Dee-A-Palooza Day Three: Searching for the Real Deidre

Deidre Hall 3

Thinking Fans Comment Update: John says “Deidre’s Marlena is imo the greatest soap heroine ever” … though Alan Ryan prefers the Dr. Marlena Evans of the 70s and 80s … and more.  See Comments below.

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By Marlena De Lacroix

In 1986 I was given an assignment by a major women’s magazine to interview Deidre Hall, the star of Days of Our Lives, who had just premiered in a primetime show called Our House.

I had been a Days fan for a long time, and had always been fascinated by how perfect, even-tempered  and all-American Deidre seemed, both on and off the screen. (There was certainly no one who looked or acted like Dr. Marlena in ethnic Queens where I grew up!)  The angle of the story I proposed was to find the “real” Deidre Hall. So I went to Los Angeles, where I followed Dee for two weeks.  She was not very enthusiastic about talking to me. Quelle disaster!  Boy, was I naïve in those days. I went home without a story.

But 22 years later I finally understand why Deidre did what she did.  She did it to protect her image.  To be a great star, to stand at the very pinnacle of the whole genre, one has to project regal munificence and perfection, so fans will worship you

A great, great  star, she’s delivered the goods for 32 years.  Has Ken Corday really fired his biggest star, Deidre Hall, for good?

and follow you — for decades.  Having been a very hard working professional for decades now, I can finally see and respect all the work Deidre has put into maintaining an image and a career.

Like Susan Lucci, the other great female superstar of soaps over the last forty years, Deidre has to be on at all times, a full-time star. Deidre has had to represent Days at public appearances and network functions.  She’s had to be kind and treat her fans right, doing endless publicity in her screen persona. And that’s in addition to 32 years of frontburning storylines as one of the show’s lead characters. Deidre is very, very, veryDeidre and Wayne smart, both politically and personally.  She has done all of the above to perfection, and no soap star has treated her fan club better. She has worked very hard. Like Lucci, no one has ever questioned that soap fans absolutely  love and adore her.

And look at all she has brought to Days over 32 years  She is gorgeous and no soap character has been more compassionate than Dr. Evans.  Marlena can be kind, loving, maternal, loyal.  Deidre can play a believable scene with just about anybody.  She also has a great sense of humor, and as demonstrated in her relationship with the virile Don,Don and Marlena played by Jed Allan, and her early relationship with the original Roman, played by Wayne Northrop. She is wonderful at being playful and has real comic charm.  Few soap couples have been  as charming or as versatile as Don and Marlena. What they brought us was so rare; their characters and their relationship were so supremely adult. Days in the 70s was so great!

And when the late headwriter Jim Reilly came along in 1992 and turned her Marlena into someone who needed an exorcism, Hall  went  along with it smartly. She took a big risk, but the story’s notoriety gave her career an instant rebirth. In private conversation, Reilly would  rarely comment about his actors. If you said an actor was bad, he said, “hello?” like he certainly knew that already.  If he agreed exorcismwith something you said he would reply with “I’m telling ya.”   Or would he just laugh to confirm your observations. One time I told him that I liked the work Deidre had done in a storyline.  It was the only time I ever heard him utter a full sentence about an actor: “When you have the best, you use the best.”

So really, fans, what difference does it make what Deidre Hall is really like privately?  A great, great  star, she’s delivered the goods for  32 years.  Has Ken Corday really fired his biggest star, Deidre Hall, for good?

Remember, in show biz, nothing is ever what it seems to be.

Comments

  1. Leona says:

    For me, Deidre Hall is an actor with two completely different acts. Act 1 took place when she joined DOOL through the time she left to do Our House. I think that Marlena was one of daytime’s best…warm, giving, funny, open, caring…just an exceptional character. Her relationships with Don, then Roman (as well as her friendships with others) were a joy to watch. And I can honestly say that Deidre had the acting chops to go with her popularity.

    Then Act 2 happened when she returned. I couldn’t get past how “plastic” Marlena seemed. She never really clicked for me in that same special way. Was it that Deidre Hall believed the “queen” role she’d been given? I don’t know, but her acting was never real or genuine for me again.

    Marlena says: After my unfortunate run-in with Deidre in Los Angeles when she was on “Our House,” let’s just say I could hardly bare to watch Marlena on Days for a long, long time. But I’ve heard her later performances compared to plastic by other fans too, dear Leona. But most Days fans seem to love Deidre, no matter what.

