Sands through the hourglass

Sorry I haven’t had much to say lately – I have a few posts I want to share but simply haven’t had the time to put pen to paper, so to speak. It makes me VERY sad that I now have back to back posts about the death of a beloved daytime performer.

We learned on Wednesday that Frances Reid, who played Alice Horton for over 40 years on Days of our Lives, passed away at 95.

I haven’t been an everyday Days watcher for years, but as I’ve mentioned before, Days was Mom’s main soap. And like many kids in my generation, I was introduced to the show by watching with Mom during those sick days and snow days.

What I think was remarkable about Frances, and about Alice, was this: She managed to keep Alice a good, moral character and kept her interesting.

The We Love Soaps countdown has reminded us of several of daytime’s maternal matriarchs: Charita Bauer (Bert, Guiding Light), Helen Wagner (Nancy, As The World Turns) and Mary Stuart (Jo, Search for Tomorrow). As much as I love all of those characters, each of them had their Achilles’ heel. Bert was a bit neurotic and shrewish in the beginning before she mellowed. Nancy never met a wife of Bob’s or a newcomer to Oakdale that she didn’t judge in the early days. And while Jo was warm and nurturing to nearly everyone in Henderson, she had no sense and no luck when it came to picking the men in her life.

Alice Horton was clearly the ideal mother and grandmother. Tom and Alice were together until his death, and she was never unfaithful. Writing teams in the 80s and 90s played Alice for laughs, but Reid never lost track of the essential truth of who Alice was. She bonded with then-newcomers like Bo in 1985 just as beautifully as she had with Salem circa 1965. And over 40+ years, Alice was always Alice. Keeping Alice truly Alice, in an ever-changing daytime atmosphere, is a considerable feat. Other vets haven’t fared so well (the deconstruction and destruction of Holly on Guiding Light comes to mind).

I know Reid’s been ill and was at an advanced age, so we hadn’t seen her onscreen for several years. But I continue to mourn not only Reid’s loss but the loss of likable, warm characters on daytime.

Most shows jettisoned anyone over 50 and see stable, mature characters as boring at best and a storyline albatross at worst. (Damn these vets and their pesky history!) There are some veterans who are playing powerful roles filled with action, melodrama and controversy, like Jeanne Cooper, Erika Slezak, Robin Strasser and Eric Braeden. But I think daytime forgot the value of the Alices, the Berts, the Jos, and the Nancys.

Soaps are like walking into someone else’s house party. There may be people there you don’t like, but at its heart, the party has to have characters you love and care about – and want to spend time with. Frances Reid’s long life and long career is well worth celebrating, but I’m sad that Alice, one of the last truly warm and loving characters left standing, is gone.

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2 thoughts on “Sands through the hourglass

  1. Nice tribute! This bang-bang-bang of deaths in recent years…soap matriarchs and patriarchs and shows themselves…all bespeak a common underlying cause.

    This is how we lose our soaps, through aging.

    I think even more tragic that we lose Alice/Fraces (and Palmer and Myrtle and…) is that no one is really groomed to take their place. When Ms. Reid was hired she was FIFTY YEARS OLD. She never drove a storyline…she was always (at most) frontburner supporting.

    Now, if someone created a soap, such a matriarch would not exist. And thus the show would have no voice of reason, no source of wisdom, no moral center…nobody to give the show that emotional core that is the REAL reason many of us keep coming back.

    Thank you to Ms. Reid. To quote the cliche, we shall not see her like again.

  2. Thank you for the tribute! I remember first watching “Days of Our Lives” in 1984, the show deeply invested in its Bo and Hope storylines, and Grandma Alice Horton still in the thick of the action, saving Hope from a marriage to that sleaze (though he wasn’t unattractive by any means), Larry Welch!

    For me, Reid was someone that made the show home. The recognized sound of her earthy, seasoned voice filled the living room each day, making the show safe for me, a place where I could escape the trials and tribulations of fourth grade (and then, later, adult life!). Whatever advice Mrs. Horton dished out, you knew the other people in her life should listen, but would they?

    I am so glad to have found your site. It keeps my memory of so many wonderful aspects of soap opera alive. Reid’s performance of over four decades will not be forgotten. I can only hope someone finds it as inspiration, and that we see it live on in, in some other framework, in the future.

    Thanks, Paul! If you haven’t already clicked on it, We Love Soaps is also a great source for soap history.

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