The Edge of Night had it all. Labyrinthine plots, witty and rapid-fire banter, and an emphasis on mystery – though the more conventional soap opera trappings were ever-present. Today marks the 65th anniversary of EDGE’s debut, and in celebration, Soap Hub invites you to revisit this truly unique gem.
A Celebration of The Edge of Night
For all intents and purposes, EDGE was an afterthought. Executives at CBS had grown so enamored with the idea of launching television’s first 30-minute daytime drama – As the World Turns – that they decided to add a second one to their lineup.
The initial plan had been to adapt the recently canceled radio serial Perry Mason, but its creator, Erle Stanley Gardner, refused to give his consent.
So instead, that program’s former head writer, Irving Vendig, was tasked with creating a similar product. Irony of ironies, actor John Larkin, who had voiced the titular do-gooder, was hired to play the Perry Mason facsimile, Mike Karr.
According to advertisements at the time, EDGE was, “an absorbing story of divided loyalties…the conflict between a man’s devotion to duty and his devotion to a woman.”
Karr, a police lieutenant soon to graduate from law school, was the conflicted man, and the woman he loved was Sarah, the white sheep of the nefarious Lane family. The show would run from April 2, 1956, through December 28, 1984.
* Dubbed “TV’s most merciless soap opera” by TIME magazine
* The first line of dialogue was spoken by Don Hastings (Jack Lane), an actor best known for his portrayal of As the World Turns’ Bob Hughes, M.D.
* A scene featuring the villainous Teresa Vetter blackmailing her lawyer into submission – lest she reveal his extramarital affair – was included in the 1989 film Driving Miss Daisy.
* Sarah Lane’s death resulted in such an unprecedented outcry from fans that CBS had to hire extra operators and mailroom personnel to handle the influx of angry phone calls and hate mail.
The latter is said to have numbered well into the thousands, and one such missive informed the soap’s sponsors that its sender had baked a “Pet-Ritz cherry pie” on the morning of the day “that terrible episode” aired and they could “hardly eat if for supper” afterward.
The response was so overwhelming, that actress Teal Ames was required to film a special scene ostensibly proving herself to be alive and well and showing that it had only been her fictional counterpart that had met a grizzly end.
Within two years, all had been forgiven and forgotten, and the viewers were swooning over the budding romance between Mike and intrepid reporter Nancy Pollock.
* In addition to Mike and Nancy, memorable couplings included Adam and Nicole Drake, Draper and April Cavanaugh, and Schuyler Whitney (Larkin Malloy), and Raven Alexander (Sharon Gabet).
* Humorist P.G. Wodehouse, lyricist and composer Cole Porter, and impressionist Rich Little were among the soap’s most well-known devotees.
* Elanor Roosevelt and Bette Davis each wrote at least one effusive fan letter, and Joan Crawford reportedly telephoned producer Erwin “Nick” Nicholson to inform him of a plot point she feared the scriptwriters were overlooking.
* Actress Tallulah Bankhead was perhaps EDGE’s most ardent and vocal admirer. She frequently wined and dined the show’s producers and directors in the hopes that they would let slip some tantalizing storyline teases.
According to popular lore, Bankhead once grew so frustrated watching an inept heroine continuously try and fail to rid herself of a persistent stalker that she sent a telegram to a high-ranking executive with her own inelegant solution: “Why doesn’t she just shoot the bastard?”
We Knew Them When
* Larry Hagman (Ed Gibson), Dixie Carter (Brandy Henderson), Marcia Cross (Liz Correll), Lori Loughlin (Jody Travis), Frances Fisher (Deborah Saxon), and Holland Taylor (Denise Cavanaugh) are the most notable EDGE alumni.
* Hollywood luminaries John Travolta and Julianne Moore (Carmen Engler) each made fleeting appearances on EDGE early in their careers.
One year before the launch of the separate Daytime Emmy ceremony, EDGE won a Primetime Emmy in the Outstanding Program Achievement in Daytime Drama category. In 1974, it won the Daytime Emmy for Outstanding Writing; subsequently, it received two Technical Emmys.
Location, Location, Location
* For 24 of the 28 years that EDGE was produced, the opening title sequence included a photo of the Cincinnati skyline, which served as a stand-in for the serial’s setting, Monticello.
Perhaps this particular city was chosen since the Proctor and Gamble company – who produced the soap – was headquartered there. In 1980, the opening credits sequence shunted the Ohio metropolis in favor of photos taken in and around Los Angeles, California.
The Grand Finale
As EDGE ended, another mystery began. Two villains – one supposedly imprisoned for life, the other presumed dead – made their returns known. And while Louis Van Dine did so with a murderous flourish, Donald Hext adopted a more subtle approach. He left a dueling saber, the cause of his ruination, on the doorstep of the Whitney mansion.
By the Numbers
Of the 7,420 episodes of The Edge of Night produced during its 28-year run, there are 1,798 available for syndication.