Thursday, April 02, 2009

Guiding Light to be Extinguished

by Anne Carter

72 years, nearly 16,000 episodes. What a legacy being left by the world’s longest running TV drama. The Guiding Light will air its final show on September 18, 2009, and you can bet there will be mourners. CBS cites low ratings for the decision to cease production of the soap, which has garnered 69 Daytime Emmys since its debut on television in 1952.

“I created ‘Guiding Light’ with one fundamental theme in mind: the brotherhood of man.” Irna Phillips, the show’s creator, couldn’t possibly have imagined the episodic’s success when he wrote those words in 1937. The daily peek into the lives and loves of the good folks of Springfield has attracted a huge following over the years, as viewers alternately laugh, cry, and pound their fists over every birth, death, affair, murder, kidnapping, disappearance, resurrection and, yes, even marriage. Marriages, as you may know, don’t usually last long in the soap world. And savvy viewers will pick up the same, recurring themes on modern dramas such as ‘Grey’s Anatomy’ and ‘“Brothers and Sisters’. Adultery, rape, abortion, homosexuality and AIDS are topics written into daytime scripts, often long before their nighttime counterparts.

The Guiding Light, among other daytime dramas, has launched many stars into the prime time and silver screen spotlight. Early stars such as Mercedes McCambridge and Maureen O’Sullivan played parts. Christopher Walken, Joseph Campanella, Jimmy Smits and Blythe Danner all took a turn on the soap.

Kevin Bacon played a troubled teen in the early 80’s. James Earl Jones, Billy Dee Williams and Cicely Tyson all had early career roles. Guest stars, too, had stints in Springfield. Veteran screen legend Joan Bennett, television talk show host Dick Cavett and actor James Coco appeared, along with Dorothy Loudon, Chita Rivera, Leslie Uggams and Tammy Grimes. Mackenzie Phillips, whom, at the time, had struggled with drug problems, portrayed a substance abuse counselor. Viewers have also been treated to Calista Flockhart and Hayden Panettiere, who got early starts on the show.

According to the Los Angeles Times, viewership fell from 5 million in 1999 to 2.17 million per episode this season. CBS, it says, “agonized” over the decision, along with the show’s owner Proctor and Gamble. By comparison, the network’s ‘Young and the Restless’ is still pulling in around 5.26 million viewers per episode. P&G has stated they are trying to find a new home for GL.

Early in my writing career, I considered trying to land a spot in the land of suds and lust. After careful research, I decided that the pace would be too much for a writer with young children still underfoot; soap scribes turn out a hour’s episode five days a week. Storylines are often handled by different writers and woven together via teleconferences and late-night think tank meetings. Burnout is not uncommon.

While I haven’t watched ‘Guiding Light’ in a few years, I still remember the characters as if they were distant relatives. Philip Spaulding, Rick Bauer, Reva Shayne, Josh Lewis… I will still miss them, knowing they won’t be there at 2 pm anymore.

Anne Carter is the author of paranormal romantic mystery, POINT SURRENDER, from Echelon Press, Amazon and Fictionwise. Visit Anne at

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Michael J. Fox: Every Reason To Be A Pessimist

I’m about halfway through the memoir LUCKY MAN by Michael J. Fox. It’s a slow process, only because it’s a paper book and I don’t have much time for reading other than after dark. The book was a gift, had I bought it myself I would have opted for an ebook version to read on my pocket PC in bed.

Michael is an alarmingly good writer. Articulate, astute, engaging. Had he not gone into show business, he likely could have written many bestsellers. He talks candidly and unashamedly about his bad times and good times, times of excess and poor judgment. The book is leading up to, and recounting the times before, his now well-known diagnosis of Parkinson’s Disease. Since I am a natural Hollywood groupie, I find the stories of his rise to stardom compelling, but not much moreso than the anecdotes about his early years and his family. Most disarming is his continued optimism in the face of adversity.

There is a thread of self-analysis that runs through the book, as if Michael is attempting to explain his life not only to his readers but to himself. His respect for, and devotion to, his wife Tracy (Pollan) is heartwarming. They actually met on the set of Family Ties, where Tracy was playing a possible love interest for Ties’ Alex Keaton. It didn’t work out for Alex, but at some point Michael and Tracy became a couple and the rest is history, as they say. (Photo by Alan Light.)

Part of that history is that in 1991, Michael was given the devastating news about his condition. He continued to work, bowing out from his then-series Spin City in 2001. From the time of his diagnosis to date, he made 18 films, and his lifetime achievements include four Emmy awards, four Golden Globes, two Screen Actors Guild awards, two Nickelodeon Kid’s Choice awards and one People’s Choice award. He’s done numerous TV guest spots, and has an upcoming role in Rescue Me (FX Network).

In 2000, Michael launched the non-profit Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research, where he spends much of his time and resources today. The Foundation has funded nearly $140 million in research toward better Parkinson’s treatment. In addition, Michael has been a strong advocate for legislation supporting stem-cell research.

