Guiding Light

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Guiding Light


Network CBS
Creator Irna Phillips
Executive Producer Ellen Wheeler
Head Writer David Kreizman
Distributor Procter & Gamble Productions
Premiere Date January 25, 1937 on NBC (radio)
June 30, 1952 on CBS (television)
Runtime 60 minutes
(15 minutes from 1952 to 1968)
(30 minutes from 1968 to 1977)
Alternate Titles Leiðarljós (Iceland)
Die Springfield Story (Germany)
Sentieri (Italy)
IMDb Page

The Guiding Light (known as Guiding Light since 1975) is credited by the Guinness Book of World Records as being the longest soap opera ever told, as well as the longest running drama in broadcast history (its 15,000th televised episode is slated to air in the autumn of 2005). The program began as an NBC radio serial on January 25, 1937 before moving to CBS on June 30, 1952, as a televised serial.


The series was created by Irna Phillips, who based it on personal experiences in her life. After giving birth to a still-born baby at age 19, she found spiritual comfort listening to sermons by a preacher of a church centered on the brotherhood of man. It was these sermons that formed the nucleus of the creation of The Guiding Light.

The radio show's original storyline centered around a preacher named Rev. John Ruthledge, and all the people of a fictional suburb in Chicago called Five Points. The townspeople's lives had revolved around him. The show's title comes from a lamp in his study that family and residents could see as a sign for them to find help when needed. Storylines in this era touched on topics rarely discussed up to that point — character Rose Kransky had radio's first out-of-wedlock baby.

During the radio years, succeeding preachers would carry on the work Rev. Ruthledge had started (and thus they became keepers of "the guiding light"). In turn, the show's setting moved to another fictional suburb, Selby Flats (supposedly in the Los Angeles area).

In 1952, "The Guiding Light" began airing on CBS television, where it has aired ever since. With the slow transition to television, the main characters had become a mid-town family called the Bauers. For the first few years of its television run, the show was produced (in separate sessions) via both radio and television, but eventually the show became exclusively a television production.

Early years of GL on television

The television family was headed by wise patriarch Friedrich "Papa" Bauer, who had three children, Bill, Meta, and Trudy. Papa Bauer was wise and a hard worker, having immigrated to this country from Germany with little more than a dream (in real life, Papa Bauer's portrayer, Theo Goetz, a successful actor in his own right, escaped Nazi occupation in Austria). Papa Bauer imparted sage wisdom on his children in a folksy tone, commonly splicing in German words in his normal speech. Meta was a major character on the radio version (at one point listeners chose whether or not to find her guilty of murdering her ex-husband) but faded into a supporting role within the first decade of the TV serial.

Bill's headstrong wife Bert (played by Charita Bauer) and her conflicts with the Bauer clan set the stage for much of the drama in the television show's first decade. After Irna Phillips moved to her "baby", As the World Turns in 1956, her protege Agnes Nixon, who wanted to see social issues worked into the canvas, set the tone for much of the 1960's material. One point involving Bert's battle with uterine cancer sent many female viewers to their doctors for the first time in years. GL was also the first show to regularly feature African-American characters (played by James Earl Jones and Ruby Dee). In the 1960s and 1970s, the focus of the show slowly moved to Bill and Bert's children, Mike and Ed. Their lives and loves provided high drama for many years. Other popular characters of the time included Robin Douglas (Gillian Spencer, among others). In the mid-1950's, Robin had feuded with her stepmother Kathy; ultimately Kathy was killed when bicycling children accidentally pushed her wheelchair into oncoming traffic. CBS was deluged with protest letters. In 1967 Robin was struggling with her own stepson as well as her fears that her husband loved another woman; Phillips recycled the same story conclusion by having Robin throw herself into oncoming traffic as well, a move that was unpopular with viewers.

While Papa Bauer ended up being the bearer of the Guiding Light, the religious tones of the light and even religion in general were almost completely lost by the time the show moved to television. Religious matters gave way to cementing the bonds of family. In the 1970s, Bert Bauer's two sons fought over the lovely Leslie (Lynne Adams), a storyline which was criticized by Charita Bauer herself, whose role moved, in time, from Bauer matriarch to the beacon of support for the entire town. Bauer was quoted as saying, "Now [the show's producers] don't really care about the idea of the family anymore. That used to be the main theme of the show, but now it's gone."

In late 1975, the "the" in the show's opening and closing visuals was dropped (in an attempt to modernize the show's image), the same year it adopted the harp-and-string-laced "Ritournelle" as its theme song. The serial was still called The Guiding Light by CBS (and the show's staff announcers) until early 1982, when the "the" was completely dropped from references and a more upbeat musical theme was adopted.

