Rachel Ames, beloved for her role as Audrey Hardy on General Hospital, is celebrating a milestone. The actress turns 91 years old today! On this special occasion, Soap Hub is paying tribute to the life and career of this fan-favorite star.
Rachel Ames Turns 91
Before many of the actresses and characters who populate the GH canvas today were even born, Rachel Ames brought articulate and attractive Audrey March (later, Hardy) to Port Charles. Audrey, a flight attendant/nurse, arrived on the scene to visit her sister Lucille (Lucille Weeks), GH’s head nurse.
There was an instant love match between Audrey and Dr. Steve Hardy (John Beradino), but the road to happiness for the pair was fraught with conflict and more than a few medical maladies in keeping with the show’s theme.
The devoted nurse grappled with Steve’s devotion to General Hospital, was courted by a wealthy suitor (Randy Washburn), was diagnosed with lymphoma, encountered marital heartbreak, suffered a miscarriage, endured a divorce, helped Steve recover from paralysis, and was stunned to discover her late husband, Tom Baldwin, wasn’t dead after all! Ultimately, Audrey survived all of these obstacles, and she and Steve were wed. He adopted her son, Tommy, who’d been fathered by Tom.
Stepping Up During Lassa Fever
Rachel Ames began on GH when the series was half an hour, taped live, and aired in black and white. Over the years, she remained with the show when it went to color, expanded to 45 minutes in length, and then became a 60-minute serial. First a nurse at GH, Audrey later became head of student nurses.
In 1979, Audrey nearly lost Steve again during the Lassa fever epidemic, which resulted in General Hospital being quarantined. Steve had fallen into a coma, and Audrey was left to make a deeply emotional decision. She and Steve had learned that Steve had fathered a child, Jeff Webber (Richard Dean Anderson), now a grown man and doctor, with Helene Webber while she was estranged from her husband, Lars. Not knowing if a comatose Steve was going to survive or not, Audrey decided that Jeff needed to know the truth. “Steve Hardy is your father,” an emotional Audrey shared repeatedly with an understandably confused Jeff.
Devoted Aunt, Loving Mother
Around this time, Audrey’s niece, Anne Logan (Susan Pratt), a nurse, came to Port Charles and was romanced by Jeff. Audrey (Rachel Ames) supported Anne through her romantic ups and downs with both Jeff and Joe Kelly (Doug Sheehan) and when she was accused of killing Diana Taylor (Brooke Bundy). The Hardy home was a focal point during holiday episodes, and Steve and Audrey continued to give gravitas and a sense of warm familiarity to patients and personnel at General Hospital.
In 1987, Audrey proudly welcomed home her son, Tommy (David Wallace), now a grown man and a doctor. She feared Tommy would face discrimination because of his interracial relationship with Dr. Simone Ravelle (Laura Carrington). In the early 1990s, psychotic Ryan Chamberlin (Jon Lindstrom) attacked Audrey, who recovered thanks to support from both Steve and her psychiatrist pal Dr. Gail Baldwin (Susan Brown).
Losing Steve Hardy
In 1993, Steve and Audrey celebrated Steve’s 30 years at General Hospital, timed with the show’s 30 years on the air. Next, it appeared socially conscious GH was going to tell a story about the effects of Alzheimer’s with Audrey. (She appeared forgetful in a few scenes.) Before this story could fully develop, fate intervened when Beradino died in real life, leaving Audrey a widow. Her son Tom (now, Matthew Ashford), Gail, and other friends helped Audrey move forward following Steve’s death.
Like A Hole In Her Head
In 1997, Audrey was attacked again, this time in the primetime premiere of the GH spinoff Port Charles, by deranged Greg Cooper (David Holcomb). A group of medical interns, led by Joe Scanlon (Michael Dietz), literally drilled a hole in her head to relieve pressure in her skull, saving Audrey’s life in the process. The procedure became lore among future GH interns for some time.
Audrey continued to mourn Steve but had a new focus with the arrival of Jeff’s daughters — Sarah and Elizabeth Webber (Rebecca Herbst). Audrey supported Elizabeth after she’d been raped, which forced her to relive more vividly memories of her own sexual assault. Audrey feared for Liz’s safety after she became involved with mobsters Jason Morgan (Steve Burton) and Sonny Corinthos (Maurice Benard).
Ames stepped back from full-time acting in 2007, but viewers hadn’t seen the last of Audrey. Ames made a special appearance on GH’s 50th-anniversary episode on April 2, 2013, when a portrait of Steve was unveiled at the hospital. In 2015, viewers saw Audrey writing (and voicing) a heartfelt letter to Elizabeth as she prepared to marry Jake (Billy Miller).
Rachel Ames: Real Life
Born in Portland, Oregon, Ames followed in the professional footsteps of her actor parents, Dorothy Adams (Perry Mason) and Bryon Foulger (The Man With Nine Lives), by becoming a performer. She attended UCLA and performed in various stage productions, including The Immoralist and The Human Voice. Next, Ames headed for the screen, becoming a contract player to Paramount Pictures, appearing in the film When Worlds Collide. Her pre-GH TV credits include Wagon Train, Studio 57, and The Loretta Young Show.
Ames wed actor Barry Cahill (The Waltons) in 1968, and they remained together until his death in 2012. They have a daughter, Christine Cahill. Ames’ other daughter is Susan Thomas, and Ames is the proud grandmother of Susan’s children, Jocelyn, and Mark Thomas.
Nominated for three Daytime Emmys for her role as Audrey in 1974, 1975, and 1979, Ames was awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award in 2005 at the Daytime Emmys, along with several other long-running performers in the soap opera world. Soap Hub congratulates Ames on her milestone birthday and sends sincere appreciation to her for her many years as Audrey Hardy, a legendary General Hospital character.
General Hospital (GH) airs weekdays on ABC. Check your local listings for airtimes. For more about what’s coming up in Port Charles, check out all the latest that’s been posted on GH spoilers, and for an in-depth look at the show’s history, click here.
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