Michael Malone: A Loss of Llanview’s Best

This past weekend came the tragic news that former One Life to Live and Another World headwriter Michael Malone passed away in Clinton, Conn. at age 80.

He’s remembered lovingly for his Emmy-winning work on OLTL, recognized with the Best Writing award in 1994 and nominations in that category in 1992, 1995 and 1996.

He was also a prolific award-winning novelist and short-story writer, and for many years a professor of literature at Duke University.

We viewers who watched the soaps he wrote were so fortunate to have experienced his great talent and heart.  His OLTL (1991-96) in collaboration with executive producer Linda Gottlieb was so unique — neither had ever done a soap before.  Malone already had enjoyed a distinguished career in fiction and academe (his widely respected novels included Foolscap in 1991), while Gottlieb earned kudos as producer of the hit movie Dirty Dancing.

We Thinking Fans who crave intelligence and depth in soaps were so lucky to have watched OLTL during their tenure.

What powerful stories they produced together!  Who can ever forget the daring story in which Marty Saybrooke (Susan Haskell) was raped by three men, one of them Todd Manning — the debut of soap superstar Roger Howarth (now Austin on General Hospital).  What an incredible trial followed!

Another story — very special to then newspaper freelancer Marlena who was the only reporter who covered it — was a landmark in daytime television.  A young character named Billy Douglas (future movie star Ryan Phillipe) came out as gay to his friend Rev. Andrew Carpenter (Wortham Krimmer).  His father Sloan (Roy Thinnes) was asked to officiate at a ceremony when the real-life AIDS quilt was brought to Llanview.  (It was actually taped in New Jersey.)  Marlena was never so moved in her professional life as she was when she met many of the  survivors who honored their dead loves with patches on the quilt.

Jeanne Passanante, who wrote many soaps and worked with Malone on OLTL told me: “Michael Malone was a master storyteller and a true gentleman.   He imbued his characters and their stories with heart and humor and compassion.  It was the privilege of my lifetime to work with him.”

And what amazing characters Malone created!   There was kooky New Age Luna Moody, played to comic perfection by Susan Batten.   Another one—which I think was autobiographical (Malone was a literature professor) – became the great heartthrob of the day (oh okay, mine, LOL). He was Patrick Thornhart, (the bravura Thorsten Kaye, now Ridge on The Bold and the Beautiful) who came to Llanview from Ireland and cured Marty’s heart after the trial (Kaye and Haskell later married in real life).  Patrick was always reciting poetry – -in particular Yeat’s poem Brown Penny.  Yes, readers I confess — he made me swoon.

I was lucky enough to get to know Malone well through numerous interviews and set visits.  One time — it was at the release of his novel, Foolscap — I went to his book signing at a bookstore in Greenwich Village.   Before he started his talk he came over to me and said, “Marlena, no One Life to Live questions please!”

Another interview with Malone resulted in a column for Soap Opera Weekly called “Malone Alone.”  After he left OLTL he went to NBC’s Another World” which then had its studio in Brooklyn.    Without Gottlieb and the mighty ABC Daytime to foster him, Malone was absolutely miserable.  He later went back to OLTL as story consultant.

Malone was a family man who was deeply devoted to his wife Maureen Quilligan, a fellow professor of English at Duke University.  For many years he posted pictures of his beloved granddaughter Maisie on Facebook.

With the deaths as well of Ann Heche (Marley, Vicky, AW) and, Robyn Griggs, it’s been a terrible week for those of us who love soap operas. But the death of Michael Malone hits particularly hard.  He was one of our greatest soap headwriters ever. May he rest in peace.

Comments

  1. David Johnson says:

    MA CHERE CONNIE, MERCI BEAUCOUP FOR YOUR BEAUTIFUL TRIBUTE TO MR. MALONE. I NEVER HAD THE PLEASURE OF TALKING TO OR INTERVIEWING THE GENTLEMAN, BUT I FELT I KNEW HIM THROUGH YOUR GREAT INTERVIEWS WITH HIM OVER THE YEARS. YES INDEED, REST IN PEACE, MR. MALONE.

    Marlena says: Merci beaucoup mon cherished colleague and forever friend . And how I have enjoyed editing (the gentleman with perfect copy–always) and reading your interiews and stories over the years. Toujours l’amour!

  2. Anne Marie Allocca says:

    What a beautiful tribute to a wonderful writer. This has been such a sad time for daytime television. May his family find comfort in their memories. I know soap opera fans definitely will.

  3. A lovely tribute to Malone. I adored OLTL during their era. It was definitely unique and I do attribute a lot of that to him. He will be missed. I’m sorry for your own personal loss. It’s been an awful week for AW fans.

    • Marlena De Lacroix a.k.a Connie Passalacqua Hayman says:

      Marlena says; Thanks as always dear Esther. We’ve had an especially hard week in daytime.

  4. OLTL was my all-time favorite soap, and Malone was my absolute favorite of its talented storytellers.

    Malone hit daytime television with the governing philosophy that if Charles Dickens were alive in the early 1990s, he would have been writing soap operas. The yarns that Malone managed to spin out of that deceptively simple notion were thrilling, and exotic, and a touchstone for a new generation of soap fans like myself who were coming of age and interested in themes that went above the frothy romantic fantasies that had long defined the form. (Not that there’s anything wrong with romantic froth, mind you!) There was a period of time in 1994 and early 1995 — with Dorian Lord going on trial for Victor Lord’s long-ago murder dovetailing into the brilliant story of Viki’s shattered psyche, not to mention the painstaking redemption of Todd Manning, that pesky criminal who proved to be such a popular character that the show couldn’t afford to lose him — that ‘One Life’ was the most entertaining (and well-produced!) show on all of television for my money. A spot like Camelot, indeed.

    I was rooting hard for Malone to make a huge success of his heralded return to daytime on ‘Another World’ (I suspect vous were too, madam!) but it clearly wasn’t in the cards. He brought a treasure chest of ideas to the table in his short run as that show’s headwriter, but as you mentioned in ‘Malone Alone’ (one of my all-time favorite Marlena columns!), that show was so cheaply and tackily produced by that point in its run that Malone was probably doomed there from the very beginning. As we often see, sadly, in daytime television, when writers return to the medium trying to recapture some former success, it is very very difficult to make lightning strike twice, and requires a whole lot of luck and alchemy.

    Thanks so much for this lovely tribute to an elegant gentleman and bold storyteller, Marlena!

    • Marlena De Lacroix a.k.a Connie Passalacqua Hayman says:

      Marlena says: Thank you dear Brandon for insights and your longtime allegiance to Ms Marlena. (“Malone Alone” as I have written was a response to Michael’s misery at being at “Another World.”) And how right you are about his frustrating situation there– all writers (in my journalistic experience) always want to be as good as they once were. It’s the tools you are given. Even Rodgers and Hammerstein never wrote sequels to their master works! I’m sure Michael would rather be remembered for his “OLTL” than “AW”. But, anything he wrote–and I know you agree–was a gem.

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