TALE OF TWO DENNISES
Earlier on this blog, we've waxed poetic about the tight bond between Another World's Mac Cory and his stepson, Jamie Frame and ATWT's Burke Donovan and his stepson, Dusty.
Today, we take a look at another equally loving relationship between a man and the boy that he raised as his own (even though he wasn't): Texas' Elliot and Dennis Carrington.
Viewers of Another World first met the father/son duo in 1972, when Alice Frame, erroneously convinced for the umpteenth time that Steve preferred Rachel over her, fled to New York City and got a job as a private nurse for Dennis, a pre-teen with congenital heart disease. Dennis' dad, Elliot, was separated from his jet-setting wife, Iris Cory, and Elliot and Alice soon found themselves falling for each other.
When Dennis' condition worsened, Alice convinced Elliot to bring the boy to Bay City for treatment (after all, where are you more likely to find a world class pediatric cardiologist, if-you-can-make-it-there-you-can-make-it-anywhere-New-York or Bay City, population-three-dozen-or-so?). Iris, more worried about Elliot and Alice's burgeoning relationship than about her sickly son, followed. As did her dad, the wealthy and powerful Mac Cory.
Child actor Mike Hammett played Dennis from 1972 until May of 1978 (look for our interview with a now grown Mike, coming soon). By June of that same year, Jim Poyner had stepped into the role and the former high-school student was ready to graduate college and embark on an affair with one of his mother's dearest friends, the Countess Elena de Poulignac.
Soon afterwords, Dennis fell for Elena's stepdaughter, Cecile (viewers would learn much later down the road that Elena was, in fact, Cecile's biological mother, but that isn't relevant here). Elena, being oh so cosmopolitan and sophisticated and European, was perfectly fine with the development, even promising Dennis that she would keep their affair a secret from Cecile. Anyone who has ever watched a soap before -- want to guess how that worked out?
In 1980, after being seduced and dumped by Cecile as part of Cecile's plan to get back at Iris, a crushed Dennis decided to move to Houston, Texas, for a fresh start. When Iris visited her son, she was shocked to see a familiar face from her past, Alex Wheeler -- Dennis' biological father.
Iris moved to Houston to be closer to Dennis and Alex. When the truth about his parentage came out, Iris felt sure that Dennis would be thrilled to have a new Daddy, especially since Elliot had been presumed dead in Eastern Europe.
Dennis was not thrilled. Neither was Elliot, who returned mentally ill after being tortured in a prisoner-of-war camp.
Though, after a violent breakdown, Elliot was able to recover and move on with his life, Elliot's relationship with Dennis' ex-wife, Paige, pushed the vulnerable and fragile Dennis over the edge.
Convinced that Paige was trying to come between him and his father (you know, kind of like mom Iris did when she destroyed Dennis' entire world with her bombshell), Dennis decided to play a porno movie Paige had made years back over the local television station.
In this episode, Elliot desperately attempts to save his beloved son from himself, in a series of agonizingly moving scenes, starring Jim Poyner as Dennis and Daniel Davis (who'd go on to play the butler on The Nanny) as Elliot.
Later in the episode, a psychiatrist guesses that a portion of Dennis' mental collapse can be blamed on his upbringing and his difficult relationship with Iris. No argument here.
Dennis would eventually leave Texas. He returned to Bay City briefly in 1989 to celebrate the 25th Anniversary of Cory Publishing (really the 25th Anniversary of Another World) and more permanently in 1991.
Now calling himself Dennis Wheeler and played by Chris Bruno, he seemed to have gotten over his pesky emotional issues, not to mention his deep love for Elliot. The emotionally fragile young man of Texas had been replaced by an arrogant stud who laughingly bet Jake Dennis could steal Marley away from her fiance, Dennis' childhood best friend, Jamie!
To watch Dennis in action on Another World, check out the episodes currently airing on Hulu.com, and let us know which Dennis -- Carrington or Wheeler -- you perfer!