All My Children’s Agnes Nixon, Always Our Guardian Angel

Thinking Fans on Agnes’ visit to Pine Valley:  renee “cried buckets and emailed everyone” … n69n says she “is the cutest, dearest, smilingest little lady” … while tess remembers the days of 15- and 30-minute soaps … and more. See Comments below.   

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Agnes NixonBy Marlena De Lacroix

Just as I was fantasizing about throwing a cherry bomb at ABC headquarters over the misogynistic, disgusting Todd-Marty redux story playing out  on One Life to Live, along  comes an episode of All My Children which soothed the fires of r age within me. It was the 10,000th episode of AMC, my all-time favorite soap, on Thursday! I’ve watched since its premiere in 1970!

In a world where soaps have grown sensationalistic and emotionally empty, how healing it was to watch an episode which included family scenes of the Martins, the Hubbards and the Kanes.  With parents like Zack and Bianca actually kissing their children, including perpetual ingénue Erica actually kissing her grandchildren!  With family members holding hands, and — get this — actually praying, thanking God for surviving the recent tornado.

Love! Family! Spirit! I began to think I had died and gone to soap heaven, circa 1970!

And there to guide me around Pine Valley was a blithe, ancient spirit named Aggie who, just like Clarence in It’s a Wonderful Life, mysteriously appeared and

How charming Agnes was throughout the magically written episode … She was wise, loving, funny and bright, everything her All My Children always was and everything Agnes Nixon always has been.

disappeared throughout the episode.  Dressed adorably in antique Victorian garb, Aggie popped up in various scenes to tell residents things she knew about them.

Like, “Tad, how’s your arm?” To which Opal, Tad’s biological mother, immediately shouted,  “Ray Gardner broke his arm when he was a little boy!  How could you know that?”  Of course,  we longtime AMC fans knew that and more. And Aggie knew it, too, because she – and the lady “playing” her – had written that story and been the essence of AMC from Day One.  

Of course (wink! wink!) we all knew Aggie was the show’s creator and daytime legend  Agnes Nixon, 81 years young.  All of Aggie’s lines had wonderful double meanings to all of us who knew it was her, and that it was the show’s anniversary.  When Tad asked   the strange old lady who had mysteriously appeared where she lived, she said,  “Oh I still live here.”

How charming Agnes was throughout the magically written episode, holding a big brown book that turned out to be the family Bible that is shown being opened at the beginning of each episode.  She was wise, loving, funny and bright, everything her All My Children always was and everything Agnes Nixon always has been.

From my many interviews with her over the years I leaned that Agnes started out to be actress.  She studied acting at Northwestern University, in the same class as Charlton Heston. (Who, by the way, she told me sotto voce she didn’t like because of his conservative politics.) Her performance in the 10,000th episode recognized her acting experience, as much as it did her almost 60 years of being the best writer as well as the leading figure in the American soap opera business.

At the end of the episode when members of family groups had recited verses from her famous AMC credo, Agnes, the living angel, turned to the camera and said,  “You are All My Children.”

I  sobbed to have been so lucky!

Comments

  1. esther says:

    Beautiful write-up and very nice (though it had a Chuck Pratt/Santa Barbara feel to it; interesting to see if AMC fans other than you like it) episode.

    She is definitely one of our best, but Irna Phillips (from soap heaven) may quibble about THE best….heck, so might Doug Marland. ;) OK, apparently it is ME who is quibbling, lol. But definitely one of the……

    Marlena says: Thank you dear. But this column is my valentine to Agnes, as was the whole 10,000th AMC episode. I really think it’s not the occasion compare her to Doug or Irna or any other writer. She’s 81, let’s honor HER! I know Pratt is now the headwriter of AMC and was wrote Santa Barbara for a while, but I don’t get your reference.

  2. It’s seems to be one step back, three steps forward for this gem, eh?

    I thought the tornado was a regression creatively, same ol’ same ol’.

    BUT — the episode featuring Veterans, keeping Tamara Braun, and today’s ep demonstrate SOME respect and honor for the Thinking Fans. They have a long way to go, but this makes me hopeful.

