Thursday, January 23, 2020
Very sad news today...
John Karlen, the Dark Shadows actor who loosed a 200-year-old vampire from a chained coffin and two decades later won an Emmy Award for playing a detective’s husband on Cagney & Lacey, died yesterday of congestive heart failure in hospice in Burbank, California. He was 86.
Planned as a short-term last-chance plot, the vampire storyline, starring Jonathan Frid as the fanged Barnabas Collins, turned the failing soap into a phenomenon, providing the fledgling ABC daytime line-up with its first hit. Karlen would remain with the series until its end in 1971, playing, as did most of the ensemble, multiple characters in various centuries and parallel universes.
Prior to Dark Shadows (which currently streams on Amazon Prime), Karlen appeared on Broadway in Tennessee Williams’ Sweet Bird of Youth, had small roles in ’50s anthology series, ’60s primetime episodic series and daytime soaps, but the Loomis role pegged him for horror through much of the early ’70s. Film and TV credits from the post-Shadows era include Daughters of Darkness, Night of Terror, The Sixth Sense, Night Gallery, The Picture of Dorian Gray, The Wide World of Mystery and Trilogy of Terror.
But his real second act came with CBS’ 1982-88 female buddy cop drama Cagney & Lacey: As Harvey Lacey, devoted, stay-at-home husband to Tyne Daly’s Det. Mary Beth Lacey. Karlen was Emmy-nominated three times (1985, ’86 and ’87), winning the Outstanding Supporting Actor trophy in ’86. He reprised the role in several stand-alone TV movies during the 1990s, including 1996’s Cagney & Lacey: True Convictions, his last major credit.
I loved him on Cagney & Lacey. It was always nice to see he and Tyne Daly together on the show.
He will be missed.