in him, as you point out. I did like how Nicholas pursued Maggie by basically getting Joe “hooked” on a “drug” (Angelique) and standing by while his life fell apart. It was evil and twisted and more compelling with more realistic stakes tha anything he was doing with Adam or Eve.

  7. Fans of Kathryn Leigh Scott would be interested in her 1980 performance in one episode of the UK television series Hammer House of Horror (Visitor from the Grave; episode 11; broadcast date: November 22, 1980).

    As for when the character transition of Maggie Evans occurred, from tough and cynical to reserved and good-natured, this took place the moment KLS was allowed to ditch the blonde wig. Beginning with episode 20, everything about the portrayal of Maggie Evans — the body language, the facial expressions, the manner of speech, the general attitude — has undergone a sudden 180-degree change from what we were introduced to just a month earlier.

    I’m not sure that I would regard Roger Collins as a villain early on, because he had too many positive qualities. In addition to overall family pride, he cared very much for his sister and adored his niece — if he was unable to hold his son in high regard, then this is not surprising given that David is already by this time a full-blown psychopath. Aside from his drunken but unintentional act of manslaughter and allowing an innocent man to go to jail for it, which makes him someone with a secret to hide, he really doesn’t harbor unsavory intentions toward others and would never intentionally harm anyone just for the sake of it. In those early days his only instance of treachery is when Vicki has been locked up in a room in the West Wing by David and Roger goes to investigate, and having discovered where she has been locked away proceeds for a moment to torture her by pretending to be a ghost.

    The precise moment when the shifty Roger becomes the care-free cocktail party version of Louis Edmonds occurs in episode 74 when the cause of Bill Malloy’s death is revealed to be accidental drowning. Then Roger becomes truly expansive and celebrates the news with a walk to Widow’s Hill to take in the glorious wonders of the day. After this the wry humor of the Roger we know from the Barnabas era takes over; it’s almost as if, in a single moment of transition, the character of Roger seems to have written itself.

    I would say the first real villain on Dark Shadows, someone violent and remorseless who would go to any length to protect himself while blaming an intended victim for what he himself had done, was the Thayer David version of Matthew Morgan. He was such an irredeemable character that they even used this to great effect to give Vicki a flashback more than a year later in 1795 when she meets Ben Stokes for the first time, even though more than half of their new audience probably hadn’t been watching at that point and likely wouldn’t have made the connection.

    1. Hi Prisoner, interesting analysis. I seldom see fans write so astutely and thoughtfully about the early episodes. I thought pre-Barnabas Maggie still had some sassy moments–I particularly think of her courting of Joe and the time she went up to “that house on the hill” to confront Liz. KLS played those really well.

      I’m sure you know this, but when people speak of Roger as the original villain of DS, they’re referring to material from Art Wallace’s original story bible, published at one point under the title SHADOWS ON THE WALL if I recall correctly. I never got that book and it very quickly seems to have gone OP. Roger did have villainous moments throughout the 1966-67 storyline. He was pretty scary in some of those one on one scenes opposite Vicki around the “pen” scenario–good work from both of them in that.

      1. Hi Shimmer! You can still get a copy of Shadows on the Wall — I acquired a copy a year or so ago through the online UK-based book seller The Book Depository. It’s a secondhand copy in excellent condition, and it went for $275 — that’s $3 a page considering it’s only 91 pages. But it’s well worth it if you’re a fan of particularly the early 1966 episodes, because then you’ll be able to tell exactly when and how closely the show is adhering to the original story bible.

        And you’re quite right about Roger being the heavy in Art Wallace’s outline, which would make sense given that Wallace’s original vision contained no vampires or witches, no Phoenix, not even so much as a single ghost — only the mere mention of ghosts and legends. Simmering with fear and paranoia over Burke Devlin’s return to Collinsport, Roger absolutely flips out one day when Vicki takes David to meet Sam Evans, because he believes Sam wants revenge and will betray him to Burke Devlin through Vicki. He goes over to the Evans cottage, bursts in on the meeting and drags David and Vicki out with him and takes them back to Collins House. Once back in the house on the hill Roger confronts her about the visit, and in Roger’s rage Vicki realizes there is a connection to Sam Evans. She then phones Maggie to arrange a meeting for the next day, but Roger, having overheard part of Vicki’s phone conversation, assumes that she’s arranging to meet Burke Devlin. So he asks Vicki to accompany him on a walk up to the edge of Widow’s Hill. There he tells her about the legend of Collins House, that two young girls, both governesses, had thrown themselves off the cliff, and that the legend had prophesied that a third would eventually meet a similar fate. At that point Roger grabs her arm, and Vicki struggles against the sheer madness that she now recognizes in Roger. But David is nearby, having followed them there, and watching from the darkness he emerges and calls out. Roger turns, loses his footing at the edge, slips, and then falls to the rocks below, dead.

        Incidentally, around this time there is an old associate of Liz Stoddard from 19 years before, a seaman named Walt Cummings, who has just been thrown off a freighter for robbing a few fellow seamen, and as he sits in a New Orleans bar he begins to formulate a plan which will begin with his returning to Collinsport. Writers of the show will change his name to Jason McGuire.