Feeling pressure from newer, more youth-oriented soaps such as The Young and the Restless, P&G hired writers Bridget Dobson and Jerome Dobson in 1976. The married duo focused on core characters, giving Bert her first real story in years when her husband Bill came back from the dead. They also shook up the town by bringing in the dynamic, jetsetting Alan Spaulding (Chris Bernau) and his emotionally distant wife, Elizabeth. Elizabeth doted on young Phillip, whom she believed to be her son. In reality, her baby was stillborn, and Alan had obtained Phillip from an unknown woman. That woman, Jackie (Cindy Pickett) soon followed, and although she was still in love with her former husband Justin (Tom O'Rourke), she married Alan to make sure she was close to her son (Justin had no idea he was a father; Alan had no idea Jackie was Phillip's mother). Elizabeth married Mike Bauer. (The paternity mystery finally exploded in 1983 when Phillip found out the truth - the ramifications continued to be felt decades later, as Phillip (Grant Aleksander) grew up to be a psychologically scarred, controlling man who was shot dead by his own adoptive father, Alan Spaulding.)

The Dobsons also created one of the sexiest and most complicated "vixens" in the show's history when Rita Stapleton (Lenore Kasdorf) arrived with her sweet sister Eve and mother Viola (Kate Wilkinson). Rita had a sordid past with bad boy Roger Thorpe (Michael Zaslow). Roger had been on the show, in a self-destructive relationship with neurotic Holly (Maureen Garrett) since 1971, but only when the Dobsons arrived did he become truly malevolent. The badder he got, the more popular he became with viewers. One night, Roger raped Rita. Zaslow was unhappy with the scene, which he felt came across as a seduction. The Dobsons crafted a full-fledged marital rape (at the time this was not considered a crime) episode involving Roger and Holly. Holly bravely took Roger to court, but Justin's sleazy lawyer brother Ross (Jerry ver Dorn, whose Ross quickly reformed and remained a core character for over twenty-five years) got Roger acquitted. When she thought Roger was going to rape her again, Holly shot Roger to "death". While she rotted in jail, Ed and Rita raised Christina. Roger was very much alive and in an Emmy-winning sequence, chased a pregnant Rita through a hall-of-mirrors as the Donna Summer/Barbra Streisand hit "Enough is Enough" played in the background. Roger kidnapped Christina and Rita, and Rita had a miscarriage. Roger fell to another "death" in Santo Domingo on April Fool's Day 1980 - 9 years to the day of his first airdate. He would return in 1989 and then leave in 1997 when, in an extremely controversial decision, P&G fired Zaslow due to his medical problems. The Bauers and the Spauldings' lives grew ever-more complicated as Alan married Mike's daughter Hope (Elvera Roussell), and eventually had a wild fling with Ed's wife Rita.

The 1980s

The Guiding Light logo from 1982 to 1987.

The Dobsons were moved to ATWT in 1980 and replaced by Douglas Marland. Marland concentrated on the teen angst between Speedo-clad Kelly (John Wesley Shipp), naive Morgan (Kristen Vigard), and conniving Nola Reardon (Lisa Brown). Brown played the role with such gusto that she received more hate mail than any CBS actor since Eileen Fulton some twenty years earlier. Ultimately, Nola reformed, and had a popular romance with Quint (Michael Tylo), who was revealed to be the half-brother of spoiled brat Vanessa (Maeve Kinkead). While not focusing on the Reardon family he so loved, Marland brought in a disco set with many guest stars (B-52's, Judy Collins, etc.), as well as a complex storyline in which the shy, confused Amanda Wexler discovered her real father was Alan Spaulding (Amanda learned in 1997 that her father was Brandon Spaulding, and Alan was her brother - a storyline move that was unpopular with viewers). These storylines sent GL 's ratings on an uptick, but Marland quit in 1982 due to a dispute over treatment of his friend Jane Elliot, who was fired by then-executive producer Allen Potter.

