Jump to: navigation, search

Toronto Star (23/May/1985) - Fontaine plays steely lady in Dark Mansions



Fontaine plays steely lady in Dark Mansions

BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. (AP) — Joan Fontaine, standing at the top of the stairs in stately old Greystone mansion, was thinking that she had done this before as she watched the portrait's unveiling.

Fontaine, with Michael York and Paul Shenar, who play her sons, and a room full of actors in formal dress were filming a scene for the TV movie Dark Mansions, a pilot for a Gothic soap opera on ABC. No air date has been scheduled but it's expected to start in the fall.

They were supposed to be unveiling a portrait of her late husband, founder of a Seattle shipbuilding empire. But the portrait was of York's late wife, who bares an amazing resemblance to his current wife, played by Linda Purl. "Of course, it's a straight steal from Daphne du Maurier and Rebecca," said Fontaine, who starred in Alfred Hitchcock's Academy Award-winning film version in 1940.

Fontaine stars as Margaret Drake, the matriarch of the shipbuilding family, which, as in all soap operas, encounters rough sailing. In addition, the program has undertones of the supernatural.

The crew from Aaron Spelling Productions was filming recently at Greystone mansion in Beverly Hills, which is soon to become a city park. It was built by the Doheny oil family and at one time was occupied by the American Film Institute.

The dramatic role is the first in several years for Fontaine, 67, who won an Oscar in 1941 for Suspicion. She played a Hollywood socialite in the TV movie The Users in 1978, has appeared on The Love Boat and did a guest role on Cannon. She also was a guest on the soap opera Ryan's Hope.

Her last movie was The Devil's Own in the late 1960s. For the past 25 years she has lived in New York, where she was the TV host of The Joan Fontaine Interview Show. She also appeared in about 30 plays at dinner theatres.

She moved back to California, living in Pebble Beach, after Loretta Young bowed out of the Dark Mansions role earlier this year because of "creative differences."

"I play a kind of steely, wise, but at all times genteel lady," said Fontaine. "She is, as the writers say, the keel of the ship. She is concerned about her family and she pulls the strings. Is she intimidating? I haven't decided yet."

If it goes to series, it will be the first for Fontaine. "I've been asked to do a few," she said, "but living in New York I turned them down. But now I'm only 55 minutes away by plane. I can be home every weekend."

Dark Mansions is the fifth pilot for director Jerry London, who was also at the helm for Shogun and Ellis Island. Different serial

"I like the Hitchcockian feel of this," he said. "And I like the ambience we get from the house. Once you go inside it has a feeling of mystery. There will be one room, Margaret's room, that no one goes into. It's spooky. It's not really supernatural, but there is a feeling of not knowing. We won't have anything that can't eventually be explained. It's different from the other serials. It's not Dallas or Dynasty."

London said Young left the show "because she saw Margaret as something that wasn't written. We were willing to bend somewhat, but it got to the point where the story was changing."

He said "the concept of the show is that the story revolves around the family. I think Loretta's idea was that the show revolve around Margaret. We wanted the mysterious mansion and the conflict between the two sons."