Love of Life

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Love of Life
LoveofLife-1950s.jpg
Main title card (1950s).
FormatSoap opera
Created byRoy Winsor
StarringAudrey Peters
Ron Tomme
Country of originUnited States
No. of episodes7,316
Production
Running time15 minutes (1951–1958)
30 minutes (1958–1962, 1969–1973, 1979–1980)
25 minutes (1962–1969, 1973–1979)
Broadcast
Original channelCBS
Picture formatBlack-and-white
(1951–1967)
Color
(1967–1980)
Audio formatMonaural
Original runSeptember 24, 1951 (1951-09-24) – February 1, 1980 (1980-02-01)
 
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Love of Life
LoveofLife-1950s.jpg
Main title card (1950s).
FormatSoap opera
Created byRoy Winsor
StarringAudrey Peters
Ron Tomme
Country of originUnited States
No. of episodes7,316
Production
Running time15 minutes (1951–1958)
30 minutes (1958–1962, 1969–1973, 1979–1980)
25 minutes (1962–1969, 1973–1979)
Broadcast
Original channelCBS
Picture formatBlack-and-white
(1951–1967)
Color
(1967–1980)
Audio formatMonaural
Original runSeptember 24, 1951 (1951-09-24) – February 1, 1980 (1980-02-01)

Love of Life is an American soap opera which aired on CBS from September 24, 1951, to February 1, 1980. It was created by Roy Winsor, whose previous creation Search for Tomorrow had premiered three weeks before Love of Life, and who would go on to create The Secret Storm two and a half years later.

Production[edit]

Love of Life originally came from "Liederkranz Hall" where Studio 54 was. Mike and Buff (Mike Wallace), Ernie Kovacs, Douglas Edwards and the news, as well as Search for Tomorrow and The Guiding Light also came from that location. The serial was taped at several other studios in New York City as well, but primarily at the CBS Broadcast Center on West 57th Street and CBS' Studio 52 behind the Ed Sullivan Theater. In 1975, the studio was moved to make way for a nightclub that would eventually become known as Studio 54. Until its final show in 1980, Love of Life was taped in Studio 44 at the CBS Broadcast Center.

Format[edit]

Unlike most other soap operas, Love of Life was originally not split up into segments dictated by commercial breaks. Because the show was owned by packaged-goods giant American Home Products and merely licensed to CBS, all commercials were for AHP brands, and occurred before or after the show. In the 1960s, one commercial break was allotted around the middle of the program, but this was mostly to allow affiliates to reconnect with the feed after airing local commercials. Love of Life adopted the "five segments per half-hour" standard in the 1970s.

Broadcast history[edit]

Love of Life began, as most other television serials of that era, as a 15-minute program, airing at 12:15 PM Eastern (11:15 AM Central). The program became so popular that CBS expanded it to 30 minutes on April 14, 1958, moving it to Noon/11. During that period, Love of Life generally placed in the ratings among the top six soaps in the 1950s and 1960s.

Starting on October 1, 1962 the episode duration was reduced by five minutes to accommodate a newscast.

To accommodate new in-house serial Where the Heart Is, starting on September 8, 1969 CBS moved Love of Life ahead thirty minutes, which put it against the highly popular Hollywood Squares. Love of Life's audience share dropped from 5th place in the 1968/1969 rating to 11th in the 1969/1970 year. This lead to major win for NBC in 1971 by having Hollywood Squares, Jeopardy! and the serial Days of Our Lives reach the top 5 of all daytime programs. From this date episodes again had a full thirty-minute duration. On March 26, 1973 episodes were again reduced to fit a 25 minute slot to accommodate a newscast. By this time CBS had assumed production from the original packager, American Home Products, as it had with The Secret Storm.

CBS canceled the in-house soaps Love is a Many Splendored Thing and Where the Heart Is in 1973, and The Secret Storm in early 1974. Love of Life managed to escape cancellation due to a brief rise in the ratings in the mid-1970s, occasioned largely by the reintroduction of Meg to the storyline. The show's ratings climbed as high as 9th, above General Hospital and One Life to Live, in the 1975–1976 television season.

