The Mega-successful, Classy World of Bill Bell

By Marlena De Lacroix a.k.a. Connie Passlacqua Hayman

When I was a girl soap reporter, I called him “Mr. Bell” during interviews because of Bill Bell’s exalted status in the soap industry.  And Bill Bell (1927-2005) would just laugh and go ahead to speak about Bill Bellwhat one always talked to him about: the work.  He was the only person I ever interviewed who hardly ever promoted himself personally.  And he was in show business!   Bell, a true gentleman, preferred to have his work speak for itself.

So I’m glad there’s a new biography that both examines Bell’s personal life story and takes a comprehensive look at his always top-rated soaps. The book, published by Sourcebooks, is titled The Young and Restless Life of William J. Bell, Creator of The Young and the Restless and The Bold and the Beautiful and written by veteran soap journalist Michael Maloney and Lee Phillip Bell, Bell’s wife, who also co-created both soaps.

Bill Bell had a wonderful life, told in this book with same kind of class that helped make him such a remarkable person in life and in television history.

There was never a day in his 40-plus years in the soaps when Bell’s writing wasn’t excellent and his soaps engrossing and entertainingly and intelligently done.. He, his soaps, his family and his organization were  always all about class — and success.  And on top of all this, he was a genuinely nice man.

Bill Bell really was the prototypical American success story of a man who started humbly and worked his way to the top.  He came from a Midwest middle class family, served stateside during World War II, and [Read more…]

What’s to Watch Now?

By Marlena De Lacroix

As the World Turns was over on Friday and at least two dozen of my old soap pals all called or wrote. But what to watch now? If you are still around to watch afternoons, it’s slim pickings.ATWT Days is way too juvenile even to contemplate. Young and Restless is very competent soap opera. But someone help! We’re left with the ABC Daytime line up. Admiring my dog Nigel sleeping on the couch seems to look like better entertainment after a while.

All My Children is boring. Who ever heard of a soap opera without a villain? What happened to Vincent Irizarry (David, who is now really, truly dead). Did he want too

Goodbye, As the Word Turns. But … One Life to Live is boring … General Hospital is boring … All My Children is boring … So what’s to watch now?

much money? No Adam, no David, and JR does not cut it as a first class villain. I could care less about Rebecca Budig. What puzzles me is that a network that is obsessed with shirtless boys (like the indistinguishable Ford boys on One Life to Live) should foist such a middle age frump as Caleb Cooney (the I’m-so-bored-please-pay-me Michael Nouri) on me. Why, Lord, why? By the time Susan Lucci arrives back in town as [Read more…]

Ten Happy Halloween Questions

By Marlena De Lacroix

1.  Isn’t it most curious that two of the most intelligent women characters in daytime — Dr. Marty Saybrooke on One Life to Live and fashion mogul Jackie M on The Bold and the Beautiful – have gone from brunette to blonde in the last few months?  Fashion, or just another attempt by the networks/shows to “dumb down” smart female characters?  Regardless, Susan Haskell and Lesley Ann-Downe continue to look gorgeous and act with integrity!

2.  The great, the one and only Eric Braeden; my revered and beloved Robin Strasser — am I the only one l who feels used and tired out by … Continued below

Halloween Marlena

MARLENA AND NIGEL’S HALLOWEEN POOCH PARADE

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Continued from above … being drawn into their public contract negotiations?  Sure, they don’t deserve pay cuts!  But can’t they keep the drama and tragedy private?  The press gets [Read more…]

Soap January: Bombs Away!

Deidre and Drake

Thinking Fans Comment Update: Steve‘s take on AMC’s “January stunts” is “I don’t know if I can think of a more blatant example of the type of heartless sickness that has wounded soaps” … and S. Woods adds: “The crud on offer from these soaps is giving tastelessness a bad name” … while Twb6y optimistically doesn’t believe John and Marlena are really gone for good … and more. See Comments below.

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By Marlena De Lacroix

Each year, I have January off from school and I snooze, do some quiet reading and graze the minimally eventful pre-sweeps soaps.  Not this year.  Too often I’d see something on a soap that would surprise me, shock me or even out and out disgust me. I’d scream! I’d yell!  Every other day!

What is going on in this soap January?  I have a feeling the approaching end of the genre may have to do with the frantic state of all the soap activity on and off screen this month.  Every soap wants to save itself. Every soap is desperately doing whatever it can to hold on to viewers.  Hence, many soaps may be acting more out of panic and fright than thinking calmly and rationally.  For, how else can you explain the following January soap bombs?

Deidre Hall  and Drake Hogestyn get fired and leave Days of Our Lives for good. Does anyone remember the soap parody film Soapdish from 1992?  In it a soap headwriter played by Whoopi Goldberg is asked to bring back a dead character she

No, no,  not even the freezing winds of January could  render my longtime beloved soap operas … so disgustingly crass!  

had previously decapitated.  “How can I bring him back?” she says, “He doesn’t have a head! How can I give lines to a body running around without a head?” Kinda sums up the absurdity of Ken Corday getting rid of [Read more…]

Marlena’s “Only the Bests” List 2008

New Year'sEve clip art

Thinking Fans’ picks and pans for 2008: Cherry Ames pans Todd/Marty as “the foulest story ever” … DSO816 picks the Angie/Jesse reunion … while Marlene agrees GHNS2 set the bar higher for all soaps … and more. See Comments below. 