  2. Thank you Marlena for such an insightful and affectionate tribute to the “Other” Marlena. I think a lot of fans like me forget what a risk she took with the Devil storyline in 1995. Yet Deidre was all for it and plunged right in with her heart, her soul, and a mean pair of contacts. We truly are losing a valued icon (or at last it appears that way!).

    Marlena says: Actually, I was so shocked and stunned by the exorcism storyline back in 1995 I didn’t even write about it. Only when the ratings went dramatically up did I make a comment. I think I wrote, “Raising ratings is good, but I hope I never see anything as sensationalist as this on soaps in the future.” Oh LOLOLOLOL!

  3. John says:

    Another wonderful, eloquent tribute.

    I like how you separate Deidre, the woman, from Marlena, the character. Deidre’s Marlena is imo the greatest soap heroine ever. The only two close to Marlena are Genie Francis’ Laura and Mary Stuart’s Joanne. Those characters are so different from Hall’s Marlena though. I think that Marlena and John will go down as one of the greatest soap couples ever. Unapologetically adult and passionate, John and Marlena’s story was built on angsty longing and passion. Unfortunately, in recent years, Days has either had near naked porn like sex scenes or no love at all. I will always love Sheri Anderson’s version of John and Marlena and how James Reilly continued that journey. The stuff since then (as the ratings have declined as a result) has been a pale imitation.

    It is nice to read such incisive criticism. Happy Thanksgiving.

    Marlena says: Thanks John. I know you are a regular reader of this column.
    I hope you had a wonderful holiday too!

  4. Alan Ryan says:

    Add me into the category who preferred the Dr. Marlena Evans of the 70′s and 80′s to the character we saw in the 90′s and even today.

    I thought Hall’s acting and the character of Marlena lost a certain charm, maturity, and overall class she used to have. This happened mostly under Reilly, and it continued to get worse after he was gone.

    The possession storyline forever made the character cornered and for the sake telling serious storylines, it made it almost impossible to ever reference that event again whenever DAYS occasionally tried to do more natural character-driven storylines. Hence why it would have been absolutely ludicrous for Marlena to mention the time she was possessed and John saved her during John’s death storyline in 2007.

    I also hated how Marlena became defined as being John’s woman during the Reilly era, which of course continues on today. The Marlena I knew and loved was feisty, independent, and certainly didn’t need a man to define who and what she is. That’s partly why I found Marlena’s relationships with Don and the original Roman to be much more natural, layered, and of course, realistic. Not to mention that subtle misogyny that ran though a lot of Reilly’s storylines – I mean women like Marlena and Kristen losing touch with reality because they wanted to win John? I’m sure Bob Guza was a big fan of that.

    I have always thought that Hall phoned a lot of her material in. I can’t necessarily blame her, given some of the outrageous material she’s had to act out during the years. But when she’s given good material, she has proven herself. The thing is, that hasn’t happened at all over the past decade or so. Unlike women like Erika Slezak, Kim Zimmer, or Susan Flannery, Hall’s acting doesn’t tend to rise above atrocious material, at least in my personal opinion. I’ve also had problems with Marlena becoming the central heroine on DAYS, when women like Susan Hayes’ Julie and Suzanne Rogers’ Maggie were relegated to backburner status – women with ties to the Horton family, a family that has been almost absolutely obliterated from the show’s canvas over the past 25 year or so.

    I agree, losing Marlena and Hall will be a great loss for DAYS. Despite the way the character was written, and Hall’s sometimes less than stellar performances, both were popular and helped define the show over the past 15 years. In a time when ratings are falling, you would think Ken Corday would realize that his show needs to bank on what made it a recognizable hit, but I guess he sees things differently.

    Marlena says: Wow, Alan Ryan. This is a magnificently written letter — you are a true Thinking Fan. I was always a huge Susan Seaforth Hayes fan and I just about gave up Days when she and Bill (as Julie and Doug) were first written out circa 1984 or so, so that Bo and Hope could take over the center spotlight to share it with … Marlena. That Marlena was never a Horton family member and has dominated the show for so long has puzzled me, too.

    The point you make about Deidre not being able to rise above atrocious material as Susan Flannery and Erika Slezak do is very telling. All those years Lucci was famously nominated and never won an Emmy (18) I rarely heard Deidre’s lack of a nomination mentioned Emmy time. (Susan won on try #19.) As I said in the above column, Deidre has always been masterful at being a great star. But the fact remains she’s one of the very few top female daytime leading ladies who has never won an Emmy.

