Nola Reardon was a devious, conniving, nasty girl. However, she was played by a talented actress, Lisa Brown, whom Guiding Light wasn’t about to let get away. Nola needed to change, and it took the genius and imagination of late head writer Douglas Marland to create a truly memorable transformation.
Guiding Light — Nola’s Fantasies
For over a year, Nola made life miserable for Kelly Nelson (John Wesley Shipp) and Morgan Richards (Kristen Vigard). After her well-deserved comeuppance, she found herself alone and in need of some guidance. Ever the movie buff, she began fantasizing about herself in the lead of various old movies.
Douglas Marland explained his rationale in Christopher Schemering’s Guiding Light book. “After Nola’s comeuppance, she had to change, so I came up with an idea that would move her into a new realm of audience identification. Nola always related to everything on the basis of old movies – she used to make Kelly laugh with her obsession.
“The Reardons couldn’t afford to see the current films, so their TV lounge is where Nola took in every old movie and created a fantasy life for herself,” continued Marland. “She was always talking about A Place In The Sun with Elizabeth Taylor and Montgomery Clift. So when Nola was on the bus to get her abortion – which she decided against later – I thought this would be a terrific place to let her see herself as Elizabeth Taylor – to let her imagination flow. That worked so well that we did other movie takeoffs.”
Her imagination ran wild, as scenes from A Place In The Sun, Now, Voyager, Casablanca, Dracula, Wuthering Heights, The Wizard of Oz, Shipmates Forever, Dark Victory, and others, led her to make discoveries about herself and her life choices. Nola emerged a different person, one that an audience was ready to embrace and root for.
Lisa Brown and the cast of Guiding Light really shined during these fantasy sequences. Even Bette Davis wrote a fan letter to the show saying, “Tell Nola she has it!”
Douglas Marland noted at the time that “people are really responding to what we’re doing in all areas of the show. [Backstage] people are excited by doing something different – lighting people, set designers, cameramen, as well as the cast. If it’s having a positive effect on the people involved, it has to have a positive effect on our audience.”
The audience loved sharing Nola’s revelations and changes through this truly unique experience. Though other shows, both daytime and nighttime, have since copied Guiding Light’s idea, Douglas Marland’s fantasy sequences will always be the yardstick by which all others are measured.