General Hospital is celebrating its 58th birthday today. The show debuted on April 1, 1963, and is television’s longest scripted series currently still on the air.
General Hospital Celebrates
Created by Frank and Doris Hursley, GH told tales of patients who came to General Hospital but also delved into the private lives of the doctors and nurses who treated those patients.
Original cast members John Beradino (Dr. Steve Hardy) and Emily McLaughlin (Jessie Brewer, R.N.) were mainstays throughout the show’s first few decades. After ratings had fallen, emergency surgery was needed to save the show in the late 1970s. Head writer Douglas Marland and producer Gloria Monty invigorated GH by adding new characters, sprucing up the sets, quickening the pace, using new lighting techniques — all the while making sure Steve and Jessie were still central to the stories.
Steve learned that he had fathered young doctor Jeff Webber (Richard Dean Anderson) when Jeff’s mother Helene was separated from her husband Lars. Meanwhile, Jessie took in as a roommate ace student nurse Bobbie Spencer (Jacklyn Zeman), a former “working girl.” Jessie also enjoyed a late-in-life romance with hospital administrator Dan Rooney (Frank Maxwell).
Two major dynamics that dominated the action in the late 1970s/early 1980s were the quadrangle involving doctors Lesley Webber (Denise Alexander), Rick Webber (Chris Robinson), Monica Quartermaine (Leslie Charleson), and Alan Quartermaine (Stuart Damon). Rick and Monica planned a future together, but once Alan revealed that Alan Quartermaine (A.J.) was indeed his son (courtesy of the rare Bombay phenotypes syndrome), all bets were off. Rick and Lesley re-wed. Alan and Monica stayed together.
The other big story was Luke (Anthony Geary) and Laura (Genie Francis) going on the run, first taking down Frank Smith (George Gaynes) and the mob, and then saving the world from being frozen by Mikkos Cassadine (John Colicos). The couple’s wedding brought in a record 30 million viewers.
GH’s popularity soared like never before. The ABC serial scored covers on mainstream publications Newsweek (dubbing GH “TV’s Hottest Show”) and People magazine, featuring Francis, Geary, and GH super-fan Elizabeth Taylor, who did a brief turn as Helena Cassadine. (“My curse on you, Laura and Luke!”)
Other couples emerged as the 1980s progressed including Scorpio (Tristan Rogers) and Holly (Emma Samms); Frisco (Jack Wagner) and Felicia (Kristina Wagner); and Anna Devane (Finola Hughes) and Duke Lavery (Ian Buchanan). Super-spies and action/adventure tales took center stage. The irrepressible Lucy Coe (Lynn Herring) made the scene.
GH was helmed by producer Wendy Riche and head writer Claire Labine (Ryan’s Hope) in the 1990s. The show thoughtfully addressed stories involving HIV/AIDS and breast cancer. It appeared as if Audrey (Rachel Ames) was going to be diagnosed with Alzheimer’s but on-screen husband Beradino passed away in 1996; Steve’s death was written into the show and Audrey’s Alzheimer’s was scrapped.
Two heart-breaking tales were Stone (Michael Sutton) dying of AIDS and Maxie (Robyn Richards; Kirsten Storms) receiving the heart of her late cousin B.J. (Brighton Hertford).
Many new dynamic characters arrived on the canvas in this decade — Laura’s son Nikolas Cassadine (Tyler Christopher; Marcus Coloma) and Bobbie’s daughter Carly (Sarah Brown; Tamara Braun; and, current portrayer, Laura Wright), Stefan Cassadine (Stephen Nichols), and Alexis Davis (AKA Natasha Alexandra Mikkosovna Cassadine) played by Nancy Lee Grahn.
In the 2000s, GH’s producer was Jill Farren Phelps; head writers included Robert Guza, Jr., Charles Pratt, Jr., and Megan McTavish. The mob continued to be a driving force on the show. Anti-hero Sonny Corinthos (Maurice Benard) and his righthand man Jason Morgan (Steve Burton) waged war on villains including Luis Alcazar (Ted King), Faith Rosco (Cynthia Preston), Manny Ruiz (Robert LaSardo), Anthony Zacchara (Bruce Weitz), Claudia Zacchara (Sarah Brown), and many others.
Three couples emerged as fan favorites — Sonny and Carly; Sam (Kelly Monaco) and Jason; and Robin (Kimberly McCullough) and Dr. Patrick Drake (Jason Thompson).
In 2012, executive producer Frank Valentini and head writer Ron Carlivati, fresh off a successful run on One Life to Live, took the creative helm at GH just in time for the show’s 50th anniversary. In addition to introducing many entertaining characters including Dr. Britt Westmore (Kelly Thiebaud) and her mother, Dr. Liesl Obrecht (Kathleen Gati), the creative team dipped into the show’s past to honor the stories and characters that thrived in GH’s Golden Age.
The Nurses Ball was revived. Felicia finally chose Mac (John J. York) over Frisco, Lesley and Monica revisited their feud over Rick but found common ground as loving mothers. Viewers saw the returns of Brenda (Vanessa Marcil), Duke Lavery, A.J. Quartermaine (Sean Kanan), and Cesar Faison (Anders Hove). Kelly Sullivan turned in daily tour-de-force performances as Connie Falconeri AKA Kate Roberts; Maura West and William deVry joined the show as siblings Ava and Julian Jerome.
Valentini and the show’s current head writing team Chris Van Etten and Dan O’Connor continue to mine the show’s rich history while telling current tales with the show’s wide variety of characters. GH’s cast includes characters from the 1960s: Scotty (Johnny Whitaker; now, Kin Shriner); the 1970s: Laura, Bobbie, Monica, and Lesley; the 1980s: Scorpio, Anna, Lucy, Ned (Wally Kurth), and Felicia; the 1990s: Mac, Maxie, Carly, Sonny, Kevin (Jon Lindstrom), Taggert (Réal Andrews), and Elizabeth (Rebecca Herbst).
The 2000s have brought Dante Falconeri (Dominic Zamprogna), Michael Corinthos (Chad Duell), Hamilton Finn (Michael Easton), Molly Lansing (Haley Pulos), Diane Miller (Carolyn Hennesy), Curtis (Donnell Turner), Jordan (Briana Henry), Nelle (Chloe Lanier), Brando (Johnny Wactor), Martin Gray (Michael E. Knight), Harrison Chase (Josh Swickard), Cyrus Renault (Jeff Kober), Josslyn (Eden McCoy), Trina (Sydney Mikayla), and Steve Hardy’s great-grandson, Cameron Webber (William Lipton).
In an innovative casting move, the show hired daytime favorite Kim Delaney (ex-Jenny, All My Children) to play the part of Jackie Templeton, Scorpio’s old flame — the role originated by Demi Moore.
Over the course of its 58 years, GH has had spinoff series including Port Charles (1997-2003), which ran on ABC, and Night Shift, which aired on SOAPnet in 2007 and 2008. Soap Hub wishes General Hospital a happy 58th anniversary and many more to come! General Hospital (GH) airs weekdays on ABC. Check your local listings for airtimes.