  5. David C says:

    Although I was only a brief Days fan-1981 to about 1985, the story that hooked me first was one involving Marlena and someone else, I knew that she and Don were no longer married but the magic between Deidre Hall and Jed Allen got me hooked. Then her onscreen chemistry with Wayne Northrop kept me there until the show became the Bo and Hope show. And although I’d only read about the legendary Susan Seaforth Hayes I too was hooked by whatever the writers were giving her character in those early 1980s. I knew this was an actress and character to be reckoned with,

    Over the last decades I’d tune in to see a glimpse of Days and was struck that Deidre Hall either had become an automaton or was there just for the money. How she’s endured as the queen of Days this long is beyond me; the old spitfire Marlena who mesmerized me had apparently left the building.

    Remember though, this Ken Corday also “killed off” most of the old cast with much publicity and the ratings catapulted, Who knows what Corday has in mind this time around but remember, the dead were living on an island somewhere. Is this another one of those-oh look, they made the Empire State Buidling disappear illusions? If it is and the ratings skyrocket. well P.T. Barnum was indeed right.

    Marlena says: Susan Seaforth Hayes’ Julie was a hellcat and IMO outshone Deidre greatly in the late 1970s. I remember reading in fan magazines of the time that there was some heavy backstage competition between the two; clearly Deidre won as Susan and Bill Hayes were exiled from the show they made famous throughout the 70s when the Bo and Hope show started. I too, shoved off for other soaps then.

    As for Deidre and Drake being fired now as a Corday-approved stunt, who knows? But the Deidre I met had Ken (a notorious jerk) hooked around her little finger, always. Also, have you seen Deidre crying about being “fired” on Entertainment Tonight or begging for a job on any other show? I haven’t!

  6. LisaD says:

    A few comments:

    I believe Deidre Hall not winning an Emmy had a lot more to do with backstage politics than it did with her talent. Deidre herself was controversial for many years because of the whole AIDS ribbon fiasco and for sending out tapes of her performance in the possession, which rubbed voters the wrong way. Days’ reputation in the industry didn’t help either, thanks to Reilly’s fantastical storytelling, hiring model “actors” and Corday’s gloating over winning fan awards. In later years NBC didn’t have enough soaps to “block vote” as CBS and ABC did.

    As for why Marlena was a central character though she wasn’t a Horton, the answer is because Deidre Hall played her! If the actress wasn’t immensely popular she would have faded into the background the way others in her peer group did. More often than not, when Days needed ratings or publicity, they put Marlena front and center and Deidre delivered. Unfortunately, unlike Susan Lucci, Susan Flannery and Erika Slezak, Deidre didn’t have the kind of writing to showcase her talents. Lucci got her “Emmy story” every year in time for nominations. Deidre got to play the surrogate mother for alien twins.

    Love her or hate her, Deidre left her mark on daytime and Corday is an idiot for letting her go.

    Marlena says: Thanks for setting me straight and you are 110% right, Lisa. Deidre certainly didn’t have the writing to win an Emmy over all the years and for that I blame — you got it — Mr. Ken Corday. He never hired a writer with the depth of a Marland or a Malone, and unfortunately Reilly’s writing, brilliant though it often was, on Days wasn’t the kind of material the TV academy voters went for. Deidre always delivered for Reilly and everyone else she worked for. As I wrote in my column above, Deidre is amongst the greatest of daytime stars — ever.

    As far as KC is concerned, don’t mention him and his cluelessness around me. I never met him. Yet years ago, he threatened my job security — because I DIDN’T write about him. Dee will survive him and this “firing,” you can be sure!

  7. antmunoz says:

    If Deidre wants to continue acting in daytime (I think her prime time days are long gone), I’d take a chance if I was her. Instead of pulling a Linda Dano (did that post-AW stunt ever really work?), I’d take my STAR power to a show that really needs it: GUIDING LIGHT. While I doubt that Dee would move to NYC, I think she’d make an awesome Hope Bauer Spauding and finally give Alan someone to properly spar with. Beth just ain’t cuttin’ it. It would give Phillip an ally (he and Hope were friends), and could resurrect Alan-Michael successfully (I’d hope). GL may be going down for the count just like DAYS, but Deidre could be great press and certainly wouldn’t hold any blame if GL got cancelled regardless. On most of the other shows, I’d just see her fading into the woodwork. But a Dee vs. Kim Zimmer story could be dynamite! Maybe Hope has a yen for Jeffrey? (Perhaps they were lovers somewhere in the 25 years Hope has been missing?) Maybe A-M could hook up with Marah? Battling mothers-in-law? I’d love it, and, more importantly, I’D WATCH.

