DAY BY DAY
January 4, 2009 marks the 55th anniversary of the television debut of The Brighter Day, a Procter & Gamble soap which aired for eight years on CBS.
The radio version actually premiered in 1948 on NBC, a spin-off from another Irna Phillips created show, Joyce Jordan MD. The last few weeks of the latter had introduced a new character, Liz Dennis, and The Brighter Day proceeded to focus on the Dennis family. (A similar tactic was used thirty years later to spin Texas off from Another World. New families were introduced in Bay City, then promptly sent off to Houston.)
Liz, however, was happily married and on the back-burner by the time the show made its transition to television. Reverend Richard Dennis, his daughters Althea, Patsy and Babby took center-stage instead.
With a minister at its center, The Brighter Day was the first TV soap to have an explicitly religious theme. (Guiding Light and Reverend Ruthledge had served a similar purpose on the radio from 1937 to 1946.)
Though born Jewish, Irna Phillips recalled in her unpublished memoir, All My Worlds a time when she was eighteen years old and "I never had any formal religious training... However, I knew something very important was missing from my life. Like many young people I wanted to believe in something. I don't know why, but for some reason I did not turn to Judaism. At this stage in my life I was still uncommunicative and did not express my feelings to anyone. I did learn, however, of Dr. Preston Bradley and the People's Church. Each Sunday morning Dr. Bradley held services in the theatre on Wilson Avenue which was only a few blocks from my home. Doctor Bradley's church was nondenominational; people of all creeds and races were welcome. Although I don't consider myself a religious person, I have never forgotten the underlying theme of Dr. Bradley's approach to religion -- the brotherhood of man."
Both Guiding Light and The Brighter Day spoke to Irna's personal beliefs.
Among the better known names to appear on the show during its run were Hal Holbrook (pictured above), James Noble (Benson's Governor), Forrest Compton (Mike; The Edge of Night), Nancy Malone (Naked City) and Patty Duke (The Miracle Worker) who was replaced by Lanna Saunders (Marie; DOOL). The Brighter Day also boasted the first African-American series regular, Rex Ingram.
For more on The Brighter Day, click here.