FLASHBACK: A Complete, Concise Yearly History of TV Soap Operas - 1947 to 1977 (Part 3)

Rosemary Prinz, Helen Wagner and Don MacLaughlin starred in
As the World Turns as Penny, Nancy and Chris Hughes.
A Complete, Concise Yearly History of TV Soap Operas

The Soap Box
Vol. III No. 10 September 1978
by John Genovese

(continued from Part 2)

The networks began to take it easy after such a succession of sad cases. The only two serials to begin this year were anthologies sponsored by Borden on NBC, and one succeeded the other. The first, The Way of the World, portrayed disconnected plots taken from womens' magazine stories. The narrator was Gloria Lewis, and its duration was from January 2 to October 7.

Its replacement was A Date With Life (October 10, 1955 to June 29, 1956) which starred Logan Field as Jim Bradley, editor of Bay City News, who narrated the various sagas set in Bay City (later the setting of Another World). Field was later replaced by Mark Roberts as brother Tom Bradley. It was produced by Therese Lewis, who later produced The Brighter Day.

In the daytime serial world, this was the year of the innovations. On April 2, CBS and Procter & Gamble premiered the first two television soaps to air a full thirty minutes daily, rather than the usual fifteen.

As the World Turns, the blockbuster portrait of family life as created by Irna Phillips, was headed up by three sterling performers who remain as the show's tentpole characters: Helen Wagner as Nancy Hughes, Don MacLaughlin as Chris Hughes, and William Johnstone as Judge Lowell. The show's wide array of illegitimate births and long awaited love matches are still made appealing by the show's quiet, naturalistic manner of story unraveling.

The Edge of Night starred John Larkin as Mike Karr
and Don Hastings as Jack Lane.
The Edge of Night, created by Irving Vendig, was obviously daytime TV's answer to Perry Mason and starred John Larkin as crime fighter Mike Karr, then a police lieutenant. Co-starring were Teal Ames as Mike's love interest and eventual first wife, Sara Lane, and Don Hastings as Sara's trouble-prone brother, Jack Lane. The initial adventures concerned Sara and Jack's evil uncle, Harry Lane, who fenced stolen goods and plotted to murder his alcoholic wife, Cora. Lauren Gilbert played this gem of a fellow. On December 1, 1975, Edge moved to ABC, being the first daytime television serial ever to switch networks.

CBS replaced Valiant Lady with Roy Winsor's Hotel Cosmopolitan starring Donald Woods as the narrator of the goings-on in a plush New York hotel. Supporting players included James Pritchett (Dr. Matt Powers, The Doctors), Henderson Forsythe (Dr. David Stewart, As the World Turns), Wesley Lau, Tom Shirley and Walter Brooke. It began airing August 19, 1957 and ended April 11, 1958, when it proved to be "too different" for the traditional soap audiences. Love of Life then expanded to a half-hour.

On January 2, NBC took a crack at a novel and movie classic: Kitty Foyle. Naturally, this version was ill-fated, but it could claim such alumni as Patty Duke, Judy Lewis, William Redfield, Bob Hastings (Don's brother), Arlene Golonka, Teri Keane and Kay Medford. Written by Carlton E. Morse and Sarett Rudley, Kitty was "foiled" on September 26.

On June 30, NBC persevered with two new serials, Today Is Ours and From These Roots.

Today Is Ours concerned Laura Manning, vice principal of a junior high school in the town of Bolton, and her remarried ex-husband, Karl, who had visitation rights to their son, Nicky. Patricia Benoit was Laura, Patrick O'Neal was Karl, and Peter Lazer was Nicky. Others included Joyce Lear, Ernest Graves, Jean Stapleton, Joanna Roos and John McGovern. It was written by David Lesan, but it didn't pan out. So on December 29, it changed formats by involving a young doctor character in a gradual change of format, and on January 30 of 1959 the radio character of Dr. Jerry Malone became the new protagonist. That is how Today Is Ours became the television version of Young Doctor Malone.

Young Doctor Malone starred William Prince as Dr. Jerry
Malone and Augusta Dabney as Tracey Malone.
Malone had a fine cast and a solid story, but NBC still not not have much luck. Co-starring William Prince and Augusta Dabney as Jerry and Tracey Malone, it featured John Connell as Dr. David Malone, Lesley Woods as the neurotic Clare Bannister Steele, Martin Blaine as Lionel Steele, and Michael Ingram as Dr. Stefan Koda. Chase Crosley, Joyce Van Patten, Dick Van Patten, Judson Laire, Edmond Ryan and Mary Fickett were also in the large cast. Writers included Charles Gussman, Harry Junkin and Richard Holland; directors included Walter Gorman and Jim Young; Carol Irwin and Doris Quinlan were among its producers. The story setting was Valley Hospital in Denison, Maryland. It finished on March 29, 1963 to be replaced by another hospital drama, The Doctors.

The other NBC premiere of June 30, 1958 was really a "soap of stars." From These Roots concerned the Fraser family in the New England town of Strathfield. Heading up the class group was Ann Flood as Elizabeth Fraser, professional writer and youngest of the three children of widower Ben Fraser (Rod Hendrickson, Joseph Macaulay), editor of the Strathfield Record. Helen Shields and Henderson Forsythe, who had played a married couple on The Edge of Night, were reunited as Emily and Jim Benson on Roots. Millette Alexander, Robert Mandan, Craig Huebing, Vera Allen, Audra Lindley and Sarah Hardy were also in the cast. The show's actor exchange program with Edge was due to their sharing a producer, Don Wallace. Thus, right after From These Roots folded on December 29, 1961, Ann Flood moved right over to Edge as Mike Karr's new love interest, Nancy Pollock--also an editor's daughter! From These Roots was created by John Pickard and Frank Provo and sponsored by Procter & Gamble.

Continue reading Part 4 of A Complete, Concise Yearly History of TV Soap Operas - 1947 to 1977...

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