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1952: 'Guiding Light' Makes its TV Debut
June 30, 2019  | By David Bianculli  | 1 comment
 
It would be impressive enough merely to identify Guiding Light as TV's longest-running soap opera. ... But the history of the Guiding Light — which made its television debut on this day in 1952 — goes back all the way to 1937, when it first appeared as a fifteen-minute serial on NBC radio. Though it was common for sitcoms and variety shows to make the leap from radio to television, no other soap opera made the transition successfully. Put the two media together, and the Guiding Light stakes a claim — an irrevocable one — as being the most durable drama in broadcast history.

Given that, you'd expect the show to also claim a long roster of star alumni, but you'd be wrong. However, Mercedes McCambridge did play the key character of Mary Rutledge on the radio version, and the TV troupers through the years have included Christopher Walken (as young Mike Bauer, 1954-56), Sandy Dennis (Alice Holden, 1956), Joseph Campanella (Joe Turino, 1959-60), Chris Sarandon (Tom Halverson, 1969-70), and JoBeth Williams (Brandy Shelooe 1977-81), Kevin Bacon (T.J. Werner, 1980-81), and ER regular Sherry Stringfield (Blake Marler, 1989-92).

The best and most surprising casting of all, though, occurred in the midsixties, when an African-American doctor and his wife were written into the storyline. When the characters of Dr. Jim and Martha Frazier were introduced in 1966, they were played by Billy Dee Williams and Cicely Tyson. And when those performers left the Guiding Light within a year, their roles were inherited by a slightly older, but no less impressive, pair of performers: James Earl Jones and Ruby Dee.

—Excerpted from Dictionary of Teleliteracy: Television's 500 Biggest Hits, Misses and Events

 
 
 
 
 
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1 Comments
 
 
Thanks so much for this story. What a lot of folks don't know that 1952 holds a very important part in Pop Culture. In 1948 just Four Years Before Ed Sullivan & His Toast Of The Town debuted which was renamed The Ed Sullivan Show in 1956. On June 30th 1943, Florence Ballard Of The Supremes was born and in future years a lot of Motown Songs were played even by Pre-Motown Alumni like The Isley Brothers Shout. It indeed broke The Color Barrier and to this day no Soap Opera has had more African American Alumni that did well in the future. Taye Diggs, Nia Long, Sharon Leal, Kevin Mambo (who did Fela on Broadway) financed by Will & Jada Pinkett Smith. It's The Only Soap Opera that had Four Alumni from Dreamgirls on The Show as well. In The UK Cheryl Ann Tweedy of the UK Girl Group Girls Aloud was born on June 30th 1983 and made a Guest Appearance on Britian's Coronation Street as a Special to raise money for children in need.
Jul 27, 2019   |  Reply
 
 
 
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