The Many Loves of... Barbara Ryan From AS THE WORLD TURNS

Some surprising characters just missed our 50 Greatest Soap Couples list.  Were critics and fans torn about who was really the love of someone's life, or the most interesting, or fun, or exciting, or relatable?  Whatever each person enjoyed most when watching a soap opera couple, there were years of memorable stories and couples that just missed our countdown. We are starting with a quick look at "The Many Loves of" AS THE WORLD TURNS heroine turned vixen, Barbara Ryan, played for 32 years by three-time Emmy nominee Colleen Zenk.

Who was the love of Barbara's life?

THE CONTENDERS

James Stenbeck (Anthony Herrera) arrived on the scene in February 1980 after it was revealed Barbara had a love child with him, Paul, that she gave away to friends to raise. James and Barbara had magnetic chemistry and two months after his arrival she dumped fiance Tom Hughes at the altar. The Stenbeck family did not approve and tried to split James and Barbara up, but eventually they married in her hospital bed.  But James was a cad and started fooling around with Margo Montgomery. Later, after Barbara fell for the real Stenbeck heir, Gunnar, James turned pure evil. His return from the dead in 1986 was one of the most memorable moments in soap opera history. Rotating writers and producers did the character of James no favors in the last 15 years with him being killed off and returning multiple times but he always had his sights set on Barbara.

Gunnar St. Clair (Hugo Napier) first appeared in Barbara's visions straight out of the 18th century. When she met him at the funeral of James's brother, they instantly formed a bond. They fell in love and he became like a father to Paul. Barbara and Gunnar faced numerous obstacles, mostly coming from James evil schemes like gaslighting Barbara or locking her in a bull ring in Spain. Eventually it was revealed that Gunnar was the biological father of Dusty Donovan. Gunnar left town when he learned he was suffering from a terminal blood disease breaking Barbara's heart. It took years for her to open her heart in that way again.

Hal Munson (Benjamin Hendrickson), a cop with the Oakdale PD, and fashion designer Barbara were part of a very complex quadrangle story with Tom and Margo.  After Douglas Marland became head writer in 1985, Barbara took a darker turn and schemed to break up Tom and Margo.  Meanwhile, Hal and Margo had an affair which resulted in Adam's birth.   That secret was kept for years before Adam finally learned the truth as a teenager.  Barbara and Hal married and divorced three times and had two children, Jennifer (he raised her as his own) and Will, but each time were always drawn back to each other.   Twenty years after they first came together Hal tragically died in the line of duty.

Henry Coleman (Trent Dawson) knew Barbara but it wasn't until ATWT's final years did their relationship change.  Henry, who turned out to be the illegitimate son of James, grew closer to Barbara, but was torn by his feelings for Vienna Hyatt.  Vienna was no match for Barbara and, after surviving a horrible kidnapping, Barbara married Henry.  In the words of Damon L. Jacobs, Barbara's relationship with Henry "ended with her demonstrating a level of maturity, strength, and confidence that she never had with any other man."

OTHER MEN

Tom Hughes (Tom Tammi) loved Barbara and wanted to marry her.  He stood by her when she revealed the heartbreaking truth about giving up Paul.  His reward: Barbara left him at the altar and became engaged to James!

John Dixon (Larry Bryggman) went on a date with Barbara in the early 1970s but it was the birth and loss of their child, Johnny, in 1997 that broke the hearts of fans, and nearly destroyed Barbara.  Hal helped her put the pieces of her life back together.

There were many other men along the way as well.  Perhaps her biggest obsession was her son, Paul.

Which couple that Barbara was involved in was your favorite?

20 comments:

  1. I loved Barbara & Hal the most of all of her pairings, but of course, I witnessed this couple first-hand (only her with James and Gunnar on SoapClassic's James Stenbeck set...which is a surprisingly great for me despite of not being a fan of the character or the actor.)

    I am pretty sure Hogan Sheffer was the headwriter of ATWT when Barbara inexplicably deserted Hal for Craig Montgomery which led to her downfall mirroring the downfall of the show. I hated that Emily Stewart was Hal Munson's final pairing. Made no sense and had no chemistry. Hogan Sheffer wrecked ATWT and the characters of Barbara, Craig, Paul, Dusty and Meg. Irreparable damage. I especially HATED Rose!

