Tuesday, January 26, 2010

50 Greatest Soap Actresses: #13 Mary Stuart

NAME: Mary Stuart
RANK: 13
SOAP ROLES: Meta Bauer, GUIDING LIGHT (1996-2002); Claire Webber, ONE LIFE TO LIVE (1998); Joanne Gardner, SEARCH FOR TOMORROW (1951-1986); THE FIRST HUNDRED YEARS (1950-1951)

1986 Soap Opera Digest Award nomination for Outstanding Contribution by an Actor/Actress to the Form of Continuing Drama who is currently on a Daytime Serial
1985 Daytime Emmy Special Recognition Award for her longevity and contribution to SEARCH FOR TOMORROW
1977 Daytime Emmy nomination for Outstanding Actress in a Daytime Drama Series
1976 Daytime Emmy nomination for Outstanding Actress in a Daytime Drama Series
1974 Daytime Emmy nomination for Best Actress in Daytime Drama - For a Series
1962 Primetime Emmy nomination for Outstanding Continued Performance by an Actress in a Series (Lead) for SEARCH FOR TOMORROW

Nelson Aspen: Where do I begin? I grew up admiring Mary on a daily basis, thanks to my grandmother's devotion to SFT. When I came to work with her in the '80s my admiration only multiplied exponentialy. She was a pioneer of the genre and watching her work, from script through rehearsal to on-air, was the greatest education anyone in this industry could have. She could do it all, and usually did! Any critic who contended, "Oh, she's just playing herself," never knew the real Mary! She was not only my mentor, but my acting coach...and taught me myriad "tricks" to performing on camera, but more importantly the art of CONVERSATION on camera. She never relied on gimmicks to make her interesting...she just WAS, no matter what the scene. She could make you laugh, cry, care. Even though she did a short stint on OLTL as a judge, I was as thrilled as she was when she recreated the role of "Meta" on GL. (I am proud to say I wrote a 'bible" of the character's history for her...) Mary proved her formidable acting prowess when she moved into the Bauer household as a fiesty but loving matriarch...making the audience believe she'd been there all along! Her scenes with Susan Pratt's "Claire" are still among my favorite of her career. Even as she was suffering with cancer at the end, she kept "Meta" alive for GL fans with the same beautiful, natural style she debuted on the first episode of SFT in 1951. Her autobiography (if you can find it), BOTH OF ME, is must-read material for any fan of daytime history.

Connie Passalacqua Hayman (Marlena De Lacroix): Charita Bauer and Mary Stuart. Mom and home for decades. The shoulder you still want to rest your head on. How we miss them.

Alan Carter: She created the role of the smart, confident soap heroine who couldn't pick the right man to save her apron. Rather than the audience thinking she was a complete dolt, Stuart infused the character with charm and grace.

Mimi Torchin: I miss Mary. She was always a lady, always a graceful presence. And she was a superb actress.

Roger Newcomb: SEARCH FOR TOMORROW was the first soap opera I ever remember watching. My mother kept our television on CBS all day and SEARCH for on during lunchtime. Mary Stuart was a calming and mothering presence at that point and my mother loved Jo and Stu as if they had been around forever.

Louan Gideon: (worked with Stuart on SFT) Mary was such the Grande Dame already when I joined SEARCH FOR TOMORROW, and I felt that she went out of her way to make me, a total newcomer, feel at ease on the set, in the makeup chair, while waiting and drinking coffee in the green room, etc.

I went to a party at her apartment once and was struck by the sheer size of it. I was sharing a one bedroom at the time, and Mary's home seemed palatial. It was also decorated in such elegant taste. (Or perhaps it was just MY taste, which I think is elegant!)I remember attending that wonderful party more than any others that I attended while living in NYC - the people, the piano, the great views - it was SO NEW YORK!!

I remember hearing Mary and Larry ("Stu") laughing and laughing over all sorts of things. My they adored each other and had such a great time. It gave the set a "family-type" feel to hear the two of them chuckling and chatting. And they'd ad lib a lot, too! Got away with murder, script-wise....but I think they always improved it and evidently, so did the directors, because they usually left in anything off-script that they did. Mary and Larry certainly knew the show biz ropes of New York City.

Rebecca Budig: (worked with Stuart on GL) She had heart. She was so generous.


  1. Our Mary is still with me every single day! If you're an admirer of her work, by all means try and find a copy of her autobiography BOTH OF ME. And you may also enjoy the chapter "My Mentor, Mary Stuart" in my book HOLLYWOOD INSIDER: EXPOSED!

  2. Another interesting note about Mary: she was the first daytime actress nominated for an Emmy! This was before they had a seperate category for "Daytime." If memory serves, she was up against Shirley Booth and Mary Tyler Moore. It was quite a groundbreaking accomplishment for a "soap" actress to be recognized for her TV talents.

  3. Mary was truly amazing. My Mom was a fan of Search which is how I got hooked. From those days of going home for lunch and watching was going on in Henderson to taping it while I was at university, I always looked forward to seeing Mary/Jo.
    I remember being at a Chapters waiting on a friend when I picked up a magazine and saw that Mary had passed away. Though I'd never met her, I felt like I'd lost a member of my family. She is still missed.

  4. I'm so happy Mary Stuart made it on to your list. I was worried she wouldn't be on there!

    SFT was one of the first soaps I watched as a kid and while most of my memories of it have faded, certain things have stayed with me: my love of Jo and Stu most of all. (And of course the hotness of David Forsyth as Hogan McCleary, lol)

    Mary Stuart was truly one of a kind :)

  5. If you look closely, you can see Mary in the chorus during the "Lucky In Love" number in the classic MGM musical "Good News."

    She was, quite simply, the best of the best.

  6. ...Plus she's a very Judy Garland-esque leading lady to Errol Flynn in THE ADVENTURES OF DON JUAN!

  7. Mary was one of a kind. I didn't see most of her SFT run but she instantly lifted the spirits of every GL scene she graced, and she always brought a smile to my face or a tear to my eye. I miss her.

  8. I remember coming home from school at lunchtime and watching "Search for Tomorrow" and "The Guiding Light." Memories of Jo, especially their Christmas episodes.