Wednesday, August 22, 2012

ILLIGITIMATE OFFSPRING, ORTHODOX JEWS & SUSAN SARANDON ON SOAPS (OH, MY!)

In honor of Soap Classics releasing a new DVD set dedicated to Bob & Kim's wedding (including the introduction of Julianne Moore as Frannie), we take a look back at Bob and Kim's tortured relationship, which was very much based on the equally tortured life of GL AND ATWT's creator, Irna Phillips.

PERSONAL BEST  (Originally published 1/5/09)

These days, it's rare when a child on a soap opera isn't born illegitimate (or at least with some initial paternity confusion). Nobody thinks twice about it.

But back in 1939, when Guiding Light's Rose Kransky (an Orthodox Jewish girl - something else you don't see a lot of on soaps these days) became pregnant by her boss, Charles Cunningham, it was still a major scandal. Charles promised Rose that he would divorce his wife, Celeste, and marry Rose. Celeste countered by naming Rose as "the other woman," and allowing the newspapers to tar and feather her (in a way that, unfortunately, you still see all too much of these days).

Charles, ever the gentleman, stood up in court and proudly announced that he'd had nothing to do with Rose Kransky. Ever.

What a guy.

Despite a friend's offer of marriage, Rose decided to raise her son, Johnny, on her own. Her actions were inspired by events from GL creator Irna Phillips' own life.

In 1919, an eighteen year old Irna had an affair with an Ohio doctor and became pregnant. When he denied paternity, Irna took him to court and won. She was determined to raise the child on her own, but her infant was stillborn.

Of Rose, Irna said, "(I had her) follow a path I would have taken had my own baby lived."



In 1973, shortly before her death, Irna was still telling the story dear to her heart, this time with As The World Turns Kim becoming pregnant by her brother-in-law Bob, and vowing to raise the child on her own.

Irna said, "Kim Reynolds is really me -- at a much younger age. She's fiercely independent, as I was, and she won't settle for second best. She's having a child out of wedlock that will be only hers; I adopted two children, Kathy and Tommy, without having a husband. We're both the same. And she's going to have that child to prove that a woman can do it alone."



Unlike Rose Kransky, however, Kim did end up marrying a man she didn't love -- John Dixon (above) -- to give her child a name (when ratings plummeted in response to saintly Dr. Bob's affair, P&G fired Irna from ATWT and dropped her projected long-story for Kim). Tragically like Irna's, Kim's newborn ended up being stillborn. (For a few years, anyway, by 1986, the dead baby boy was a living, gorgeous, college-aged redhead with a British accent and played by future movie star Julianne Moore.)



Irna's daughter, Katherine Phillips, would go on to create the short-lived ABC soap opera, A World Apart, in 1970. It was the story of a soap writer, Betty Kahlman (played first by Elizabeth Lawrence - later Myra on AMC; and then by Augusta Dabney -- Anne Holmes on ATWT and best known as Isabelle Alden on Loving) who'd adopted and raised two children, a son and a daughter, on her own.

The title was supposed to refer to how Betty's workaholic tendencies kept her "a world apart" from her children. But Irna, who reportedly left her job at ATWT to help her daughter by becoming story editor on Katherine's fledgling show, gave the title a different spin, telling Variety, "It's indeed a world apart that we live in. Race is separated from race, parents are alienated from children -- and we hope to sew it up a little in A World Apart."

The soap, which lasted a little over a year, also starred Matthew Cowles (Mr. Christine Baranski and the infamous Billy Clyde on AMC), David Birney (one-time Mr. Meredith Baxter and star of St. Elsewhere), Susan Sullivan (Another World's Lenore, Falcon Crest's Maggie and the delightfully bitchy Kitty on Dharma & Greg), Robert Genry (Ed on GL and AMC's Ross; pictured with Lynn Adams who played son Rick's mother, Leslie), Dorothy Lyman (AW's Gwen and AMC's first Opal) and Susan Sarandon, who played Betty's daughter Patrice (i.e. Katherine Phillips) and recalled to TV Guide in 1988, "I loved it. I was the girl everything happened to. I aged from like 17 to 20 in a year. My boyfriend was this terrorist who was dying of mercury poisoning. I also had a nervous breakdown and became a nurse's aid -- all in about a month. And then I got pregnant -- after unbuttoning on button of my nurses uniform."

The final episode of A World Apart in 1971 dealt with unmarried Patrice having given birth to her own child.

Grandma Irna would be proud.

1 comment:

RakeshR said...

Thanks so much for posting this, P&G!

Irna was an amazing woman. Such a talented creator and writer. If only the EPs and HWs were smart like her, their show(s) would be doing so well.

Instead, these soaps are hiring terrible writers and production team members... Then when ratings decline, they panic like some little kid who did something really bad.

As for GL, it breaks my heart may indeed be the final year for GL. Ellen has done a wonderful with GL's production(I know I'm in the minority here.)She just need to demote David or get rid of him. He's doing a terrible job with GL and the show isn't getting any better at all... Writing makes up so much on a soap... like 75%? With crappy writing over and over, you better expect fans to tune out.

I'm praying for GL... I really am. I want this show to do so well. I have so much faith in this show and everyone at GL.