Harding Lemay Dead at 96

Daytime Emmy winning writer Harding Lemay died peacefully on May 26. He was 96.

Lemay was born into rural poverty on March 16, 1922, near his mother's St. Regis Mohawk Indian reservation in North Bangor, New York. The fifth of thirteen children, he escaped his parents' alcoholism and his father's suicide by running away to New York City at age 17, finding early refuge at the famous Brace Memorial Newsboys' Home.

The Brace Home gave them a roof, food, and even provided them with job placement so they could earn a salary and improve their lot in life. He worked in a library, returning books to the shelves, and met a librarian who assigned him a classic book a week to read. She would discuss the book with him. This was like having a private tutor. He also worked for a stationer delivering packages. But he was determined to become an actor. As luck would have it, he was invited to attend a party where he met the brilliant Broadway star, Pauline Lord, who just happened to be a Trustee of the Neighborhood Playhouse. Through her recommendation he received a full scholarship without an audition. After three months at the Playhouse he was drafted and served the next four years in the army, eventually in Germany. When he returned, he completed his training at the Playhouse on the G. I. Bill. His classmates included wonderful actresses like Marian Seldes, Barbara Baxley, and Anne Meacham (whom he later cast as Louise Goddard in Another World). It was while he was on a forty week tour as Jack in "The Importance of Being Earnest" that he realized he wasn't a very good actor and began writing plays. That was his true calling.

Lemay ventured into television with a 13-week stint as writer for Canadian supernatural soap opera Strange Paradise.

He published his autobiography, "Inside, Looking Out: A Personal Memoir" in 1971. The reviews were favorable. He started receiving calls from executives at daytime soap operas to see if he would be interested in writing scripts. He loved writing plays but knew nothing about writing for soap operas. He did respond to interest from Procter & Gamble regarding head writing Another World. Between 1971 and 1979, he was in charge and chronicled his daytime role in the compelling book, "Eight Years In Another World".

While at Another World, Lemay co-created Lovers and Friends with Paul Rauch, later retooled and referred to as For Richer, For Poorer.

Lemay won a second Emmy as part of Douglas Marland's writing team at Guiding Light (Marland had honed his craft working for Lemay for a time on Another World). He went on to write for The Doctors before it's cancellation in 1982, and had a short stint at Search for Tomorrow.

He was asked to return to Another World in 1988 but a writers strike and clashes with interim head writer Donna Swajeski led him to quit (she stayed for four more years).

Lemay served a story consultant at One Life to Live in 1988.

Aside from his work in soap operas, Lemay was a playwright, teacher, memoirist and editor. He has had many plays produced both in the United States and abroad, including "The Oakland Sisters" in 2016.

Lemay is survived by his beloved widow, Gloria Gardner.

RELATED:
- We Love Soaps Interview with Harding Lemay (2009)
- Harding Lemay Appears on 1982 Media Probes Episode

3 comments:

  1. Rest in peace. Thank you for the many, many hours of outstanding daytime drama.

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  2. I loved his work on “Another World,” but I never forgave him for firing Jacqueline Courtney.

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  3. I think LeMay was a brilliant writer, but his own arrogance eventually got in the way. There are some truly beautiful moments during his reign at AW, but 1977 the shiw was a mess. Too many actors and stories in and out. The 90 minute experiemwnt was disaster that AW never recovered from.

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