Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Remembering Woodbridge: A History of the Late, Great 'Secret Storm' (Part 10)

Dan Hamilton as Robert Landers and Ellen Barber as Joanna Morrison.
Remembering Woodbridge: A History of the Late, Great 'Secret Storm'

The Soap Box
Vol. IV No. 1 January 1979
by John Genovese

(continued from Part 9)

Joanna moved out of Belle's apartment and fell in love with Robert Landers, a carefree mechanic and race care driver, with whom she began a cozy living arrangement in the back of his garage. Belle and Robert's brief mutual antagonism soon turned to a hot and heavy affair behind Joanna's back. Robert charmed Belle into giving him money for his many racing stints. Robert had a secret of his own: unbeknownst to all others, he was Dan Kincaid's estranged son and was romping with Belle only to even the score with Dan for walking out on Robert's mother, Naomi Russell Landers!

Dan was released from prison and returned to Belle, but the marriage wasn't the same. Robert planned marriage to Joanna after he made her pregnant and realized that he was very much in love with her, but Brian suspected Joanna of having cancer and recommended a biopsy. Kevin went to London to have a delicate operation which enabled him to walk again, and it was there that Robert (who was in London for a race) admitted to Kevin that he was Dan's son.

Laurie and Mark purchased an old house which was believed to be "haunted." Laurie became obsessed with the figure of Georgina, a beautiful young girl who had lived in the house before it had been moved from another location. Georgina's sister was Lorene Post, one of the women active in the church, whose embittered stepdaughter, Doreen, came to town and stayed with the Reddins. Although Stace had the hots for Doreen, she preferred the more mature Mark who was unhappy and taking to drinking. Laurie hired a young fix-it man, Eric Kovac, to do some work at the house. As fate would have it, Eric was the psychotic ex-lover and murderer of Georgina! Laurie reminded Eric so much of Georgina that he convinced her that she was, indeed, Georgina.


The Secret Storm, once the fascinating portrait of a unique American family and their yearnings, was now spinning paper-thin yarns about haunted houses, alcoholic ex-priests, and sperm banks. Most of the Ames family had been scattered to the four winds. The Herald and the Clarion, those competing publications which provided the springboard for so many priceless scenes, and Tyrell's, the lasting monument to Peter Ames's rise to fortune, were no more. CBS simply threw up its programming hands and gave up. And on February 8, 1974--twenty years and one week after the compelling premiere of this institution--audiences were forced to leave Woodbridge.

The last episode was perhaps more chaotic and farcical than a random installment of Dark Shadows: Laurie was pinned by Kovac who tried to strangle her in her bed until she shoved him and he fell through a mirror, dying instantly; Msgr. Quinn died and Mark resolved to leave Laurie and return to God; Stace returned with Kevin from London and decided to mosey on out of town and into the sunset; Brian gave up his losing battle for Amy; Joanna's biopsy proved negative; and Amy came home from Brian's office to find Kevin rising from his wheelchair and walking toward her. As Kevin took a clumsy fall to the floor, Amy, Lisa, little Danielle, and stalwart Valerie joined in the gaiety as cameras faded to black.

There were hundreds of major performers on The Secret Storm over those twenty years, but we'll merely list the most important ones.

Peter Ames was played by Peter Hobbs until 1962, Cec Linder from 1962 to '64, Ward Costello from 1964 to '66, and Lawrence Weber until 1968.

Grace Tyrell was portrayed by the inimitable Majorie Gateson until the actress took ill in 1969. Margaret Barker briefly replaced Miss Gateson until Eleanor Phelps took over permanently.

The actress synonymous with with the role of Amy is, of course, Jada Rowland. She was replaced for a while during her childhood by Beverly Lunsford and in the early 1970s by Lynne Adams for a year before Jada returned to the role.

There were several Susans: Jean Mowry, Rachel Taylor, Mary Foskett, Toni Darnay and Mary McGregor among them. But Judy Lewis was by far the most popular in the role and carried off Susan's two bouts with alcoholism with Emmy-caliber brilliance.

Jerry Ames was briefly played by Robert Morse, who later became a popular film actor, before such performers as Warren Berlinger, Ken Gerard, Wayne Tippit, Peter White and Stephen Bolster handled the role.

Arthur Rysdale was originally played by Lester Rawlins, then the late and great John Baragrey who interpreted the role.

Kip Rysdale was David O'Brien, Don Galloway and Ed Griffith.

Paul Britton was handled by six actors, all of them familiar serial names: Jed Allan, Ed Kemmer, Ryan McDonald, Nicolas Coster, Conard Fowkes and Linden Chiles.

In the Hill family, Valerie Hill Ames Northcote was portrayed for ten years by Lori March, Janet was Bibi Besch, and Bob was originated by movie great Roy Schneider, who preceded Justin McDonough and Edward Winter.

