Saturday, June 30, 2012

FLASHBACK: Radio to TV, 35 Years with GL 1972

From Radio to TV: 35 Years with THE GUIDING LIGHT

By Aleen MacMinn
Los Angeles Times
June 29, 1972

Five shows a week, 32 weeks a year, for 35 years totes up to a stagger number of programs (9,100 to be exact).

That is the milestone reached by CBS' daytime serial, THE GUIDING LIGHT, which is now celebrating a monumental 35 years in broadcasting and Friday marks the 20th anniversary on television.

The program had its premiere on radio on Jan. 25, 1937, and enjoyed a 15-year run before moving to TV. With its debut on June 30, 1952 on the CBS Television Network, THE GUIDING LIGHT became one of the first of radio's daytime dramas to make the transition to television.

Over the years, THE GUIDING LIGHT has unfolded the trials and tribulations of the Bauer and Norris families "as they strive for a meaningful way of life." Obviously, as the years have passed, there have been changes in the cast.

However, rather remarkably, THE GUIDING LIGHT still boasts two prominent members of the cast who have been with the program since its day on radio: Charita Bauer, who plays Bertha (Bert) Bauer, and Theo Goetz, who is Papa Bauer. They both joined the cast in the late 40s.

Goetz, at 77, probably ranks as daytime drama's Mr. Senior Citizen. He came to this country from Vienna just prior to World War II and even before he learned much English he was landing radio parts. "With the wartime, they needed someone who could do a German accent," he laughed. "I did many shows and always had several scripts stuffed in my pockets." He was 52 when he began playing Papa Bauer (Charita is his daughter-in-law on the series) on the radio in 1947.

Sitting one rainy afternoon, not long ago in the CBS studio on West 26th St. in New York where THE GUIDING LIGHT is tape, Goetz said his quarter of a century with the program has been "very rewarding."

More Difficult Than Stage

"There's a lot of artistry in doing a series like this," he remarked, "and it's much more difficult than being a stage actor. Why? Because a stage actor ha a part in a show that runs for a year or two or longer, and he goes to the same theater every day, takes the same positions, says the same lines.

"We have every day another script, another position to remember. We can't mix up Monday with Tuesday. The stage actor does his part and goes home. We do one day's episode, then we must immediately start rehearsing new lines, new positions for the next day."

Of his radio vs. his television days with GUIDING LIGHT, he said that naturally radio was easier because "you had a script in front of you...there was nothing to learn."

The most hectic time perhaps was the early days of television "when we did the show live. That was a nervous time and God forbid that you fluffed. Later when we went to tape it was not possible to cut and that sometimes posed problems. Now, we can stop if absolutely necessary but the pride of an actor is not to flub because it takes time if they have to stop and repeat a scene. Technically, television is so much advanced now that it's easier. When I look at the technical tricks they can do, it's amazing."

Amazing too to Goetz is the following an actor in a daytime drama can attract. "For the public," he said, his Viennese accent still quite intact, "I have become a father image. I get uncounted letters from women asking my advice on everything from how to bring up their children to how to treat their husband. They seem to think I'm in a position to give advice and for everything they turn to me.

"I sat once on a bus going to Jersey and a lady sat down next to me. She recognized me and said 'such a stroke of luck sitting next to you. Maybe you can help me' and then she divulged in an hour's trip all the intimacies of her marriage.

"It's still unbelievable to me that such things can happen, but they do happen all the time. I find it very embarrassing, when a total stranger tells you all - but all - of her experiences.

39,000 Happy Birthdays

Further proof of his popularity with GUIDING LIGHT's faithful fans is the fact that when his 69th birthday was mentioned on the air, he received 39,000 letters and telegrams.

Two years ago, at 75, he wanted to retire but was dissuaded. Now, at 77, the producers are talking to him about staying another three years. "I started to laugh," he said with a chuckle. "Imagine. In three more years I will be 80 years old" (chatting with him, this statistic seems inconceivable).

It would seem then that 25 years ago at age 52, Theo Goetz found a lifetime job. And since he was one of 106 actors who read for the part, it would be fascinating to know if the other 105 have survived, blossomed and flowered as well as Theo Goetz has.


  1. All this history and CBS turned it's back on this show. It's heartbreaking. Why didn't they hire better writers? The acting was and is there. The writing is what brought this show down to such low ratings as well as the time slot. CBS didn't care. They have let this show slip away with no loyalty of what this show brought to their network. Well, you know what CBS? I think viewers should show your network what it's like to loose the loyalty. I hope TPTB deeply regret this decision in the time to come. I mean deeply regret!!!

  2. A wonderful tribute to a wonderful actor. I highly encourage everyone unfamiliar with Papa Bauer to go to YT and check out some of his performances with Charita Bauer and Lyle Sudrow (the original Bill Bauer).

  3. ...and also go to for mp3's of the GL radio run in 1950 which has many performances from Theo.