By Marlena De Lacroix
In my last column, I blasted the plotting of General Hospital‘s Black and White Ball as schlocky and superficial. The overall main story was presumably done by the head writer. That doesn’t mean all of the scriptwriting for the month was awful; it takes a lot of different associate writers to write the scripts for a whole month of a daytime soap. There actually were some decently written scenes, one of which I will examine in depth later. It’s this kind of good work, done by dialogue writers, which makes bad soaps a lot more watchable.
What also often helps to make bad soap storytelling better is the very hard and creative work of actors who must bring the scenes to life. Here’s an examination of the three performances and one standout scene during the Black and White Ball which really elevated the awful overall plotting.
Anthony Geary and Jane Elliott (Luke and Tracy Quartermaine Spencer ). What a treat for you young ones who weren’t around to see either of these actors in the late 70s and 80s when their originally villainous characters first became legends. The many many scenes leading up to and following Luke’s heart attack at the Ball. at Wyndemere offered a rare chance to see how dynamic, talented and creative they were.
We always thought Luke and Tracy’s was a marriage of convenience, but during these scenes of sudden illness, the pair displayed the deep and marvelously mature love that had somehow grown between them. “You dragged me out of the past (with Laura, et. al) and propelled me into my future,” Luke confessed to Tracy.” Wowsa! Their scenes together were so unexpectedly and richly romantic!
Question: Was the development of the real deep love displayed by Luke and Tracy in the wake of his heart attack in the script or did the actors invent it? Elliot has always been a sharply intelligent actress. Geary is notorious for writing his own lines. Calling Tracy “wife” in all the dialogue sounds both Shakespearean and Geary-ian to me!
What made the Luke and Tracy scenes all the richer was the fact that we the audience have closely walked down 30 years worth of separate paths with these characters. And here they are sharing a love that is even sweeter since we’ve watched them as separate characters, both rogues, struggle and suffer all these years. I reveled in the Spencers’ depth of emotion. Middle-aged love is never portrayed on daytime anymore! It takes actors of great intelligence to understand and realistically communicate this kind of mature emotion. Brava! Who would have ever predicted that Geary and Elliot would become the Lunts of daytime television? (For you young’uns who may not know: The legendary husband and wife acting team of Alfred Lunt and Lynn Fontanne were renowned to be among the finest stage actors of the first half of the 20th century).
John Ingle (Edward talking to Robin Christopher’s Skye, who had just told him of Emily’s death.) Ingle brilliantly delivered a long monologue which had to be the smartest written scene of the last soap year. In his agony, Edward compared himself to the mega-successful businessman Joseph P. Kennedy, his idol, whom he had supposedly met while he was in college. All his life, Kennedy was ruthless and successful in business, only to see an astounding number of children (like his famous murdered sons, President John and Senator Bobby) and grandchildren die before their time. Edward conducted his businesses the same way and now added the death of granddaughter Emily to those of sons Alan, Justus and grandson A.J.
Whoever wrote this monologue deserves an Emmy for relating similarities in the lives of Kennedy and Edward Q. and writing about them so elegantly and movingly on a soap opera. Real people from history are hardly ever talked about in soaps! Marlena, a one time American history teacher, literally stood up during Ingle’s scene, saluted the screen and shouted, “Thank goodness someone in class was listening!”
Ingle did the material so proud, I was wondering if the GH writing staff had written it as a valentine to the actor. As you may know, Ingle was the beloved acting teacher at Beverly Hill High for many years, in addition to being a highly respected professional actor. If they had to knock off yet another member of the Quartermaine family, some writer with brains at GH figured out that the oldest Quartermaine had to be asking himself why.
Let’s be glad Joseph P. Kennedy has a long listing in Wikipedia!
But seriously, I salute all the creative people at General Hospital whose efforts made the dreadful B&W Ball more than a haunted houseful of hooey!