Sunday, December 21, 2008

FLASHBACK: Murder Necessitated 1962

Murder Necessitated

TIME Magazine
August 24, 1962

When Jeff Baker turned up on TV six years ago, he was a puny, pampered high-school kid. But burning love soon made a man of him, standing trial for murder sobered him, marriage gave him strength, annulment brought him misery, alcoholism aged him, and—all the while —pericarditis, the dread killer disease, haunted him. Thanks to such experiences, Jeff aged 15 years in just six, growing up to become groovy, talented Jeff Baker, 33, pianist, composer, company president, and the worshiped mate of Penny, his no nonsense wife. Small wonder that Jeff became the most important figure in AS THE WORLD TURNS, the biggest show on daytime television.

But while Jeff manfully suffered catastrophe on camera, Mark Rydell, the actor who plays him, winced at success backstage. Held to the show by salary and sentiment ($50.000 and 5,000 fan letters a year). Rydell pined for Hollywood, where offers to direct television taunted him. Worse, he bolted from the program for two weeks at a time to take on summer-stock roles, forcing the show's agonized writers to send Jeff out of town on a business trip or—"I got it!"—out to Hollywood for a recording date. To the show's producers, Mark Rydell had become a problem that needed to be solved.

So had Jeff. After weathering so much misfortune, he and Penny had become distressingly stable.

Last week the producers found a solution to both problems. Into the script they had the show's writers insert a scene in which Jeff's life is unceremoniously snuffed out—and with it Rydell's career in AS THE WORLD TURNS. This week Jeff is scheduled to die in an automobile accident, thrown from the wreckage of his car out onto the rainy highway. Said the show's producer, smiling over Jeff's lifeless form: "A loved one passes—it's good for the story."


  1. It was one of the first ATWT storylines I remember. As a result of the accident, Penny suffered from amnesia.

    I was only 6 years old at the time!

  2. Such an ongoing gift your site is.