Earlier this week, it was announced that Michael will return to television with Michael J Fox: Adventures of An Incurable Optimist, airing May 7 on ABC. The special will examine the power of positive thinking, and, as noted on the Foundation’s website, “Fox explores science and his own personal experiences -- he says the past decade, since his diagnosis with Parkinson's disease, has been among his happiest. As part of the special, Fox visits the Himalayan nation of Bhutan, which he says is unusually committed to the well-being of its citizens.”

I don’t know about you, but I’m happy to see Michael back on the tube, and am looking forward to his personal brand of optimism. If he can be optimistic, considering all he’s been through, why can’t we?

Anne Carter is the author of paranormal romantic mystery, POINT SURRENDER, from Echelon Press, Amazon and Fictionwise. Visit Anne at

Monday, February 23, 2009

The Mystery of Oscar

by Anne Carter (Reposted from Make Mine Mystery)

I haven't seen "Slumdog Millionaire." Until the Golden Globes, I hadn't even heard of it. EIGHT Oscars! It seems like that happens a lot; a great movie wins, but takes several other categories along the way. I guess it makes sense.

Have you ever wondered if the recipients know in advance that they've won or lost? Officially, the Academy holds to its rule that winners names are, indeed, sealed in those precious envelopes. In early years, winning names were given to newspapers in advance so that they could get the information into their editions before press time. However, it is said that the Los Angeles Times once leaked the results prior to the broadcast, effectively ruining the evening and the mystery.

In 1948, both Rosalind Russell (shown above) and Loretta Young were up for best actress. The story goes that Russell had everything going for her, including the best PR representation in town. So certain she was of her win, she began to rise from her seat before Frederic March could utter the words "Loretta Young for the Farmer's Daughter". Variety had already typeset her victory for the next day's edition. Not to be shamed by her erroneous assumption, Russell continued to her feet and led an astonished crowd in a standing ovation. That's class.

Why do I know this detailed minutia? Because the opening scene of my upcoming romantic mystery, CAPE SEDUCTION, reprises this very night at the Shrine Auditorium in Hollywood. I'm a sucker for old Hollywood, for its glamour, its mystery, its unapologetic excess. Oscar night is one of those almost historic rituals that epitomizes and keeps alive, to some extent, that golden era.

Anne Carter is the author of paranormal romantic mystery, POINT SURRENDER, from Echelon Press, Amazon and Fictionwise. Visit Anne at

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Jan 27: Marlene Dietrich

Marie Magdalene Dietrich was born January 27, 1901, in Berlin. The German born, American actress is remembered for her glamorous persona, her sultry, smoky voice and her ability to continually reinvent herself.

From stage actress to film star, wartime front-line entertainer to cabaret singer, “Lene” (Layna) was always a surprise. Starting off as a chorus girl, Dietrich landed a few small roles and made a number of pictures before hooking up with director Josef von Sternberg, who cast her in The Blue Angel and thereafter laid claim to discovering her. The film was an international success, and led to Dietrich moving to the U.S. for a contract with Paramount. She went on to make what most consider her best six films, all with von Sternberg.

Although she married (Rudolf Sieber, 1924) and delivered a daughter (Maria Elisabeth, 1924), it is said that Marlene was bisexual, having affairs with both men and women. Like Kate Hepburn, she was often seen wearing trousers in public. She is quoted as saying that, while they never really connected, Orson Welles was the love of her life.

Dietrich became an American citizen in 1939. During WWII, she was reportedly approached by the Nazi Party and asked to return to Germany, but she refused. Instead, she traveled with American troops to entertain on the front lines with the USO, and was one of the first celebrities to raise war bonds. She was later awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom for her patriotism to her adopted country.

During the 50’s and 60’s, Marlene worked the cabaret circuit, playing Las Vegas and London while wearing provocative, daring costumes. During this period, she contracted Burt Bacharach as her musical arranger, who worked to create arrangements that would make the most of her limited range.

In September of 1975, Dietrich fell and broke her leg during a performance in Sydney, Australia, marking her last stage appearance. She continued on screen, however, appearing in David Bowie’s “Just A Gigolo” in 1979. Soon after, she began to retreat to her Paris apartment, where she ultimately spent the last 11 years of her life mostly bedridden. She died in May of 1992 at the age of 90, and her remains were returned to Berlin to be interred near her mother—not far from where she was born.

Interestingly, according to Wikipedia, her estate included 300,000 pages of documents, including correspondence with “Burt Bacharach, Yul Brynner, Maurice Chevalier, Noel Coward, Jean Gabin, Ernest Hemingway, Karl Lagerfeld, Nancy and Ronald Reagan, Erich Maria Remarque, Josef von Sternberg, Orson Welles, and Billy Wilder”. Her 59 films were made between 1919 and 1979 – a span of 60 years. She is credited with writing 3 autobiographical books, and is the subject of a number of biographies, including one by her daughter Maria Riva.

Marlene Dietrich’s “official” website opens with a surprisingly clear reproduction of Dietrich’s popular “theme”, “Falling In Love Again” – a song she purportedly hated!