  3. Gianni says:

    I thought it was a fabulous episode. Even the background music had a whimsical AMC of yeasteryear feel to it, as did the characters sitting around, discussing past history and current stories. Though I hate to take away from the moment (after all, it is rare that an AMC episode brings me to tears these days) the wonderful episode reminded me how wonderful and heartfelt AMC COULD be if more episodes were written like yesterday’s episode. I loved when Opal said that Pine Valley could rise from the ashes … certainly the same could be said for the soap if yesterday’s episode was any indication.

    Marlena says: Yes, yes Gianni! It was wonderful to be “home” in Pine Valley for a day. I wish the show could be like that every day too. And wasn’t Jill Larson just superb as Opal? I realized watching her that Opal is very much part of the personality of the person who created her, Agnes. Funny, a fierce mama bear, and definitely magical!

  4. Marlene says:

    Marlena,

    I loved seeing Agnes Nixon, but the episode left me bereft. Bereft for the days when Agnes herself wrote AMC with heart and soul and sophistication. She wrote Tad’s abuse with such beauty the entire audience wanted to wrap their arms around little Tad . When Billie Clyde Tuggle raped Ruth the entire audience wanted to go after him. She wrote in such a way that you felt as though you were actually there and could smell Grandma Kate’s cookies. I never wanted to throw things at the TV screen as I do now. The show had such class from the actors to the set design. Agnes didn’t need tornadoes or earthquakes or tsunamis, she had the most powerful things on earth, words and she used them beautifully. AMC now is like a old ruin with her words echoing through it.

    P.S. Were you wishing that Aggie would take that big book she carried and hit Chuckie P. over the head with it like I was?

    This Marlena says: What a terrific, terrific letter!! I’d rather watch any 70s, 80s or early 90s episode of AMC than any other soap ever broadcast. Agnes knew how to tell a story with intelligence and humor and the producers, directors, casting people, scenic artists and the cast were always the best of all the soaps. As someone wrote at another website, yesterday’s episode was a celebration of all that was AMC until Megan McTavish took an axe to it.

    But your “P.S” even tops that. I laughed until I literally cried when I read it! And I’m so glad that name “Chuckie P.” stuck on Mr. Pratt.

  5. Brian says:

    I liked the episode. Agnes Nixon was adorable as “Aggie” and I really enjoyed seeing the vets, as well as the references to history. The episode definitely had the tone of classic Pine Valley. How great was it seeing Ruth? I know no one can replace the incredible original, Miss Mary Fickett (first soap actress to win an Emmy), but Lee Meriwether does a good job. And speaking of the Martins, why haven’t we seen the Martin home in so long? Did they destroy the set? Now that Jake is back, we’re due in for some Martin family dinners!

  6. tess says:

    The thing I adored most about the erstwhile ALL MY CHILDREN was how it represented everybody. There was supercilious Phoebe and grasping Erica. There was the rich. The poor. The middle-class.

    And back in the day, the dialog on AMC was the best. Each character had their own speech pattern. Phoebe, Langley, Opal, Ray Gardner, each had their own individualized voice. On most soaps, the dialogue is interchangeable. With precious few exceptions, all the characters sound alike. But not in Pine Valley of yesteryear.

  7. n69n says:

    I was a sobbing mess on Wednesday!

    Ms Nixon is the cutest, dearest, smilingest little lady!

    … and knowing how smart, deep and funny she is just makes me adore her even more!

    That episode was such a treat … I hope that they dont plan on making us wait for the 20,000th epsiode for such quality!

  8. EricMontreal22 says:

    Well said. A terrific episode that was more than just a happy surprise but an emotional experience for me. AMC was what got me into soaps (back in 1991) and while I’ve missed most of Agnes’ run, even after managing to see over 100 old episodes, it can never be the same, it did remind me what a sense of community I got from the show (and to an extent still do) and it was a wonderful tribute and hommage done with class. Tornados aside, I think AMC is in a better place right now than it has been for a good while (that’s really, sadly, faint praise, but) so it did give me some hope in general.

