Saturday, September 27, 2014

Sam Hall Dead at 93

Writer Sam Hall died on Friday at age 93.
Former Dark Shadows and One Life to Live writer Sam Hall died on Friday, September 26. He was 93.

Allison Samuel Hall was born on March 11, 1921, in Carrollton, Ohio, and graduated from Dartmouth and Yale. A veteran of the World War II Battle of the Bulge, "Sam" was married to actress Grayson Hall in 1952.

Sam was a playwright who had spent several years working on the CBS daytime drama The Brighter Day. He was not really interested in accepting another TV job but the family had been struggling for a while, and Sam was considering moving back to Ohio to work at his father’s rubber gloves factory. Then Grayson got a short-term acting role on ABC's afternoon soap opera Dark Shadows, which turned into a long-term gig, and that kept them in New York. So when creator Dan Curtis said he needed a new writer to replace Malcolm Marmorstein, Sam said he would give it a try. The series became a cult classic and won the devotion of a loyal fanbase that would continue to follow the characters in novels, comic books, movies, audio stories, a primetime television revival and more. Dark Shadows featured the traditional themes of love and family during its five-year run (1966-1971), but mixed in were werewolves, zombies, man-made monsters, witches, warlocks, time travel, and even a parallel universe.

Grayson Hall, Sam Hall and Jonathan Frid.
In the October 9, 1971 issue of TV Guide, Sam Hall contributed an article entitled "Here's What Really Happened to Barnabas & Co." This article described the future fates of all of the major Dark Shadows characters following the final story arcs from the series which would have been filmed had the show not been cancelled.

Sam Hall spent 10 years working at ABC daytime soap opera One Life to Live, and went on to write for other daytime serials including General Hospital and Santa Barbara.

"The woman in charge of the [One Life to Live] was very open-minded,” Hall said in a 2009 interview, "and she allowed us to do some very risqué things. At one point, I lifted the entire plot of Belle du Jour [the 1967 Buñuel film about a married woman who becomes an afternoon call girl]. One day a woman came up to me and told me my work was gritty. I never thought I’d be gritty."

Along with Gordon Russell, Hall was nominated for a Daytime Emmy Award for writing the infamous Karen Wolek (Judith Light) courtroom confession. They also created the Buchanan family which remained prominent for decades after Hall left One Life to Live. Bo and Clint Buchanan were featured on Prospect Park's online version of One Life to Live in 2013.

Sam and Grayson's son, Matthew, worked with his father on scripts for One Life to Live as well as the 1991 primetime Dark Shadows series on NBC.

"At one point in the 1990s I had five writers working for me," Hall revealed about leaving the TV world. "They were all earning 10 grand a week, but they had never read anything of interest. They had spent their entire lives watching television and it was their whole frame of reference. I realized television was never going to get any better because the people who were taking over thought everything was fine. There was no impatience about the medium."

Sam's wife, Grayson Hall, plyed Dr. Julia Hoffman on Dark Shadows and Euphemia Ralston in One Life to Live. She died in 1985 at age 62.

In January 2014, Sam Hall filed a lawsuit against ABC in New York state court on Tuesday, claiming he had not been paid the weekly royalties he was owed for the showing of the new One Life to Live via iTunes, Hulu and other services.

According to the complaint, ABC made a deal in 1984 with Wildercliff, Ltd. for Hall's writing services. The agreement was said to have entitled Hall to a weekly royalty "as long as the One Life to Live series is broadcast."

Sam Hall only worked on the original Dark Shadows for four years (1967-1971), and he found success with many other projects over a career that spanned several decades. He won a Peabody Award and was nominated for Emmys, but he would always be closely associated with Barnabas Collins and the characters that inhabited Collinwood.

"I’ll never escape Dark Shadows," he lamented in a June 2005 interview. "Never, never!"

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