Saturday, January 25, 2020

Godpseed John Karlen

John Karlen, who played Willie Loomis and other roles on the daytime soap opera Dark Shadows and Mary Beth Lacey's husband Harvey Lacey on the TV show Cagney & Lacey, died on January 22 2019 at the age of 86. The cause was congestive heart failure.

John Karlen was born John Adam Karlewicz on May 28 1933 in Brooklyn, New York. He studied at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts. He made his television debut in 1957 in an episode of Kraft Television Theatre. In the late Fifties he guest starred on the shows Naked City, Armstrong Circle Theatre, The Big Story, and Deadline. He made his debut on Broadway in Sweet Bird of Youth as a replacement for Tom Junior (originally played by Rip Torn).

Mr. Karlen appeared frequently on stage in the early Sixties. He was an understudy on the Broadway production Invitation to a March. He appeared on Broadway in Arturo Ui, The Milk Train Doesn't Stop Here Anymore, All in Good Time, and Postmark Zero. He also appeared off Broadway in Monopoly. John Karlen guest starred on the shows The Detectives, The Gallant Men, Stoney Burke, East Side/West Side, Another World, Brenner, Hawk, Love is a Many Splendored Thing, and Hidden Faces. He had a recurring role in a story arc on the daytime drama The Doctors.

It was in 1967 that John Karlen took over the role of Willie Loomis from James Hall on Dark Shadows, who left the show after only five episodes. Willis Loomis was a con artist who arrived in Collinsport to visit Jason McGuire (played by Dennis Patrick). It was not long after his arrival in Collinsport that Willie released the vampire Barnabas Collins and subsequently became his servant (Renfield to Barnabas's Dracula). Mr. Karlen played other roles on Dark Shadows as well as Willie. He played Carl Collins, practical joker and black sheep of the family, in 1897 Collinswood, the doomed Desmond Collins in 1840s Collinswood, Kendrick Young in 1840s Parallel Time (an alternate reality on Dark Shadows), and the alcoholic author Will Loomis in present day Parallel Time. John Karlen also appeared as Willie Loomis in the feature film inspired by the soap opera, House of Dark Shadows (1970) and played Alex Jenkins in Night of Dark Shadows (1971).

In the Seventies John Karlen continued to appear on Dark Shadows until its final episode on April 2 1971. He made frequent guest appearances on television shows during the decade, among them The Sixth Sense, Night Gallery, The Mod Squad, The Magician, Shazam!, The Wide World of Mystery, Mannix, Medical Center, Mobile One, Hawaii Five-O, The Waltons, The Streets of San FranciscoAll in the FamilyPolice Story, Charlie's Angels, The Hardy Boys/Nancy Drew Mysteries, Kojak, The Rockford Files, Barnaby Jones, Starsky and Hutch, Kaz, Lou Grant, Quincy M.E., and Vega$. He also appeared in several TV movies, including Night of Terror, The Picture of Dorian Gray, Shirts/Skins, The Invasion of Carol Enders, Melvin Purvis G-Man, Trilogy of Terror, The Kansas City Massacre, Colorado C.I., and The Long Days of Summer. Mr. Karlen appeared in the feature films Les lèvres rouges (1971), A Small Town in Texas (1976), and Killer's Delight (1978).

Ir was in 1983 that John Karlen began playing Mary Beth Lacey's supportive husband Harvey on the show Cagney & Lacey. He remained with the show for the entirety of its run. In the Eighties he also had a regular role on the short-lived show Snoops. During the decade he made guest appearances on such shows as Trapper John, M.D.; American Dream; Fame; Hill Street Blues; Strike Force; King's Crossing; American Playhouse; Bay City Blues; Finder of Lost Loves; Mike Hammer; 227; and Murder, She Wrote. He appeared in such TV movies as Rosie: The Rosemary Clooney Story and Downpayment on Murder. He appeared in the mini-series The Winds of War. During the Eighties Mr. Karlen appeared in the films Pennies from Heaven (1981), Racing with the Moon (1984), Impulse (1984), Gimme an 'F' (1984), Native Son (1986), and Daddy (1987).

In the Nineties John Karlen appeared in several TV movies, among them Nightmare on the 13th Floor, Perry Mason: The Case of the Glass Coffin, Calendar Girl, Cop, Killer? The Bambi Bembenek Story, Without Warning: Terror in the Towers, and MacShayne: Winner Takes All. He reprised his role as Harvey Lacey in the TV reunion movies Cagney & Lacey: The Return, Cagney & Lacey: Together Again, Cagney & Lacey: The View Through the Glass Ceiling, and Cagney & Lacey: True Convictions (his final appearance on screen). He guest starred on the shows Murder, She Wrote and Mad About You. He appeared in the films The Dark Wind (1991) and Surf Ninjas (1993).

In more recent years Mr. Karlen reprised his role as Willie Loomis in a series of Big Finish Productions audio dramas.

John Karlen was an extraordinary actor. His work on Dark Shadows alone is proof of that. His Willie Loomis was "James Dean meets Renfield," a scoundrel in service of a vampire that one could not help but like. In addition to Willie Loomis he played three more roles on the show that were entirely different from Willie Loomis, even the one who was Willie's doppelgänger in Parallel Time. Willie Loomis and the other roles Mr. Karlen played on Dark Shadows were worlds away from Harvey Lacey, the liberal, supportive husband of Marty Beth Lacey on Cagney & Lacey. John Karlen's two best known roles of Willie Loomis and Harvey Lacey could be very different from many of his movie roles: the cheer camp director Bucky Berkshire in Gimme an 'F', The Detective in Pennies from Heaven, and the killer of the title in Killer's Delight. John Karlen's talent was such that even when a particular movie might not be very good, he always was.

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