    Marlena says: Eric, darling if I could I would turn back the hands of time for you so you could watch old AMC every day! Love your enthusiasm for the old show! P.S. Have you seen ABC’s All My Children’s Greatest Wedding videos, a gem produced by ABC Daytime’s Gary Warner, Regina DiMartino and my dear friend pjs, circa 1992 or so? You’d love it, it has all the AMC couples up until then, including, of course Erica’s first couple of weddings.

  9. James says:

    Chere Marlena,

    It was indeed wonderful to see Agnes on screen. And wonderful too that they observed the 10,000th episode. So important to rememeber these milestones.

    I will say that I was a hoping the entire episode would be centered aroudn this special anniversary. Remember on the 35th anniversary show in 2005, they build the entire epiosode around Joe’s 35th year as head of the hospital. Really expected more screen time for Aggie. I mean, she didn’t even interact with Erica or Adam!

    But, the more important thing is that they did honor the 10,000th anniversary and reminded us of some wonderful memories.

  10. tess says:

    Agnes Nixon penned some wonderful stories. When GUIDING LIGHT was fifteen minutes, there were magnificent tales about adultery, alcoholism. You name it.

    For example, Maggie Scott had an affair with married man, Bill Bauer. Maggie’s ex husband, con artist and restaurateur, Ben found a letter that Maggie had written to Bill professing her undying love. Maggie and Ben shared a daughter, Peggy (played by Fran Myers who now writes for ONE LIFE TO LIVE). Ben wanted to reunite with Maggie, give their marriage a second chance. But Maggie didn’t want to be bothered because Ben had emotionally abused her when they were together and she didn’t want to go through that again. And besides, she now loved Bill Bauer.

    “If you don’t remarry me,” Ben told Maggie, using a threatening tone, “I’ll show Peggy the letter that you wrote Bill Bauer professing your love. How will your daughter feel to learn that her mother is a homewrecker?”

    Well, Maggie couldn’t let Peggy learn that she had been involved with a married man, so she remarried Ben, who constantly taunted her about her adulterorus times with Bill Bauer. And when she threatened to leave, he threatened to tell Peggy that her mother was a married man’s girlfriend.

    Bill was guilt-ridden about the affair, about betraying Bert, his wife and mother of his two sons, Ed and Mike, that Bill found solace in vodka.

    Papa Bauer, Bill’s dad, became so disgusted with Bill’s drinking that he moved out, which infuriated Ed. Ed castigated Bill for running Papa Bauer out of the family home.

    Bill would go to bars and pass out and the barkeep phoned Bert telling her to come and collect her drunken husband.

    And then there was Robin Fletcher, played by several actresses. One was Gillian Spencer. Robin was married to Dr. Paul Fletcher and Paul’s son, Johnny lived with them.

    Robin repeatedly told Johnny to keep his room clean. But hey, he was a teenage boy and we all know they are notoriously messy, so Johnny disregarded Robin’s admonishments.

    Well, Robin was pregnant and one afternoon, she went in Johnny’s messy room and decided to spruce it up. While doing so, she fell and lost her baby.

    She began giving Johnny the cold shoulder. Barely uttering two words to the teen. Johnny couldn’t stand it, so he asked his Aunt Jane and Uncle George if he could move in with them. They agreed, upsetting Paul. He didn’t want his son to leave home. “Robin, you have to talk to him,” Paul begged Robin. They were in the kitchen, sipping hot coffee. “Johnny thinks that you blame him because you lost the baby. You have to make him realize that you don’t feel that way.”

    “Well, I don’t know where he got that idea,” Robin said. “I never said that to him.”

    “No. But you conveyed it.”

    Robin frowned. “Conveyed it?”

    “By your attitude towards him,” Paul said. “You’ve been reserved with him. Distant. And this started after you lost the baby. He thinks you blame him for your loss.”

    It was MAGNIFICENT and can you believe that the aforementioned transpired in daily fifteen minute episodes?

    I adored the fifteen and thirty minute soaps. At the end of each chapter, I craved for more. No hour soap has ever affected me that way.

  11. renee says:

    Oh Marlena,
    Thanks to Tivo i watched the first 7 minutes at least 10 times before I saw the rest of the show. I WAS STUNNED TO SEE AGNES NIXON. I cried, buckets. I emailed, everyone.

