This blog post started out as a way to pay tribute to one of my favorite ATWT actresses, Ellen Dolan.
Ellen’s take on Margo has always been my favorite, and I loved her take on Maureen Bauer as well when she appeared on Guiding Light. Ellen played two of the best stories EVER played on ATWT: Margo’s rape and its aftermath, and the truly divine story where Margo pulled the plug on Casey Peretti (Katie’s father and Margo’s father-in-law).
But Margo and Maureen – and Ellen – are also part of a group that with the passing of ATWT will be in short supply on daytime: the ladies of P&G.
Ladies of P&G? What am I talking about?
P&G shows were always a bastion of Broadway trained actors. From the mid 70s on, they really seemed to have a certain eye when they cast their newer female roles.
These weren’t just simple one-dimensional harridans, heroines or harlots. They had something else going on, and these performers became some of my favorite actresses.
They were smarter: brainy, methodical, challenging the men and the women around them.
They were physically different: beautiful but not Barbie-like, often dark haired or redheaded.
They had sexy, raspy, real voices that sounded human, instead of breathy, artificial whispers.
Perhaps the earliest prototypes that we saw on screen included The Doctors’ Elizabeth Hubbard and, later, Another World’s Rachel and Iris, as played by Beverlee McKinsey and Victoria Wyndham.
These women were beautiful, unique and definitely different than many performers who’d dotted our daytime landscape before them.
They were a HUGE success and, particularly in the case of Iris and Rachel’s rivalry on AW, propelled years of story. It meant that some other P&G shows – and writers – cast unique, compelling, stunning performers that cleverly fit their stories, or made them feel fresh.
Lisa Brown. Maureen Garrett. Margaret Reed. Beth Ehlers. Sherry Stringfield (and her successor, Elizabeth Keifer). Ellen Parker. And yes, Ellen Dolan.
And those characters really inspired writers and viewers. Nola’s fantasies, Holly’s complex relationship with Roger. Daughter Blake and her baggage. Harley’s dreams of leaving Fifth Street. Margo’s impulsive nature.
And perhaps my favorite, the almost Bond-esque fantasy and warmth of Shannon O’Hara.
I could list a whole paragraph of fantastic names of characters, and the people who played them. But that list would be a little bare in more recent years, though there were still some strong performers like ATWT‘s Maura West (Carly) and Jennifer Landon (Gwen).
Classically trained actors weren’t limited to the P&G soaps, either – certainly the Agnes Nixon soaps also had some quirky characters.
But P&G soaps were always Middle America. With ATWT‘s departure, smart, quirky, REAL women like Margo Hughes disappear….to be replaced by a mixture of Kardashians and vapid “modern” soap heroines, no doubt.
HAT TIP: A quick mention here about Scott Holmes, who has always been solid and played perhaps the most thankless role in daytime, Tom Hughes.
Holmes has made Tom an interesting figure. Not easy – this character had had over a dozen recasts. He’s also neck-and-neck with DAYS’s Mike Horton for the weirdest onscreen age. (Both were SORASed to their mid-thirties by the end of the 70s, and then have either aged reaaaaaaaaaaaaaalllllllllllly slowly since or even de-aged a bit.)
Holmes and Dolan have had a strong presence as Tom and Margo. I’ll miss seeing them on screen.