Remembering Douglas Marland: A Week-long Celebration

Douglas Marland:  May 5, 1935 – March 6, 1993

By Marlena De Lacroix

Can it really be 15 years since the light was turned off? 
Those were the words of my friend, soap historian Leona Barad when I wrote to her  telling her we were planning a special week of articles here at to commemorate the 15th anniversary of Douglas Marland’s death on March 6, 1993, at age 58.

Because Doug was a light not just in the lives of people he worked with on soaps, but also to the millions of viewers who loved the shows he served as headwriter over the years, we celebrate his life and work this week with a series of special articles, reminiscences and critical analyses of his soaps.

We start  today with a series of interviews with a group of the actors on his shows, some of the many he especially enjoyed writing for and who loved working with him.  Those soaps included The DoctorsGeneral Hospital, Guiding Light, Loving (which he co-created with Agnes Nixon) and what many considered  his masterpiece, As the World Turns.    
Doug’s  writing shone with intelligence, integrity and love. What was even more poignant about his sudden  death at age 58, during emergency abdominal surgery, is that he died at the height of ATWT‘s success, just when his talents as a serious dramatist (not just a soap headwriter) were justly being  celebrated.

In person,  Doug was effusive, warm and unpretentious.  He  seemed to know everyone in the soap business — actors, producers, writers and soap journalists — and we were all thrilled to know him so well.  He  is acutely  missed  both as a beloved friend  and consummate headwriter. 
            Schedule for’s special Doug Marland week: 
            TodayInterviews with some of his favorite actors. 
            Tuesday:  Marland’s complete acting and writing credits.  More interviews. 
            Wednesday: Patrick recalls some of Doug’s best storylines and reveals how they still resonate today. 
             Thursday: On the actual anniversary of his death, Marlena recalls the Doug she knew as a friend for  many  years.  
             And of course, all week we invite you to submit your own memories and comments on Doug and his work, which we’ll post.  


  1. Michael Logan says:

    Marlena dearest. First off, I am hugely enjoying your new site. The commentary is terrific — fresh, passionate, insightful and provocative. You’ve always been the best in the biz! Plus it’s so cool that you’re bringing us this gentleman, Patrick Erwin. He, too, is quite marvelous. And now a celebration of Douglas Marland! I can’t wait to see what you guys deliver over the next few days. What a treat for all of us who adored Douglas’s work and still treasure his legacy!

    Michael Logan/TV Guide

  2. Humanity: that is the main quality I see in the writing of Douglas Marland. I’ve had the pleasure to watch his work only on “Loving”, unfortunately. I remember with great fondness the beginning of that show. I’ve just re-watched its very first episode (which he co-wrote with Patrick Mulcahey), and I was pleased to see that it was not just my memory that holds it so precious. It was so modern, yet classical. And it had believable, true-to-life human characters. I just wish I had more chances to be exposed to his work.

  3. Thanks for reminding your readers about Marland’s stellar work. Anything that counters P&G’s sickening efforts to discredit him on their blog last year is welcome. The hacks in charge of today’s soaps need to remember how excellence in the soap genre is achieved. ATWT was certainly a “masterpiece” from 1985 to 1993.

  4. Ryan Chandler says:

    Marlena, you continue to amaze me with your site. I am looking forward this special week. As a younger fan, I’ve heard many great things about Doug Marland’s work.

    You can’t not post a message board, without seeing someone talk about Marland’s Rules of “How Not To Wreck A Soap.” His rules still have relevance in today’s soap world, though many don’t seem to follow them.

    I look forward to talking with you on Wednesday, as we celebrate the life and career of Douglas Marland. Keep up the great work.


    Marlena says: Thanks, dear. I (and hopefully Patrick) will be chatting with Ryan and Jen about Doug Marland on their “In the Zone” radio show ( Wednesday evening at 10:30PM ET. Ryan and Jen always put on a great show and I have enjoyed guesting on it many times. See you then!

  5. Dominique says:

    Douglas Marland is sorely missed, 15 years without his love for soaps, the viewers, casts and crews. These are dark times for soaps…we, the viewers would be in need of a new Douglas Marland.

    GH’s regime of terror (Jill Farren Phelps and Bob Guza) need some light to be shed on their opinions and a few teaching lessons on how not to wreck a soap!

    Thank you Mr. Marland, you are sorely missed! More than you’ll ever know.

  6. Purple Haze says:

    Outside of the remarkably compelling stories he crafted and unforgettable characters he created, Doug Marland respected his audience. He is sorely missed.

  7. Fabobug says:

    Wow, can you imagine actors from any show praising their HW this way these days?

    In addition to what has already been said about Mr. Marland, I have to admire him as an activist as well. I don’t mean only politically — though bringing daytime’s first openly gay male character on screen was pretty political.

