Tuesday, January 27, 2009

FLASHBACK: Ex-Actress Learns How To Produce 1967

Ex-Actress Learns How to Produce on Daytime TV

By Ursula Vils
Los Angeles Times
June 24, 1967

Betty Corday gave up acting the day her agent told her she was on the wrong side of the footlights.

Since then, she has had a highly successful career on the other side - as a writer and producer of some of the nation's most popular daytime radio and television shows.

"I think I was probably a perfectly awful actress," Mrs. Corday said, "because I worried about the production. After my agent made that comment, I agreed - and he got me a job on the production side.

Betty Corday now is an executive producer - of television's DAYS OF OUR LIVES, a daytime serial conceived by her husband, Ted. She took over as executive producer on his death in 1966.

Rich Background

She brings a rich background to the job. In radio's golden days, she produced such classics as "Gangbusters" and "Pepper Young's Family."

Mention of "Pepper" brought up the long life span of successful daytime serials.

"It went on for something like 25 yaers," Mrs. Corday said, "and I hasten to add that I was not associated with it in the beginning.

"It takes a year or two for a daytime serial to catch on, for the public to learn to know the characters. But after that, it can go on for years.

Today's Problem

"The daytime serial reflects the problems of today's average family, but dramatized beyond reality. Part of its popularity stems from the viewer's identification with the situation - a sort of 'There but the grace of God go I' attitude."

Mrs. Corday's mail reflects the degree of identification of viewer and fictional character.

"We really get these heartbreaking letters," she said. "They say, 'You're telling the story of my life.'

"Recently, we had a situation on the show where two young people who were engaged, broke up in a misunderstanding, and the boy ran into the girl's best friend that evening. Both were terribly upset, the girl because her parents were divorcing despite all her efforts to keep them together. Well, the boy brought a bottle of liquor and they drank. Later she found she was pregnant.

"This is a tragic emotional situation, and you would be surprised at the letters we got, most of them saying, 'I have a friend who . . .' But it's not a friend; its the writer who has had the same experience.

"We even get letters warning a character on the show that the other characters are plotting against him, telling him what's going on behind his back."

Works With Writers

As executive producer, Mrs. Corday works with writers, the director and cast to put the package together. She produces five half-hour shows a week, 52 weeks a year - "but I enjoy every single minute of this business."

Betty Corday also runs a home for her two sons, Ken, 16, who attends Beverly Hills High School, and Christopher, 19, a freshman at the University of Arizona. She admits that, as a writer, she sometimes uses their sayings in dialog.

"Once, in a sshow, the subject of Asian flu came up and I had the little boy character say, "What is this ancient flue?" - something my son had siad to me.

"And I got myself into trouble once, too. In radio, we used to call a serial a 'strip show' because it was planned across a board, in a strip. Once, when our Episcopal school mothers club asked me to be chairman of a fair, I said, 'Oh no, I couldn't possibly. I've just taken on another strip show.'

"I really got some strange shocked looks. They thought I was the burlesque queen of Trinity school."

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