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...]

When All Soaps Are In Lockstep, Is Improvement Possible?

By Marlena De Lacroix

What’s a soap critic to do?  There are only six soaps.  I have a long memory and remember the very early 90s, when Bill Bell originated the homeless storyline with Stephanie, which way proceeded the current one.  Ken Corday is an enemy of free speech; he sought to destroy the critical arm of Soap Opera Weekly years ago. But alas.  The great and ultra creative Jim Reilly is dead and cursed now by Ken and followers.   All that is long ago and distant — to some and those who were not in the daytime world long ago in the first place.

The root of criticism in daytime is executive change.  You call for an executive change when you see a bad soap, a soap that is marked by cronyism, a soap that doesn’t  move, or centers too long on one character or is marked by favoritism or sexism or inside politics.  Yet, all the current headwriters and producers at daytime, as if in a time warp, seem locked into place.  We have Ken, enemy of the First Amendment at Days of Our Lives.  Fronsie eternal at ABC.  All the Bells and the bravura Rauch at Y&RJill and Bob at General Hospital.  They all seem to be [Read more...]

Daytime Emmys 2009: The Beginning of the End?

By Ed Martin 

Watching the 36th annual Daytime Emmy Awards on The CW during the dog days of August confirmed what I already knew: These are dark days indeed for the daypart overall and for soap operas in particular.

It’s not that the telecast was all bad: I actually prefer smaller venues for the Daytime Emmy celebration (the Orpheum Theater in Los Angeles for last night’s show, ballrooms at the Marriott Marquis in Manhattan during the ceremony’s glory years) and I always enjoy an entertaining opening number at any awards event. (Vanessa Williams‘ reworked-for-daytime rendition of Can’t Take My Eyes Off of You was almost as much fun as Neil Patrick Harris‘ surprise closing song at this year’s Tony Awards.) Best of all, in the soap categories the awards were spread over a number of different shows. Only As the World Turns went totally unrewarded during the telecast. (On Saturday it picked up a couple of Creative Arts Emmys, so no soap went home empty handed.)

In fact, I was pleased with most of the winners in the daytime drama categories, from the tie for Outstanding Supporting Actor between the long overdue Vincent Irizarry of All My Children and the very deserving Jeff Branson of Guiding Light to

The biggest disgrace was the rushed tribute to the soon-to-be-terminated Guiding Light, which has already completed production and will have its last telecast in two weeks … The other big bad of the night was the brush-off to The Bold and the Beautiful at night’s end.

the surprise Outstanding Lead Actress win for Susan Haskell of One Life to Live. (Her portrayal of repeat rape victim Marty Saybrooke in the year’s most controversial soap story was consistently riveting.) Even though it would have been [Read more...]

Our Soap Shrink Wonders: Why So Many Bloody Brides?

Thinking Fans Comment Update: Jason laments, “I think the problem with soaps these days is they try to distance themselves from what they should be centered upon, which is love and romance, and turn to violence” … while Deep Dish,  favoring balance, suggests, “I think there’s room enough on soaps for both the traditional romantic weddings as well as the bloody bride interruptus ones” … and more.  See Comments below. 

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BrideBy Damon L. Jacobs

Savvy daytime fans know the value and vindication of the classic soap wedding.  But more and more this great tradition is being replaced with a trend that promotes gore and carnage:  The iconic bloody white wedding dress.

I, for one, fail to see the benefit or payoff for covering our heroines in blood.  It certainly can’t.t be for shock value, since anyone old enough to remember Sissy Spacek in Carrie is no longer surprised by the contrast of innocence and red liquids.  In my opinion, this trend is one of many ways the current shows are sending a message of defiance into the faces of long-term viewers, as this once sacred and uplifting wedding episode is now frequently mired in violence and bloodshed.

And yet I can’t help but wonder how others perceive it.  It used to be that viewers would get to witness a couple spending several years coming together, making up, breaking up, then [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...]

Soap Shrink to Thinking Fans: Ways to Cope with Recent Soap Deaths

Thinking Fans on the passing of beloved soap characters:  BL says, “Feelings are feelings, and if someone did something magnificent in their career or touched you emotionally, it should be honored” … while renee says, “I know they’re not physically real, but if we’re blessed they’re emotionally real” … and more. See Comments below. 

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By Damon L. Jacobs

This is not an easy time to be a soap fan.  Already we are coping with declining ratings, pre-emptions, time changes, and signs of behind-the-scenes instability.  But this week the Thinking Fans are coping with not one, not two, but three significant creative and artistic losses.  What’s worse, the NAW’s (Non-Addicted-Watchers) in our lives usually have a limited ability to relate to our pain and sorrow.  

Unlike stars of prime time TV shows or movies, soap actors/writers form unique relationships with us viewers.  They are in our homes several times a week, sometimes for decades at a time.  We often go through school and college

Respect your relationship with the person who has died …  Appreciate the values they brought into your life.

watching our favorite character go through similar struggles.  We may enter and exit relationships; we may give birth to children and watch them grow up, all with that comforting surrogate family member entering into our homes during the day.  They come to symbolize [Read more...]