Lara Parker, who as the vengeful witch Angelique Bouchard spent centuries entangled in a love-hate relationship with Jonathan Frid’s Barnabas Collins on the gothic ABC soap opera Dark Shadows, has died. She was 84.
Parker died Thursday in her sleep at her home in Topanga Canyon in Los Angeles, her daughter, Caitlin, told The Music news.
On the big screen, Parker stood out as a prostitute whose client has a heart attack in John G. Avildsen’s Save the Tiger (1973), starring Jack Lemmon in an Oscar-winning turn, and she played the wife of Peter Fonda‘s character in the satanic horror film Race With the Devil (1975), also featuring Warren Oates and Loretta Swit.
Mere days after arriving in New York in 1967, the green-eyed Parker auditioned for Dark Shadows creator Dan Curtis, who cast her as Angelique in a story arc that would detail the origin of the tortured vampire Barnabas.
A soldier and the son of a shipping magnate, Barnabas in 1795 seduced and abandoned a servant girl from Martinique not realizing she was a witch. That girl was Angelique. “He just dallied with her and then dismissed her, and she was not to be dismissed,” Parker said in an undated interview for a Dark Shadows home video release.
An enraged Angelique would damn Barnabas to enteral life as a vampire, kicking off a battle between the two that would continue through different time periods.
“I played her as somebody who was much more of a tragic figure, who was desperately, desperately in love,” Parker said in 2016. “And her heart was broken. That’s much more sympathetic than just being a mean old witch. I felt that her acts were acts of desperation, not acts of evil.”
Though Angelique and others she would inhabit would perish, she would remain with the daytime serial through its April 1971 demise.
“Dan Curtis [would call Parker and say], ‘You’ve been great, kiddo, but we’re going to kill your character. Thanks a lot for everything,” she recalled in 2020. “Of course I was very sad, but about two months later they called me and said that they wanted me back.
“We were kind of the first team, and the fans seemed to watch it more when Angelique and Barnabas were fighting it out. That seemed to be the most popular part of the show, so [Curtis] brought me back many, many times.”
Parker was born Mary Lamar Rickey on Oct. 27, 1938, in Knoxville, Tennessee. Her father, Albert, was an attorney, and her mother, Ann, was active in civic groups.
She graduated from Central High School in Memphis and attended Vassar — she roomed with Jane Fonda there — and Rhodes College in Memphis, where at 19 she served as Wink Martindale’s assistant on his WHBQ-TV show, Dance Party. She then earned a master’s degree from the University of Iowa.
After a busy summer acting at the Millbrook Playhouse in Pennsylvania, Parker left her husband and two kids in Wisconsin for a spell to see if she could find work as an actor in New York. “By the time the children were 6 and 7 years old,” she said in a 1972 interview for Mid-South magazine, “I knew that I just couldn’t sit there and look at those fields for the rest of my life.”
In New York for her second-ever professional audition, she was cast as Angelique. “I think my only reaction to it was paralyzed fear,” she said.
Dark Shadows, which had debuted in June 1966, received a viewership jolt when Frid was introduced as Barnabas in April 1967. Parker arrived in the fictional town of Collinsport, Maine, seven months later.
“We realized [the show] was popular,” she said. “Everywhere we went [the cast was] recognized. There was a huge crowd outside the [Manhattan] studio when we finished in the afternoon of autograph seekers. People would show up, the same people every single day, day after day. They worshipped some of us and would walk us to the subway.
“I can remember standing on the subway when school got out and seeing 200 or 300 kids all waiting to take the train. They would see me and start screaming and run to the other end of the platform! They were so terrified because I was so evil.”
Meanwhile, feminists admired Parker because of her character’s strength, she said. “She was coming in at the beginning of the women’s movement and she was very independent,” Parker noted. “They sort of missed the fact that she was obsessed with her love for Barnabas and that was destroying her.”
During breaks in production, she acted on Broadway in September 1968 in Woman Is My Idea, which lasted just five performances, and in Brian De Palma’s Hi, Mom! (1970), starring Robert De Niro.
And toward the end of the daytime serial, she and fellow castmembers including John Karlen, Kate Jackson, David Selby and Grayson Hall appeared in the poorly received MGM film Night of Dark Shadows (1971).
In 1972, Parker relocated to Los Angeles and went on to appear on episodes of such shows as Medical Center, Kojak, The Rockford Files, Police Woman, Kolchak: The Night Stalker (as a witch) and The Incredible Hulk, where she played David Banner’s first wife in a flashback sequence in the pilot.
After stepping aside from acting, Parker worked as a teacher, earned another master’s in creative writing and wrote four Dark Shadows novels: Angelique’s Descent, first published in 1998, followed by 2006’s The Salem Branch, 2013’s Wolf Moon Rising and 2016’s Heiress of Collinwood.
More recently, she was active in the audio-only continuation of the Dark Shadows franchise through Big Finish Productions.
Parker rejoined Frid, Selby and Kathryn Leigh Scott to make cameos in Tim Burton‘s 2012 remake of Dark Shadows — Frenchwoman Eva Green portrayed Angelique in the Johnny Depp-starrer — and reteamed with Scott and another Dark Shadows co-star, Jerry Lacy, in the crime film Doctor Mabuse (2013) and its 2014 sequel.
Survivors include her second husband, Jim Hawkins; children Caitlin, Rick (a music producer) and Andy; daughters-in-law Miranda and Celia; grandson Wesley; and her dog, Pearl.