After a few years of meandering, a permanent replacement was found in Pam Long, an actress who had appeared on the recently cancelled P&G soap Texas and, in an unusual move, was given the headwriter reins in its last months. Along with executive producer Gail Kobe, she refocused the show around a SORASed Rick Bauer (Michael O'Leary) and Phillip Spaulding. With Dallas in vogue at the time, many soaps brought in oil-rich Southern families, and GLs answer was the Lewises. Siblings Trish and Josh (Robert Newman) had already been on the show for several years, but upon the arrival of estranged patriarch HB, brother Billy, and Billy's vivacious daughter Mindy, Trish was phased out and Josh went from a cad to an brooding young hero. Billy "tamed" Vanessa and in retaliation, a jealous Alan brought Billy's ex-wife Reva (Kim Zimmer) to town to break them up. Reva soon fell back into the arms of her true love Josh ("Bud"), but along the way managed to marry or sleep with a variety of men, including Josh's own father! Long also created the regal Alexandra Spaulding, and the show scored a casting coup by landing Beverlee McKinsey, who had a memorable run as Iris on Another World. Another important new face was abused, dewy heroine Beth Raines (Judi Evans, Beth Chamberlin), who fell in love with Phillip and was raped by her evil stepfather Bradley as punishment. Beth, Phillip, Rick and Mindy went on the run, a storyline so popular that GL managed to dethrone then-powerhouse General Hospital from the top ratings spot. That success was short-lived, as Long chose to write out or kill off nearly every Bauer (Hillary, Mike, Hope) and replace them with yet more new creations. When Charita Bauer died in 1985, the show had never seemed more out of touch with its own roots.

Long left the show for a time, and the show went through a number of writers (and uneven stories such as the "Sampson Girl" pageant and the "Infinity" brainwashing story) until she returned in 1987. She created several more substantial stories for GL, including the dramatic story of Josh's wife Sonni (Michelle Forbes) and her alternate personality Solita. The story featured a strong performance by Forbes, although the 1988 writer's strike caused the plot to go wildly off course. During this time, the character of Blake Lindsey was introduced, and eventually revealed to be Christina Thorpe. Holly returned to Springfield, followed by the resurrection, in 1989, of Roger Thorpe. Long penned Reva's assumed death (she drove her car into the Florida Keys in a postpartum depression after delivering son Shayne) but had a clash with CBS and P&G executives who resisted the introduction of the Weiss family, a Jewish family she had hoped to introduced by mixing fashion designer Matt Weiss with the characters of Harley Cooper and Mindy Lewis. Long left the show in early 1991 and was replaced by a triumvirate of writers, including James Reilly, who would go on to write Days of Our Lives and create Passions.

The 1990s

By the early 1990s, the Bauers, Spauldings, Reardons, and Lewises had been established as core families in the fictional midwestern city of Springfield. To this, the Coopers were added. Buzz Cooper (Justin Deas) had abandoned his wife Nadine (Jean Carol) and two children, Harley (Beth Ehlers) and Frank (Frank Dicopoulos) after his experiences in the Vietnam War.


The realism of the early 1990s was in stark contrast to the mid-1980s, when self-described "Slut of Springfield," Reva Shayne (played by Kim Zimmer) was Guiding Light's central character and storylines tended to be more campy. In fact, executive producer Jill Farren Phelps believed the show was so good without her she didn't approach Zimmer to return even though Zimmer was available. For a time, Phelps was right; the show had become much more of an ensemble piece, with several key players. Holly and Roger were featured at the forefront, along with Roger's contentious marriage to Alexandra, which would culminate in a memorable scene where McKinsey's Alexandra decimated Roger in public. Blake plotted to steal her mother Holly's fiance, Ross Marler, but ended up falling for him, and became somewhat "reformed". Harley Cooper, fresh from heartbreak with Josh Lewis, fell for cop AC Mallet and the two married.

Phelps herself was a controversial figure among Guiding Light fans. Actress Beverlee McKinsey played Alexandra Spaulding on Guiding Light during the Phelps years, and executed an option in her contract that, combined with vacation time she had earned, allowed her to leave the show without giving the show notice. This was a great loss to the show, as McKinsey was part of a triangle of sorts, as the interfering party between her newly found son Nick Vincent Irizarry and his new girlfriend Mindy Lewis Kimberley Simms. It is widely believed that Phelps didn't read McKinsey's contract and thus allowed the show to lose the legendary actress. Another move considered a blunder by fans was the death of Maureen Reardon Bauer, played by Ellen Parker. Phelps' decision to kill off the character of Maureen was based largely on input by focus groups; however, Maureen's death removed the "tentpole character", which GL has not had since.

After these two strong stories were either derailed or stopped in their tracks, the show lost its momentum, and by 1994 storylines aimlessly wandered, many revolving solely around characters played by new hires who were close friends to Phelps (several episodes featured nothing more than Justin Deas yelling on a rooftop). In spite of their talent, some of these actors, such as Marcy Walker (Tangie), were enormously unpopular with viewers. The storylines themselves were often stagnant and silly, such as Alan's return from prison involving his hiding his face at all times and effecting a fake Japanese accent (he was pretending to be a foreign businessman so he could regain his company). Finally, P&G forced Phelps to bring Zimmer back for a limited run, but the story (Reva's ghost tormented Josh and his new love Annie Cynthia Watros) was panned by fans and critics as one of the worst in GL history.

