November 12, 2004 by

Don Briscoe

4 comments

Categories: Actors, Hollywood

dbriscoe.jpgCecil Donald Briscoe, an actor best known for playing a vampire and a werewolf on the gothic soap opera “Dark Shadows,” died on Oct. 31 of heart disease. He was 64.
The Mississippi native graduated from the prestigious Phillips Exeter prep school in New Hamphire. He moved to New York City in 1958 and earned a master’s degree in English from Columbia University. Briscoe’s brooding good looks and acting talent attracted the attention of an agent, and soon he was performing in small, off-Broadway productions.
Briscoe was cast as Tony Merritt on the NBC daytime drama “Days of Our Lives” in 1966, and did a guest shot on “I Dream of Jeannie” the following year. He also appeared in TV commercials for Camel Cigarettes, Folger’s Coffee and Palmolive Gold Bar Soap.
In 1968, Briscoe joined the cast of ABC’s “Dark Shadows,” a paranormal soap opera and pop culture phenomenon. He originally portrayed Tom Jennings, a handyman-turned-vampire. But after his character was staked, he played Tom’s twin brother, Chris, who suffered from a werewolf curse.
While shooting “Dark Shadows,” Briscoe acted in the off-Broadway play “Boys in the Band,” and in the 1970 feature film “House of Dark Shadows.” Ninety-five episodes into the series, Briscoe suffered a mental breakdown. He left the show, traveled to California and dabbled in the drug culture before moving to Memphis. In recent years, he gave up acting and became a bit of a recluse. Although most of the “Dark Shadows” cast later hit the convention circuit, Briscoe opted to remain out of the public eye.

4 Responses to Don Briscoe

  1. Bob Aikman

    Don was my roommate during our first year together at Phillips Exeter
    We both went to summer school before starting the fall semester and it was there that we became friends and decided to be roommates
    My first memory of him in that summer of 1956 was the way he was dressed – wavy hair with full sideburns (unheard of in New England then), pink shirt with a narrow black tie and black peg-leg pants. He had gone to the same high school as Elvis (of whom I had only just heard) and swore that all the boys dressed that way
    Don loved acting even then, and spent almost all of his time with the Drama club
    He was also the first person I knew who charted his moods and during the winter of 1956-57 had a chart on the wall above his desk where he would record his mood 4 or 5 times a day for the remainder of that school year
    One of his first major acting roles after he left Columbia was in the national road company of “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf” where he played the role of Nick, the young biology professor to, as I remember, excellent reviews. The troupe came to Montreal, where I was attending Medical school and I was very impressed with Don’s skills and the performance
    That was the last time I saw him, and had just begun attempting to find him again when I discovered this blog
    Be at peace, Don, you are fondly remembered
    Bob

  2. Rebecca Perlow

    Being a long time “Dark Shadows” fan, I was so sorry to hear this.
    All childhood crushes aside, Chris Jennings was a character I identified strongly with during all parts of my life from my teens onward. Being a child with clinical depression, I had my own fair share of “family curses” and the added frustration of being born into something you have no control over.
    Anyone else could have camped it up, but Don fleshed out that character and made it real for me and who knows how many others.
    He will be sincerely missed.

  3. LISA PERRY

    I HAVE ALWAYS LOVED THE SHOW DARK SHADOWS. DON PUT A GRAT DEAL OF HIMSELF INTO THE ROLE OF CHIS JENNINGS, PROBABLY MORE THAN WE WILL EVER KNOW. I FEEL THIS IS BECAUSE HE IDENIFIED WITH THE CHARACTER AND IT’S PROBLEMS. HOPEFULLY, ONE DAY, PEOPLE WILL ACCEPT MENTAL PROBLEMS AS THEY DO PHYSICAL PROBLEMS. DON, I HOPE YOU ARE AT REST! PEACE BE WITH YOU.

  4. John Baker

    You’re Birthday is fast approaching buddy, 13 years after you’ve gone we still remember and miss you . You live on everyday in our hearts and minds and in the Dark Shadows episodes. We still get to see and hear you and are reminded of who you were and of your talent. I wish you had remained with the show and I wish it had gone on and I like every Dark Shadows fan wish you were still here. Happy early Birthday bud. wherever you are and thanks for the entertainment.

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