  8. Preacher'swife says:

    Please bring back John & Marlena for a summer telenovela ending with Stefeno’s death and the beginning of more realistic plots for Roman & Marlena as John exits the show as priest. Bring back the Hortons and the kind of plots that landed Susan Seaforth Hayes on the cover of time!

  9. Tammy says:

    I stumbled upon this site when I was doing some research; I’m so glad I did. FABULOUS! First, Marlena, GREAT article!
    I’m a freelance writer myself (also turned down by Deidre for an interview … she had previously said “yes” to an interview) I really enjoy reading a well written piece! Nice work!
    I’ll have to totally agree with Leona and a lot of these other great comments; The ONLY Marlena for me is “Act 1″ from 1976-1982.
    The writing was perfect! DON & MARLENA were the only real “believable” couple to me. They loved, fought, and bantered like a real couple. I was sick when J.E. Reilly broke them up for good. Why? Is beyond me!….Their chemistry was so NATURAL , I had to pinch myself to stop dreaming they were REALLY MARRIED.

    I stopped watching DAYS when Jed Allan left the show.
    As far as Deidre goes; I agree again with the above comments; I think she has gotten so far gone. with pride…that she has fallen prey to the old “Industry dragon”….Believing your OWN press! …Scary! Her acting has never been worthy enough for EMMY……..but again, that’s the writers….if you need emotion and crying…Dee’s your girl!……But Jed Allan made her good in the 70′s. So basically, K.C. replaced someone like Jed Allan ( a theater trained actor) for Drake Hogestyn…a injured MINOR league baseball player?? (who thinks he can act?) Where is the trade off Ken?
    Note to Drake: Raising your eyebrow for a still shot is NOT acting!
    I hate that the whole show itself has been surrounded around “Marlena” and this AWFUL storyline writing!! Well, at least I can say this; For those of us who saw Marlena in the late 70′s at least we got the REAL DEE-L! Her acting with Jed Allan was pure, fresh, and uninhibited! Now it’s remote control…

  10. Tammy says:

    P.s.

    I “tolerated” Roman. I didn’t think he fit at all with Marlena. But I was always in hopes that Don would break them up and come back to claim his woman! Lol

  11. Tad says:

    Deidre Hall has has probably the strongest fan base of any daytime star. She worked hard on it. The facts will show that yes she has promoted herself including taking out ads to try to get Emmy nominations. I do think deep down she feels snubbed. She is not deemed a great actress like Zimmer, Slezak et al. And while she has sought the glamour and paparazi she never attained the star power of Susan Lucci. Yes, she is attractive but she did not have the it factor to really go beyond DOOL. Sadly, Susan Lucci is perhaps the only real daytime star who has managed to stay on daytime tv and garner enough “it” power or respect to be a truly viable star on night time. Lucci’s movies were always top 20 and usually top 10 (with the exception of the the much acclaimed Ebbie which may have been top 30 as it was a cable show. Hall’s our House benefitted from major lead in shows for quite some time but once they were lost the show started to flounder. And again Hall while having her Days fans had trouble goig beyond that fan base. Hall has not been thirlled when being interviewed to be compared with Lucci and even one time on a talk show said don’t mention that name. Hall looks for glamour and tries to dress glamourous – Lucci is glamourous but she puts her family first and is much interesting than Hall with her lawsuits, husbands, surrogate mother for her kids and even her demanour. Lucci is a company girl; Deidre is about herself. Hall has had relationship issues not only with husbands but her colleagues on Days. She is beautiful but really has been very lucky. It doesn’t help that she is with one of the worst actors in the history of civilization in Drake H. DH squared are not exactly Emmy or Oscar actors but are likeable by very devoted if not demented fans who live and breath Days.

  12. kap says:

    Haven’t watched days since Wayne (roman) left. (1985). Watched it again when he came back in 1991. Loved Roman and Marlena. Can’t stand Drake. Copy cat to Wayne, “Doc, s & c and their poem. Bring back Wayne as Roman and you will have an instant viewer. Drake can’t even act.

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