In spring 1995, with rumors of cancellation growing stronger Michael Laibson succeeded Jill Farren Phelps, and brought back Kim Zimmer's Reva character for good, who had supposedly killed herself 5 years earlier in a bout with postpartum depression. Reva was revealed to be an amnesiac living as an Amish woman. Under headwriter Megan McTavish, huge chunks of airtime focused on the psychotic Brent (Frank Beaty), who had raped Buzz's daughter Lucy (Sonia Satra) and was then presumed dead. Lucy soon befriended a dowdy woman named Marian. Marian was - surprise - Brent in drag! "Marian" killed a detective as well as Nadine Cooper before being brought to justice. The storyline garnered much attention due to some controversial twists such as Marian switching Lucy's AIDS test results to make her think she was HIV-positive, and beating an HIV-positive woman, Susan, into a coma. Beaty's bravura performance carried the show along for months, but when he was written out, GL fell apart, with most of the airtime focused on endless storylines involving Ross and Vanessa's obnoxious daughter Dinah (Wendy Moniz), as well as various sleazy gimmicks such as Gilly (Amelia Marshall) falling in love with her own father and Blake (Liz Keifer) being impregnated by the sperm of two different men (later she would find out Ross was the father of both her twin sons). Ratings hit even newer lows, resulting in Laibson and McTavish's firings.

Paul Rauch began producing the show in late 1996 and was joined by writers James Harmon Brown and Barbara Esensten in 1997. The story zeroed in on Josh Lewis' rocky marriage to Annie. Annie had once been a sweet nurse (and, at one point, Rick Bauer's wife) but had become a pill addict. Annie became a raving lunatic who got artificially inseminated to keep Josh at her side, and pretended to be Reva's long-lost sister to guilt her into staying away. When that didn't work and she also lost her baby, she pushed herself off a balcony, framing Reva for the death of her fetus. A high-stakes murder trial led Annie to have a meltdown on the witness stand, after which she dramatically collapsed and was rendered barren. This somewhat campy material was bulldozed through by Watros, whose performance astonished viewers. Annie then tried to manipulate Reva's real sister Cassie (Laura Wright) into breaking up Josh and Reva. Watros left the show in early 1998, leaving a big hole in a show that had been largely centered on the Josh/Reva/Annie storyline.

In a hotly debated storyline, Reva, who was believed to be dead a second time, was cloned at the request of her grieving husband Josh (Robert Newman). When Reva was found alive, the lonely clone (who, ironically, was named Dolly, like the sheep) committed suicide by drinking too much aging serum. As she lay on her death bed (actually a couch), Josh fumbled with a cure that would have reversed the effects of the aging serum. Unfortunately, he dropped it behind the couch and it was too late to save Dolly.

Emboldened by the attention the clone plot elicited, plots became more outrageous. Holly became an alcoholic after Roger and husband Fletcher abandoned her, and as the "Nursery Rhyme Stalker", she kidnapped the children of Springfield. Annie returned with a new face (Signy Coleman), but after an initial impact, the recast proved unsuccessful and Coleman was written out a year later. Reva's time away from Springfield was explained: she had been living in the island country of San Cristobel and was "Princess Catherine".

2000 to present

At the turn of the century, a large segment of the show revolved around San Cristobel, as Cassie married Richard and Richard's evil brother Edmund (David Andrew Macdonald) plotted to keep them apart (the island became a democracy with Richard as president, was then overthrown in a coup by Edmund, and finally Richard gave the monarchy to his heretofore unknown brother Alonzo (Jim Davidson). The other segment focused on the Santoses and the Mob, specifically Michelle Bauer's mobster husband Danny (Paul Anthony Stewart), his sister Pilar and cousin Tony, and his sociopathic mother, Carmen (Saundra Santiago). Much of Danny and Michelle's story was fighting against the evil Carmen, and this story repeated several times until the character of Carmen was injured during a fight with Michelle in 2002, and went into a coma. Most of the veteran characters, save Reva, had few if any storylines, and ratings went on a gentle decline. Much-acclaimed writer Claire Labine took over as headwriter in 2000, but her stories focused on character development and clashed with Rauch's plot-heavy style. Labine's team lasted barely a year amidst rumors that she was being sabotaged backstage. She was replaced briefly by Lucky Gold (who created a split personality for Beth and started the road to a romance between Harley and Labine's creation, sexist FBI agent Gus). Reva went on a time-travel misadventure, proving unpopular with viewers.

