General Hospital: Holly’s Return — Redux!

We’re entering into a special period in soaps. Two of our shows will be celebrating significant anniversaries. General Hospital, the longest running scripted show on all of television, will be 60 years old on April 1. And The Young and the Restless will be 50 on March 26. Both shows plan to celebrate with special appearances by alumni performers.

To keep track of so many decades of plot machinations and character comings and goings takes a mind that can remember names and soap history in detail. For the past 30 years, I’ve always checked in with my soap journalist colleague and friend Jeffrey S. Pearlstein for help keeping it all straight.

The other day, we were chatting about Emma Samms, who comes and goes as GH’s Holly Sutton. Nobody exemplifies better than she the complicated journey of a soap star in a classic story that never ends. She debuted on the show in 1982, and while she has been off the show periodically, she has never failed to return. In fact, she has just finished a special monthlong redux. And now it has been announced that she will be back again for GH’s 50th anniversary on April 14.

So here in detail are Jeff’s memories of the lives and loves of Holly and her fellow denizens of Port Charles … so far.


By Jeffrey S. Pearlstein

If at first you fail your deed, try try till you succeed.

In 1992, after an eight-year absence, Emma Samms returned to the role she created in 1983: British con-woman Holly Sutton-Scorpio.

Originally, Samms had the unenviable task of semi-replacing Genie Francis as the love interest of Anthony Geary (who played Luke), before she moved on to a friend of Luke’s, super spy Robert Scorpio (played by Tristan Rogers). It was a marriage of convenience after Luke was believed to have been killed in an avalanche.

The love affair between Holly and Scorpio blossomed into one of growing affection, eternal bliss, sleuthing (à la Nick and Nora Charles) and, shall we say, adult situations. The two characters really were in love, just as the show’s then-producer, Gloria Monty, intended.

Sadly, after Monty departed the show, a new set of writers went to work undermining and eventually destroying the relationship.

As I wrote back in 1992 in the “Hit or Miss” section of the now defunct Soap Opera Weekly,  when Scorpio and Holly first came face to face after her presumed death, it wasn’t the joyful reunion of a long-separated loving couple. It was unexpectedly emotionless for a soap couple that had once been deeply in love. And Holly’s explanation for staying away all those years made no sense whatsoever. But, despite the poor story-telling, the chemistry between Samms and Rogers was just as magical as it had been.

Shortly thereafter, Rogers was written off the show, and within a year so was Samms. But not before a chaotic and aimless story line in which a heretofore unknown half-sister named Paloma, also played by Samms, appeared with a returned Anthony Geary, this time playing a Luke Spencer look-alike named Bill Eckert.

Does that sound like a loser plot? It was. Though Samms and Geary had sparkled as Holly and Luke, the new on-screen relationship fizzled, even though the actors had amazing chemistry.

Fast forward several years to 2006, and Samms made another return appearance, trying to reconnect and come between the relationship of Luke and new wife/partner Tracy Quartermaine. Holly was not only back to her con-artist ways, but she was looking to destroy the happily married pair. Holly, who had never been a home-wrecker before, was played as a devious shrew, which was never in the character’s nature.

Another short-term stint brought Holly back yet again, in search of a now-adult son, Ethan Lovett (played by Nathan Parsons), who had been conceived during a one-night hookup off-screen with Luke when he was married to Laura. At first, Holly tried to claim that the father was Scorpio, but since Rogers was not on the show (i.e., in Port Charles) at the time, his TV daughter, Robin (played by Kimberly McCullough), shot that theory down.

Later in 2006, several legacy characters — including Samms, Rogers, and Finola Hughes (who played Anna Devane) were brought back in a noble attempt to recapture a past long since gone. The attempt fell short and flat — and well outside the confines of the characters’ histories.

Holly was shown as an outright bitch, stealing jewels, holding familiar faces at gun-point and threatening to poison Port Charles’ water supply in an effort to destroy Scorpio’s reputation and profit off a counteragent that would reverse the damage.

The character then resurfaced in yet another story line that reunited Luke and Holly and Scorpio and Anna. The enmity between the two Scorpio ex-wives was back to a bitterness that had long since been extinguished — Anna and Holly had made their peace and parted in a friendly manner back in 1985. It was also beyond the dignity of both actresses.

Yet upon seeing Holly for the first time since then, Anna said to Luke, “Aren’t you and Robert playing footsie with the heartless tramp who tried to profit off the cure?” To which Holly replied, “I see that you’re still the same ice cold, heartless, abrasive bitch you always were!”

If it hadn’t been for Luke intervening between the two women, it might have come to fisticuffs! After Holly stole jewels and boarded a chartered cargo plane to make her getaway, Anna caught up with her and took the jewels for herself. Both women realized “they’d make a great team,” except for the fact that they hated each other, Anna claimed, before parachuting out of the plane!

Another short-term visit by Holly had her and Laura aiming guns at one another, believing each was responsible for the kidnappings of their respective sons, brothers Ethan and Lucky.

Then, finally, just last month, the once again presumed-dead Holly resurfaced in Port Charles, this time much to the delight of her former husband Robert Scorpio. (Was their divorce ever legal? In 1993, Holly ripped up the divorce papers when learning of Scorpio’s “death”?!) This time, Scorpio’s surprise and delight at his ex-wife’s return was full of emotion, and they finally embraced — as they should have in their original 1992 reunion.

Not only was Scorpio thrilled beyond belief to see that his ex-wife and great love was alive and well, but when Holly and Anna later met up in the Port Charles jail, she and Anna clasped hands through the cell bars, and Anna displayed pleasure at seeing her “friend” alive and well.

Although Holly and Anna were never really “friends” (Anna came to town to destroy her relationship with Scorpio, and even planted some stolen Buddha jade pieces on Holly), this reunion between the two Mrs. Scorpios was very adult, as befits both characters.

It may have taken several false starts and twists and turns, but Samms’ latest return to the show was more on par with the character’s original description, which had made Holly one of the most charming and memorable characters in GH history. Samms’ pairings with both Anthony Geary (as Luke) and Tristan Rogers (as Scorpio) made for powerful television, and Holly was also a loving stepmother to Scorpio and Anna’s daughter, Robin.

On this try, producer Frank Valentini succeeded in making Holly’s return a warm and wonderful reunion and a nostalgic trip back home! Here’s hoping GH has something similar on tap for Samms’ 50th anniversary stint.

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