By Marlena De Lacroix
I feel sorry for younger soap fans who never got to see Beverlee McKinsey on soaps prior to her retirement from major roles in daytime in 1992. McKinsey, who died last week in California at 72 of complications from a kidney transplant, was singularly magnificent!
When she came to Another World in 1972 as rich, rich Iris Cory Carrington, she was all icy blond upper class matronly bitchiness. But in frequent vicious argument scenes with Iris’ remarried father Mac Cory (the volcanic Douglas Watson), we could see that what Iris was really doing was begging for love when Mckinsey said just one word: “Daddy!” Shattering!
The exquisite vulnerability of McKinsey’s soap characters — Iris Cory on Another World and Texas; Alexandra Spaulding on Guiding Light — was always right there clawing at your heart while the character tussled or fought with almost everyone in Bay City and Springfield. The heartbreaking fragility of her characters was very Tennessee Williams.
That’s because McKinsey started on the stage (the original production of Barefoot in the Park, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf in London), as the best soap actors of her era did. Projecting several levels at once in a performance was what was expected of them, unlike the low expectations placed on today’s model-actors. It was this depth of great natural talent and incredible range that McKinsey brought to soaps.
Uta Hagen, Arthur Hill, Beverlee McKinsey, Richard Easton in Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?
What a treat it was, in the extreme, to see her in scenes with other actors of her caliber, especially the brilliant Watson and the astoundingly intelligent Victoria Wyndham (hated stepmother Rachel). On Guiding Light she had scenes and storylines to die for with such great actors as the late, always masterful Chris Bernau (who originated the role of Alan Spaudling) and the late, great Michael Zaslow (Roger Thorpe). A few of you might remember the days McKinsey’s Iris was the wife of Daniel Davis (later seen in a comic role on The Nanny), whose Elliot Carrington on Texas was pure madness and genius. For a while, Davis and McKinsey brought down the house daily on a soap few people today remember.
But whatever show McKinsey was on, she was unforgettable. She left Guiding Light suddenly in 1992, and did a very brief appearance on GH in 1994 as a character named Myrna Slaughter. She told everyone she took the part so she could get her actor’s insurance. I interviewed her via phone at her California oceanside home at the time and asked her the same question everyone was wondering at the time: “Are you ever coming back to daytime?”
And the actress who was so spectacular on three soaps quietly said something I’ve never forgotten, and have repeated often: “Oh, no. All I want now is my doggy and the sea.” Rest in peace, Ms. McKinsey.