Sam Hall, Soap Opera Writer for 'Dark Shadows' and 'One Life to Live,' Dies at 93

Courtesy of Carolyn Marks Blackwood

His wife was the late Oscar-nominated actress and 'Shadows' star Grayson Hall

Sam Hall, who wrote for such soap operas as Dark Shadows, Once Life to Live and Santa Barbara, died Friday after a short bout with pneumonia in Rhinebeck, N.Y., his son, Matt, told The Hollywood Reporter. He was 93.

Hall, a five-time Daytime Emmy Award nominee and Peabody Award winner, was married for 33 years to the late Grayson Hall, who received a supporting actress Oscar nomination for playing Judith Fellowes in John Huston’s The Night of the Iguana (1964).

She also portrayed parapsychologist Julia Hoffman, who futilely attempted to cure Barnabas Collins (Jonathan Frid) of his vampire tendencies, on Dark Shadows and appeared on One Life to Live as well. She died in 1985.

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Sam Hall joined the ABC gothic soap Dark Shadows in 1967 and penned more than 300 episodes, often collaborating with writer Gordon Russell.

He co-wrote the screenplays for the features House of Dark Shadows and Night of Dark Shadows, filmed during production of the TV show, and worked on a short-lived Dark Shadows primetime revival for NBC in 1991.

“We stole things right and left from all the horror classics, including the werewolf, which worked for a while, and a lot of the great American short story writer, [H.P.Lovecraft,” Hall recalled in an interview for a Dark Shadows DVD feature. “I only wish that Stephen King had been [known] then, because he could have kept the show going for a hundred years.”

After the original Dark Shadows was canceled in 1971, Hall segued to ABC’s One Life to Live, taking over as a head writer from series creator Agnes Nixon. Hall initiated a memorable arc in the early 1980s in which an emotional Karen Wolek (Judith Light in an Emmy-winning turn) admitted under cross-examination on the witness stand that she was working for the murdered man, Marco Dane (Gerald Anthony), as a prostitute. He also introduced the archvillain Dorian character (most famously played by Robin Strasser) as well as the Buchanan family. 

Recalling the Karen Wolek plotline, Hall said in a 2005 interview with Hudson Valley Magazine that “the woman in charge of the show was very open-minded, and she allowed us to do some very risque things. At one point, I lifted the entire plot of Belle de Jour. One day a woman came up to me and told me my work was gritty. I never thought I’d be gritty.”

In January, Hall sued ABC, claiming he had not been paid the weekly royalties he was owed for the showing of Prospect Park’s online reboot of One Life to Live. His original agreement did not spell out whether “broadcast” was restricted to network television.

Hall joined NBC’s Santa Barbara in 1984 and wrote dozens of installments from 1989-90. Around this time, he also worked for General Hospital before retiring from television in the 1990s.

A native of Carrollton, Ohio, Hall attended Dartmouth and served during World War II in the Battle of the Bulge. Early in his career, he wrote for such anthology series as Studio One in Hollywood and Playhouse 90 and an early TV soap, CBS’ The Brighter Day. Later, he worked on the 13-part 1976 PBS miniseries The Adams Chronicles.

His son Matt, an author and associate vp/editorial for the medical advertising agency Hobart Forte, wrote for One Life to Live and on the return of Dark Shadows in 1991.

Hall’s survivors also include his daughter-in-law Cecilia and grandsons Caleb and Jed.

Twitter: @mikebarnes4