        I recall also one of your comments where you mention that David could in fact have been Burke’s son. In Shadows on the Wall, Art Wallace left clear instructions that this could go either way, that he could be Roger’s son or Burke’s, depending on how the story played out. On the show, David is born eight months after Roger marries Laura, but in Shadows on the Wall it was just seven months. Despite Laura insisting that it was an early birth, Roger is certain the son is not his. Then in parentheses, Art Wallace writes the following: “(Whether or not this is, in fact, the truth, is a determination for the future. It can easily be resolved either way, dependent upon the best and most exciting resolution for story development.)” –pp. 23-24. On the show, by the way, in episode 147, there is a meeting on the docks between Burke and Laura where she intimates very strongly that David is their child, and when Burke asks if she’d care to spell that out, she replies by asking whether that would really be necessary, and he replies, with a knowing smile, that it wouldn’t be.

        But yes, I’m one of those who greatly enjoy the pre-Barnabas era of the show. It has strong, alluring atmosphere, vivid characterizations, memorable dialogue, and plays out more like a murder mystery whodunit than a ghost story. I also like the external shots they edit into the episodes, which really serve to augment the sets with the backdrop of an actual New England town, which in turn just lends the show an added depth of charm. And, of course, when the Barnabas era begins, those episodes are particularly captivating — but for those first few months after Barnabas’ arrival, despite the vampire element, every other aspect of the show is the same as it was the year before. Because they already had a threatening supernatural force in the Phoenix. It isn’t really until Julia Hoffman arrives on the scene that the show begins to move in a new direction, where Dark Shadows starts being less about Collinsport in general and takes on the overall element of something more internal, more about Collinwood in particular. Whereas before Barnabas had a slave in Willie, he now has a confidante in Julia. When Barnabas and Julia start working together, everything else that happens on the show occurs because of their collusion. This is the Dark Shadows that finally separates itself for good from the pre-Barnabas early episodes.

        1. Thanks so much for that lengthy and fascinating entry, Prisoner! I remember reading a synopsis of the original story outline years ago in another PomPress book. I do own all the 1966 episodes (along with the rest of the series) and maybe someday I’ll actually watch them all in order. I’ve seen quite a few of them, but not in order and there are ones I’ve never seen. Art Wallace argued in court that he had “created” the character of Barnabas–I saw an article a year or two ago where Malcolm Marmorstein had made a similar claim but did not do a lawsuit (or if he did, this was not mentioned). Apparently during much of the first year of DS, Curtis was in London working on other projects including the Jack Palance Jekyll/Hyde TV production. And as I’m sure you know, it’s been stated that the original batch of music cues for DS were recorded in London (I presume under Bob Cobert’s baton). The period where the plot switches abruptly and often trashes the existing continuity, from what I have observed, tend to be where Curtis was in New York and acting as the unofficial head writer of the show. Thanks again for taking the time to write.

          1. It’s been a couple of years since I’ve watched the early episodes of DS, but I seem to recall that Roger’s first appearance in the first couple of episodes really did suggest something dastardly, even more than what you expertly outline here, Prisoner. When he comes up behind Vicky on Widow’s Hill the first time he meets her, she’s startled and afraid she’s about to be attacked/thrown off the cliff, and we as the audience believe that too. His contempt for Vicky from the get-go is worn on his sleeve. It takes months and months for him to warm up to “that girl,” but their first encounter or two are actually rather frightening if memory serves me correctly.

    2. Thanks for sharing the link to the Hammer House of Horror episode. It was good to see the late Simon MacCorkindale co-starring with KLS. I remember him well from Falcon Crest.

    3. Whether it’s DS or Hammer House of Horror, they always make it look less tiring and time consuming than it actually is to dig a grave. But complaining about it is telling.

  8. Kitty was my favorite KLS character save pre-governess Maggie. She was smart and shrewd and knew exactly what she wanted. And I do think she would have been a good wife for Edward.

    I’ve also always admired her clothes. Not only are they just gorgeous, and not only does Scott look wonderful in them, but they’re also clues to her character. She’s wearing what they called “half mourning” – ” full morning” was all black from head to toe, with no metallic or shiny jewelry or white collars. Even your handkerchief had to have a black border stitched on. After a year, you could start working grey, white, purple, and lavender into your wardrobe.

    Full mourning would have been worn for a year following Hampshire’s death, but Kitty’s prematurely changed into the much more flattering half mourning, because she’s trying to catch Edward’s eye.

  9. When you binge watch DS you pick up on annoying actor habits. Like Dennis Patrick starting each line with the word ‘Well’. KLS had a habit of starting each line with a laugh in any scene when she wasn’t upset.

  10. Just a blooper note–Kitty calling Edward Joshua was not a blooper. “Josette” recognizes him as Joshua. (And that’s interesting since the whole doppelganger thing has not been in play in 1897 as it had been for Vicky in 1795.)

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