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  2. Joshua, that was probably my favorite DVD of the ones released so far. Gunnar was my personal favorite Barbara pairing.

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  3. Despite my love for old school I am surprisingly fond of Henry/Barbara. Hal was probably the love of her life, but Barbara's life had so many clearly defined stages it's kind of hard to say.

    There wasn't a romance or a story for Barbara I didn't follow or believe/buy into. That was great work on Colleen's part.

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  4. Hal\Barbara was my favorite, her true love but I too liked Henry\Babs match-up. I loved the early years of James\Barbara which one could argue, rather blackmailing Barbara or coming in to defend Barbara, James in a weird way was Barbara's real love.

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  5. No one ever picks Gunnar. Did I have my own 18th century fantasy that they were AWESOME?! ;) There was talk of a Gunnar return in the 2000s.

    I grew up with a big extended CBS soap-viewing family. I think most of them would have picked Hal.

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  6. For me it's a tie between Gunnar and Hal. Loved both of them

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  7. Roger...LMAO...you must like the whole early '80s ATWT vibe period, w\Mr. Big, Barbara in the 18th century fantasy, Marcy as Cinderella, Phyllis Diller as fairy godmother era...HMMM...fun yes but not my favorite period. I loved the mid to late '70s w/Natalie & Tom (Judith Chapman delicious!)Grant, Lisa, & Joyce, Chris retiring, Dan & Kim, Susan as a Drunken mess (Emily is just liked Susan)more family oriented period and returned with Marland as HW.

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  8. In the early '80s I liked Steve/Betsy, Tom/Margo, Barbara/Gunnar, but some of it I couldn't stand such as Maggie Crawford or Frank/Maggie, fake Lisa, Miranda as Bob's wife. There were a lot of hit or misses but those three couples kept my interest.

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  9. I very much liked Gunnar & Barbara, too, Roger.

    When you say Fake Lisa, you mean Betsy Von Furstenberg, right?! LOL!

    Brian :-)

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  10. Busted. ;) Yes, I've heard some great things about her but it was hard watching "Lisa" at that time.

    Oh, harlee, I was watching some episodes where Joyce returned in early 1980 recently. Loved it!

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  11. I liked Barbara Rodell as Joyce, too!

    I hope she's doing OK these days!

    Brian :-)

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  12. I came in just after the "Hello Barbara" return of James. She did have a special something with John, but Hal, oh Hal. They had such a wonderful family dynamic when it was Barbara and Hal. (Every time I think of Ben Hendrickson, I start to cry). I did like her paired up with Henry in the end. You are right in saying that she had a maturity, confidence and strength she never had with anyone else. (Please do Lisa, Lucinda and John Dixon. Oh heck, I would take the whole cast of ATWT from 1980-end if possible)

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  13. Roger, I loved the Lisa\Grant\Joyce, and Lisa was still Lisa then, scheming and trying to bust Joyce...wonderful time. At the same time Natalie using Tom and Natalie & Lisa going head to head was awesome!

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  14. I've always thought that Gunnar was Barbara's true love, with Hal a close #2. Since we didn't actually see Gunnar die, I kept hoping he'd be resurrected one day.

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  15. I liked Emily with Hal. It gave Emily a whole new marturity. However the writers never gave it a shot and Hal was terrible to her. Of course Hal was the love of Barbara's life, but I loved her with Henry. What chemistry. I always thought Barabara could have been Kim's daughter. They looked so much alike. Glad that they had an aunt/ neice bond that stood the entire time of the series. Also enjoyed the friendship between Lisa and Barbara.

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  16. I really loved Barbara's ending with Henry. Colleen Zenk just rocked that last year's worth of material imo.

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  17. I watched ATWT my entire life and for some reason I don't remember the child Johnny that Barbara & John Dixon lost in '97? What happened there?

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  18. More lovers... Duncan, Gavin, Daryl, Tonio, Craig(?), Brian, Steve (not Andropolis), Dr. Daniels and a few I can't remember!!

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  19. So far I think Ms. Zenk is being too coy! =) I'm DYING to hear her pick for "the love of Barbara's life." Of course, there IS something to be said for diplomacy.

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