    To combine her appearance with a tribute to the tornado victims, for someone who has lived through many turmoils, including 9-11, (I’m catching my breath right now), this was just so right. Adding little quips like Ruth saying, ‘She asked me why I wasn’t in my nurses uniform,’ – come on, unrivaled gems. Who came up with this show??

    This show brought peace into a hectic day. How can one not look back upon the beauty of the Agnes Nixon days, talent, and graciousness and not smile? This day she looked like a fine porcelain doll, a treasured keepsake.

    It also was a perfect show that allowed me to say goodbye to AMC. Oh, I’m sure not forever, but for now – definitely. I said last week that although I loved most of the new plotlines that evolved from the tornado, I hat the characters now. That hatred has just boiled over. They’ve decimated Aidan. He never would use Emma in a kidnap plot just to get back at Greenlee or Ryan. Reese? Who the heck is she? Just because we know she’s a great GH actress, screwing Bianca does not justify so much airtime on AMC!! And Beth Ehlers–if she does that snarky cute grin at Ricky Paul Goldin one more time! Wait, I’m checking out. I won’t see it. LOL

    Aggie … A high note to say buh bye.
    You’ll find me over at Y & R, if anyone is interested.
    Amazing well written Kay storyline going on right now.

    Marlena says: You always make me laugh, Renee. I’m personally giving Pratt’s AMC a chance — I am an old show fan, and was so pleasantly suprised by the lovely anniversary episode featuring Agnes. But I agree, the Kay Chancellor is “dead” story on Y&R is a hoot. I’m watching both shows carefully for future review.

  12. Thompson says:

    Seeing Agnes Nixon was a treat. I have one gripe with the episode, however. Aggie was supposed to be one of the founders of Pine Valley, right? Well, it was established, by Opal’s google search (lol), that Aggie was from the 1800s. That contradicts earlier story points that said PV had rich pre-Revolutionary roots, and was founded in the 1600s — which makes sense considering the town is supposed to be in Eastern Pennsylvania. I thought Phoebe’s family, the Englishs, were one of the founding families? They came over on the Mayflower — or so Phoebe always liked to say. Maybe she was just blowing hot air…. she did that a lot. Pratt (or whomever) messed up. I know it’s not a huge detail, but they should have researched it better.

  13. BL says:

    I liked the 10,000 episode a lot and was pleasantly surprised by it due to its whimsical nature. The little nods to history were appreciated as was the focus on families. The moment of silence at the end broke my heart, as I thought of those who have been lost in the real world to tornados.

    BTW Marlena, you can get the AMC soap weddings videotape on DVD now, in a package called ABC Soaps presents Daytime’s Greatest Weddings that also includes the GH and OLTL recordings. It was re-released in 2004.

    Marlena says: Thanks Blossy for the info. Next time I talk to one of its producers, my pal, Thinking Fan pjs, I’ll have to ask him if ABC gave him any more than their gratitude when they released the DVD.

  14. Skylar says:

    I was moved to tears by this episode. There was something very reassuring and comforting about those final scenes. In an era where there is so much despair, pain, and hopelessness in the world, an era in which even the most optimistic of candidates could not restore my faith in love, justice, and peace, All My Children managed to do it. Erica, Adam, Jesse, Tad, Joe, and our dear Agnes Nixon managed to do in 22 seconds what nobody else has been able to do in my 22 years: make me feel like it’s all going to be okay.

    Marlena says: Skylar, my 22 year old baby: you are so bright. In the “old days” of AMC and other soaps there was always hope … and faith. I’m not talking about religious faith (although there was a touch of that once in a while) but faith in human nature, faith in the strength of love and families, faith in … the guiding light (I emphasize the words, not the show). Think about it. Marlena wasn’t brought up in any religion — perhaps that’s why I always drew great strength from soaps …

    Those 22 seconds of warmth and absolute safety you write about … That is all gone from today’s soaps and it breaks my heart. Which is why seeing Agnes and the whole AMC gang again join hands at the end of the episode and express some faith in community and shared spirit was so marvelous and heartwarming.

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