A 2002 Soap Opera Digest cover, featuring popular tortured couples Gus and Harley (Ricky Paull Goldin and Beth Ehlers), Olivia and Phillip (Crystal Chappell and Grant Aleksander), and Danny and Michelle (Paul Anthony Stewart and Nancy St. Alban).

Millee Taggart took the writing reins in 2002, and Taggart's run had some critical acclaim, breaking away from the organized crime and royalty which had dominated GL over the past few years. Taggart tried to focus on more traditional storylines, including Reva pulling the plug on a critically injured Richard. During this time, GL also tried to reinvigorate the role of Alexandra Spaulding by casting "Dynasty" star Joan Collins in the role. Not all of Taggart's stories were a hit; she was also remembered for an unfortunate sequence in which Marah (Lindsey McKeon), reacting to a rape attempt from boyfriend Tony Santos, stripped to her underwear and taunted him to force himself on her.

In 2003, veteran producer John Conboy and Ellen Weston took charge of the show. Weston had acted on GL as a teenager, and was a writer with several prime-time movie credits as well as a brief writing stint on "Capitol", but had never been a headwriter for a soap. Conboy's first move was to relegate several veteran performers to recurring status, including Maureen Garrett, Beth Chamberlin and Elizabeth Keifer. History was re-written when the characters Billy, Josh, Ed, Alan, and Buzz were revealed to have been the cause of the death of a young girl when they were young men in 1977. The storyline was roundly criticized for its plot-holes, such as the fact that only two of the characters (Ed and Alan) were even on the show in 1977; the plot wildly contradicted existing character histories. The storyline was also substantially similar to the 1983 Annabelle Sims storyline, which featured H.B. Lewis (father of Billy and Josh), Bill Bauer (father of Ed), and Brandon Spaulding (father of Alan) in a murder mystery similar to the one their sons were involved in, which was met with some backlash due to rewriting character histories. The goings-on so annoyed longtime actor Peter Simon (who played Ed Bauer for much of the 80s, left in 1996 and returned in 2002) that he quit the show and refused all offers to return. Other stories featured during the "Wescon" regime included Cassie falling in love with a "reformed" Edmund, Reva discovering her psychic abilities, and her daughter Marah fell in love with Sandy, a loner who talked to a sock puppet who was initially thought to be Reva's son and Marah's half-brother. A particularly unpopular story featured longtime character Ben Reade (Matt Bomer), being revealed out of nowhere as a serial killer and victim of child molestation. The story culminated with Ben committing suicide. The show lost around over a half-million viewers at this time.

Conboy and Weston were in turn, fired. Ellen Wheeler of Another World fame became executive producer in the spring of 2004. Her regime addressed unresolved plots including that of the characters of Roger and Dinah (Gina Tognoni), revealed Sandy was posing as Reva's son (her real son, Jonathan Tom Pelphrey, was a more toxic and dangerous version of a young Reva - he deflowered his own cousin Tammy out of pure spite) and had a protracted "who killed Phillip?" mystery. Wheeler and writer David Kreizman won much critical praise, and GL was named Best Soap by many, including TV Guide. David Kreizman won the Writers Guild of America Award for best written daytime serial in 2005 and the show was the only one nominated. But the show still seemed unfocused at times, ratings continued to stagnate and in early 2005, it was revealed that Procter & Gamble had ordered GL to take a large budget cut. The actors themselves would also see a reduction in salary, and long-time stars Michael O'Leary, and Marj Dusay were taken off contract. The show also learned that it would be moving to the old ATWT studios on the West Side of Manhattan (as opposed to their more lavish current studio on the East Side of the city).

By 2005, the show fired some of its popular actors including Stephen Martines (Tony Santos), Doug Hutchison (Sebastian Hulce), Paul Anthony Stewart (Danny Santos), Nancy St. Alban (Michelle Bauer Santos), David Andrew Macdonald (Edmund Winslow) and longtime veteran Jerry verDorn (Ross Marler). In addition, Daniel Cosgrove (Bill Lewis III) and Laura Wright (Cassie Layne Winslow) quit the program. Both Wright and verDorn jumped into different soaps in the fall with Wright joining rival soap General Hospital and verDorn joining One Life to Live. Cosgrove was cast in a midseason prime-time series.


Current cast members

Recurring cast members

Coming and going cast members

See also

External links

"Guiding Light" is also a track from Television's 1977 release Marquee Moon. de:Springfield Story is:Leiðarljós