    I also admire the way he stood up for his beliefs. His fought for his actors, and even resigned from GL in protest when the EP dumped Jane Elliot. He had strong opinions and was willing to back them up with his actions. This is a great lesson for all of us these days.

    Marlena says: Great point, Fabs. In researching more on Doug for this celebration I’ve found out how many times he went up against his bosses — like executive producer Allen Potter on Guiding Light or notorious personalities in this business — like Gloria Monty on General Hospital. And he lost jobs and/or walked away from soaps he loved. And he always, always, sprung back with a better show with better people afterward.

    It’s taught me a huge lesson, Fabs, all these years after Doug died. He was a very passionate man. I saw him on more than one occasion over the years with tears in his eyes. As I will recall in my column on Thursday, he was a uniquely vulnerable and righteous person in a very rough business.

  8. I’ve written at length, here and elsewhere, about how much I admired Doug’s work. What I want to share now is his generosity toward those of us in the soap press.

    My first story for Soap Opera Weekly was about how nurses were portrayed in soaps. I called Doug at home for the interview. I had the good sense to hang on to his phone number, and a few months later, was glad I did . I was stuck on a story, the roadblock being a CBS publicist who shall remain nameless. I dug out the number and called him. As before, he answered the phone himself, listened to my sad tale, then helped me circumvent the publicist by giving me the direct numbers of several sources.

    I wound up with a pretty decent story on how three headwriters, Doug among them, became headwriters. We spoke a few times after that, the last time a few months before his death. And every time I called, he answered his own phone.

    Marlena says: Doug loved the press, and was very kind to us during the early years when most soap execs/headwriters treated us like vermin! I was there (and I knew him) from 1980 and I could testify.

    Years later, a very nasty soap reporter “friend” of mine asserted that Doug was using us for his own publicity. That happens a lot today I am sure. But anyone in the press in those early days who knew him felt his genuine warnth and friendship. Believe Marlena, who is usually the first to sense disingenuous people in the soap biz. Doug was the real deal.

  9. This is a wonderful thing you’re doing for Doug, Marlena. I only met him once and it was soon before he died but it affected me more than words can say. His passion for the genre is missing today from writers. They can say they have it, but what’s onscreen says something different. The genre took a nosedive after his death and I don’t forsee it ever rebounding.

  10. Oh thank you for this wonderful retrospective on Doug Marland’s life and work. I’m getting thrills just remembering all the great characters and storylines he was responsible for.

  11. david from CA says:

    It’s strange. For some odd reason I decided to look up Doug Marland on the internet to see if there were any sites at all devoted to him. Oh wait, that’s not strange, now I know why I did it. The state of our beloved shows today, that’s right. Agnes(Nixon)is good as gone, Bill(Bell) is gone, it’s no wonder Daytime hasn’t all but gone missing too. Oh yeah, it has on NBC. This is a great thing to see. The best writers being remembered in the best ways. Marlena, can’t you wage a campaign to bring back Pam Long, and what happened to Pat Faulken Smith. Y&R was smart to grab Josh Griffith-I remember him from long ago. Soaps will never be the same without the great writers and creators who were responsible for it’s hey-day. That is definately Doug Marland. I followed him starting with GH- but I know I watched earlier work. Hogan(Sheffer) could have taken a page from his book but alack and alas he doesn’t have the benefit of the great one’s mentorship. No one does today and that’s too bad. I sadly think Daytime will be a thing of the past within the next ten years.

  12. Dear Marlena, I have heard of you and your reputation as a top notch soap analylist. I accidently stumbled onto your site and was so moved by your tribute to the most significant writer in daytime, at least to me, Doug Marland. He was the reason I became a soap fan and the reason I still watch today , ever hopeful that somehow a miracle will happen and ATWT will once again be ” my show”. Doug Marland captured me during his Guiding Light tenure. I even skipped school to watch the Carrie Marler mystery reveal. I was hooked on Kelly and Morgan and loathed and loved Nola. But it was his time on ATWT that made me a true fan. I had watched ATWT as a young child and been sad to see it slowly unravel with crazy plotlines and the reduction of core familes and veteran actors. Doug (and Executive Producer Robert Calhoun) brought the emphasis back to the characters I had always loved but also introduced so many new favorites. Someone mentioned the importance of day players like Jane and Ambrose and I agree. Doug was a genuis who could write many ,many characters and never lose their own unique voice. One of my favorites was Harriet. She was so funny and yet warm. She was a true friend but was always wary of the mess Shannon (or a few times Lisa) would get her into. She was a modern day Ethel Mertz and I loved her because Doug Marland so obviously loved her too. But then again he loved all his characters and it showed. If only he could come back and save our soaps before its all to late. Atleast we had him back in his prime and will always remeber him for his unforgetable stories.

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