You may have found Guiding Light on your own or you might have been introduced to it through a beloved grandparent or another family member. Either way, once you watched your first episode of this historic soap, you were hooked. Take a look back with us at landmark stories and moments on the 10th anniversary of the show’s cancellation.
In The Beginning…
Irna Phillips created The Guiding Light, which debuted as a 15-minute radio drama on January 25, 1937. On June 30, 1952, GL switched over to television. On March 13, 1967, the soap aired its first color episode. It extended to 30 minutes on September 9, 1968. On November 7, 1977, the show expanded to a full hour.
Guiding Light won three Daytime Emmys for Outstanding Drama Series in 1980, 1982, and 2007. The show won a total of 106 awards over its lifetime.
Beloved actress Charita Bauer played Bertha “Bert” Bauer (the surnames were a coincidence), the loving matriarch of the Bauer clan. Agnes Nixon wrote a uterine cancer storyline for Bert in the early 1960s, prompting viewers to get their own pap smears.
Through The Decades
In the 1970s, the characters of Roger Thorpe (Michael Zaslow), Ed Bauer (Mart Hulswit), Holly Norris (Maureen Garrett), and Rita Stapleton (Lenore Kasdorf) were in the forefront as head writers Bridget and Jerome Dobson addressed the topic of marital rape.
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Douglas Marland took over the writing in late 1979. He won two Daytime Emmys for Outstanding Writing in a Drama Series, creating the antics of Nola Reardon (Lisa Brown), who had a myopic obsession with Kelly Nelson (John Wesley Shipp).
Vanessa Chamberlain (Maeve Kinkead) and her father, Henry (William Roerick), brought sophistication to Springfield. Hope Bauer (Elvera Roussel) brought out the humanity in Alan Spaulding (Chris Bernau). And, finally, Roger fell to his “death.”
In 1983, Pamela K. Long took over as head writer, crafting tales for Reva Shayne (Kim Zimmer, a four-time Emmy-winner), Phillip Spaulding (Grant Aleksander), Rick Bauer (Michael O’Leary), Beth Raines (Judi Evans), Mindy Lewis (Krista Tesreau), Alexandra Spaulding (Beverlee McKinsey), India von Halkein (Mary Kay Adams), Sonni Carrera (Michelle Forbes), and intrepid reporter, Fletcher Reade (Jay Hammer), among others.
Roger and Holly returned before the decade ended. Highlights of the 1990s included Alexandra’s country club takedown of Roger, a blackout that paired off characters, and Maureen’s (Ellen Parker) tragic death after she learned Ed (Peter Simon) had been unfaithful. The shows leading up to and dealing with Maureen’s death, scripted by Patrick Mulcahey, are among Guiding Light’s finest episodes.
In the late 1990s, fans saw the show’s story canvas shift to the Santos mob family and the island of San Cristobel. Annie Dutton’s (Cynthia Watros) meltdown on the witness stand was compelling. And, in a highly controversial storyline, Reva was cloned!
All soaps saw a decline in ratings and shrinking of budgets as the 2000s rolled around. Stories included the death of Roger Thorpe (Zaslow passed away in 1998 from ALS) and Reva reuniting with her son, Jonathan (Tom Pelphrey).
In 2007, Guiding Light won Emmys for Outstanding Drama Series and Outstanding Writing Team under the leadership of executive producer Ellen Wheeler and head writer David Kreizman.
To keep the show economically viable, a new production model was introduced in which GL shot in standing sets and on location in Peapack, New Jersey. The show was on a creative upswing thanks to new head writer Jill Lorie Hurst and the return of Aleksander’s Phillip.
Alas, on April 1, 2009, CBS announced the show’s cancellation. Hurst brought back beloved characters from the 1980s and 1990s to give fans a chance to say goodbye to characters they considered to be family members.
There were mostly happy endings all around: Alan (Ron Raines) died, but Fletcher came home to take Alex (Marj Dusay) on a trip. Ed and Holly left town together.
Rick and Mindy prepared to walk down the aisle. Billy (Jordan Clarke) and Vanessa rewed. Lillian (Tina Sloan) visited Maureen’s grave. And, finally, Josh (Robert Newman) and Reva rode off into the sunset as the words “The End” appeared on the screen.
Today, some GL actors can be seen on surviving soaps The Bold and the Beautiful, Days of Our Lives, General Hospital, and The Young and the Restless. Many former GL actors can also be seen on the Crystal Chappell (Olivia) web series, Venice, currently in its 6th season.