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By Marlena De Lacroix

Last year I decided I will no longer do “Best” and “Worst” lists for soaps.  After all, there have been so many “worsts” this year (real life deaths, superstar firings, General Hospital limosex and other tasteless storylines, wasted returns of some soap veterans), why would I want to re-inflict the pain on you?

 So, darlings, here are my “bests.”

General Hospial Night Shift 2 — As I wrote last fall,”If they could bottle this show, they could save soap opera.”  This 2008 soap dared to remember that soap opera is supposed to be about love, compassion, close friendships and the importance [Read more…]

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 [Read more…]

Dee-A-Palooza, Day Two: Days’ Marlena’s “Cool Intelligence and Warm Sensuality Hard to Ignore”

Deidre Hall 2

Thinking Fans Comment Update: James sees Deidre’s departure as another nail in Days’ coffin … and more. See Comments below. 

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By Patrick Erwin

I’ve watched Deidre Hall as Dr. Marlena Evans on Days of Our Lives since Marlena came to Salem in 1976. By some miracle of good living and genetics, Hall looks almost the same now as she did then. (I, on the other hand, have far more crow’s feet and far less hair than I did then!)

Like all good soap opera viewing habits, I got hooked on DAYS because it was one of Mom’s favorites. Her two favorite characters were a study in contrasts. There was Julie, whose ability to suffer was so [Read more…]

Farewell Dee-A-Palooza Week, Day One: Soap Shrink Says, “I Wanted to Be Dr. Marlena!”

Thinking Fans Comment Update:  Jonnysbro can’t imagine Salem without Dr. Marlena Evans … while Christine thinks Deidre’s “many fans would follow her to the ends of the earth” … and more. See Comments below. 

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To mark executive producer Ken Corday’s ver-ry curious decision to fire Deidre Hall and Drake Hogestyn from Days of Our Lives, we here at Marlenadelacroix.com figured we’d pull out all the stops to honor both Dee and one of the most popular characters in history, let alone daytime history, namely Dr. Marlena Evans —  32 years in Salem, 32 years as a daytime superstar!

Yes, it’s our own Farewell Dee-A-Palooza. On successive days our Soap Shrink Damon L. Jacobs, Patrick Erwin and moi will examine why both actress and character were so mega-popular over the years. And we’ll reflect on what they mean to us personally. Day One:  a man whose life was profoundly influenced by Dr. Marlena Evans — Damon L. Jacobs.

                                                                                                Marlena

                                                                                                XXXOOO

By Damon L. Jacobs

I must begin discussing Deidre Hall’s portrayal of Marlena Evans with a confession:  I announced to my parents at age five that I intended to become a therapist, and forced everyone who came through the house to tell me their problems. During graduate school people often asked how I knew I wanted to study psychology so early in life.  I made up answers about [Read more…]

From Bad to Good or Good To Bad: Seven Soap Characters Who Changed Before Our Eyes

Melissa Claire Egan

Thinking Fans Comment Update Sept. 9:  Sina nominates Maxie Jones … Greg would include Vanessa Chamberlain …  Aaron misses Annie Dutton … and more. See Comments below. 

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By Patrick Erwin

It’s been interesting to watch recent scenes with Melissa Claire Egan as Annie on All My Children. Once a good girl, Annie has turned into a manipulative witch. She may not be a nice person anymore, but Annie no longer comes off as a Greenlee-wannabe and is far more interesting to watch.
 
Most soap characters serve a purpose and stay in their designated slot: heroine, villain, rouge, or temptress. But every once in a while, a character will undergo a major metamorphosis and make a dramatic change, redeeming their wicked ways or shedding their goodness to get in touch with their inner bad seed.

Here are seven examples of characters who radically changed in front of our eyes.
 
1.  Annie Dutton, Guiding Light: Speaking of Annies, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention this one. When she was [Read more…]

Soap Surprises: Five Holy @#%! Moments

Marlena killer

Thinking Fans Holy @#%! Update Aug. 14:  Melanie picks Wayne Northrup’s return as Roman on Days … B3 loved Gwyneth as the killer on Loving … Carl recalls five faves from Santa Barbara … and more.  See Comments below.

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By Patrick Erwin

Soap plots have many twists and turns in them, but we rarely get to see a complete “bombshell” surprise, like the ones we’ve seen in The Sixth Sense, The Crying Game, or The Usual Suspects. The “reveal” of a surprise on soaps usually happens a little bit at a time, with a character or two here or there. And unfortunately, the appetite for news and spoilers has spoiled the element of surprise for many viewers (and that isn’t doing the shows any favors, either).

But there have been moments of complete, utter surprise on the soaps. Here (in no particular order) are five examples of fantastic, goosebump-producing, oh-no-they-didn’t moments.

NOTE: The moments I am talking about, and have listed below, were stories where we the audience, were totally surprised when these scenes played out. There are many, many moments, like [Read more…]