Frank Carver was originally Laurence Luckinbill, who was succeeded by Jack Ryland and Robert Loggia.

Marla Adams and Bernard Barrow as Belle and Dan Kincaid.
Belle was the memorable and unlovable Marla Adams, whose scenes with Bernard Barrow as Dan Kincaid really made the last days of the show palatable.

Dr. Ian Northcote was originally portrayed by actor-director Gordon Rigsby, who doubled as black sheep Owen. During the show's final year, Ian was played by Lori March's real-life husband, distinguished actor-announcer Alexander Scourby.

And so many other big names graced Woodbridge: Jay Jostyn as Dr. Spence Hadley, Biff McGuire as Bruce Edwards, both James Broderick and Frank Sutton in the role of Joe Sullivan, James Pritchett as Jeff Nichols, Diana Muldaur as Ann Wicker, Julie Wilson as Brooke Lawrence, Margaret Hamilton as Grace's beloved maid Katie, Joanna Miles as Mary Lou Carver, George Reinholt as Erik Fulda, Jeffrey Lynn as Charlie Clements, Joel Crothers as Ken Stevens, Barbara Rodell as Jill Clayborn, Jane Rose as Aunt Aggie, Keith Charles courted Amy twice on the serial in two different roles and lost both times--once as Nick Kane, and later as Brian Neeves. Joan Crawford actually stepped in for her ailing daughter, Christina Crawford, as Joan Borman Kane. Troy Donahue came in to play the villainous Keefer. George Rose did a stint as Dr. Ira Bromfield, Kevin's surgeon.

So many greats and we've only scratched the surface.

This tribute to daytime's most severe casualty is not a mere nostalgia piece. It is a living reminder to an institution in broadcasting which need not have been injured or slaughtered because of a rash of mismanagement. Let this be a lesson to the serial world that when in doubt, return to story roots.

The roots of the Ames family cannot and must not be forgotten. Nor must the sizable contributions of Roy Winsor and Gloria Monty, whose combined genius made The Secret Storm the success that it was. Nor must we overlook those priceless story moments, whether they be the highly turbulent confrontations or the quiet moments at tea in Grace Tyrell's living room.

Let us always remember The Secret Storm.


  1. I still remember the first day Marla Adams appeared on Y&R as Dina Abbott aka "Madame Mergeron." Grandma walked through the room and said, "Oh, now it's gonna get good! You kids are gonna love her." She then told us about some of the stories Belle had been involved in on The Secret Storm. I always thought Bill Bell specifically hired Adams to play the missing-in-action Dina because of the cache of built-in scandal that came with her from when she played the notorious Belle Clemens Kincaid. This series has been a very interesting read. Thanks for sharing!

    1. What did you think about Dina on Y&R? I never warmed up to the character, although some of it I missed before I had a VCR. Y&R has so much focus on the Abbotts but Keemo never existed, Dina is a distant memory, and even Traci can only be mentioned and not seen.

    2. Roger, I really like Dina. Her first story involved the secret takeover attempt of Jabot as the mysterious Madame Mergeron, which also revealed that there was now a love triangle with Dina's young lover, Eric Garrison, and her daughter, Ashley. It was hampered, though, because the actor playing Eric (Brian Matthews), was rather weak. But I really liked Dina's relationship with Kay and her serving as another nemesis to Brenda Dickson's Jill. Adams also connected with Terry Lester in their complex mother-son relationship and Jack's abandonment issues, which were supposed to explain his treatment of women.

      I believe Marla still resides on the Westside of L.A. (Santa Monica maybe?) She appeared in a play at a local theatre here a couple of years ago. Would love to get her thoughts on Secret Storm and other subjects. And yeah, Dina and, once again, Traci get no air play. Heck! The show barely gives us Jill now.

  2. I really enjoyed reading this series, thanks!

  3. I will always remember "The Secret Storm". I watched all the CBS soaps growing up and I miss them all.

  4. I will always remember "The Secret Storm". I watched all the CBS soaps growing up and I miss them all.

    1. I'm the youngest of four siblings and my mother watched CBS Daytime all day every day. I was talking with my older brother not long ago and he talked about Secret Storm and Where the Heart Is, and I realized I just missed the cutoff for a lot more soaps. My earliest clear memories are of Search for Tomorrow.

    2. Growing up in NY, when soaps were a half hour my mom watched all three networks. Because the line up on all three stations were game show, soap, game show, so when one station had on a game show at least one of the other stations had a soap, so my mom switched around all day long. The first soaps I remember were Love of Life, and Where the Heart Is, (best memory was when hippies spiked the chocolates of the DA with LSD). When soaps expanded to an hour my mom stuck with ABC. So I didn't return to NBC and CBS until I was 18.

  5. No June Carter as Amy? Was it ever confirmed that this was THE June Carter (Cash), who studied acting in NYC at the time?