On April 23, 1979, CBS moved Love of Life to the 4 PM slot that had opened when Match Game was canceled. For this slot, episodes again had a full thirty-minute duration. However, ratings plummeted upon the move as many CBS affiliates pre-empted the serial to show more profitable syndicated programming- which, beginning in September 1979, included a new daily syndicated Match Game that went up against (and, in some cases, shown in place of) Love of Life.

Despite CBS moving the show to the 4pm/3pm timeslot, some affiliates chose to air LOL at earlier timeslots in pattern with the other soaps. WISH-TV in Indianapolis aired Love of Life at 3:30pm while airing One Day at a Time reruns at 4pm. Many West Coast stations did this as well, keeping LOL in tandem with the other soaps by airing it at 2:30pm PST, after Guiding Light. Other stations, such as then-O&O KMOX-TV (now KMOV) in St. Louis, kept the show in late morning at 11:00am. Additonally, WUSA (then WDVM) in Washington, D.C. chose to keep LOL at 11:30am while pre-empting The Price is Right.

Within ten months, the series was canceled, with the final episode airing February 1, 1980. The following Monday, The Young and the Restless expanded to an hour, with One Day at a Time moving up to the 4:00/3:00pm timeslot. It was rumored CBS cancelled the show abruptly to use the show's New York studio space for the 1980 Winter Olympics which took place later that month in Lake Placid, New York.

Titles and theme tunes[edit]

Black-and-white years[edit]

In the early 1950s, a typical episode began with announcer Don Hancock saying, "Good afternoon. Don Hancock speaking. Welcome to Love of Life" over a shot of the fountain outside New York's Plaza Hotel with the show's title appearing diagonally across the screen in elegant sweeping calligraphy. After a brief commercial was the main title sequence, where Charles Mountain said over this visual, "Love of Life: The exciting story of Vanessa Dale and her search for human dignity." This was followed by some credits. The theme song was done by organist John Gart.

In 1957, the show changed visuals twice. The show briefly used a time-lapse shot of a flower, with announcer Herbert Duncan saying "To live each day for whatever life may bring...this is Love of Life" over it. This was later changed to a shot of a starry sky. By the early 1960s, the opening narration had been shortened to simply "This is...Love of Life" with Ken Roberts (father of actor Tony Roberts) at the microphone.

Color era[edit]

On October 30, 1967 the show switched to color and a picture of sunlit flowers by a window for its title sequence. This visual lasted about ten years, and was accompanied with three different themes: "And Then It Happened" by Charles Paul (1966–1973), "Love of Life Theme" by Eddie Layton (1973), and "The Life That You Live" by Carey Gold (1973–1977). Gold also changed the show's music from organ-based to light orchestral/synthesizer pop.

The final years[edit]

In 1977 (at the latest), the show used as its theme a pop-style ballad composed by Hagood Hardy. The main title visuals consisted of a series of head shot profiles of the main characters set against a black background, followed by the show's new logotype designed by Lou Dorfsman.

Storyline[edit]

1951–1960[edit]

The original story was a morality play of good versus evil, illustrated by the interactions between two sisters, Vanessa Dale (originally Peggy McCay) and Meg Dale (originally Jean McBride, from 1951 to 1958. Vanessa (often referred to as "Van" for short) was "the good girl". She stood up for what was right in life and in her community. Meg was the schemer and all-around "bad" girl as well as the mother of "Beanie (later "Ben") Harper," originally played by Dennis Parnell. While Van disapproved of Meg's actions, she still loved her and taught the audience the value of forgiveness which often involved Beanie, and his strained relationship with Meg, his mother. The show was painted black-and-white in this regard, which was evident in the tagline recited at the beginning of each of the earlier episodes: "Love of Life: The exciting story of Vanessa Dale and her courageous struggle for human dignity."

The show changed directions when the character of Meg was phased out and the show changed locales; first set in the fictional town of Barrowsville, it moved to Rosehill where it would remain for the rest of the show's run.

The actress who originated the role of Van (Peggy McCay) left the show in 1955 and was replaced by actress Bonnie Bartlett (1955–1959). Bartlett was subsequently replaced by Audrey Peters, who played Van for the rest of the run (1959–1980). Peters had an unusual debut – Bartlett had played the role of Vanessa up to Vanessa's wedding day. The next day, when Vanessa walked down the aisle, Bruce Sterling raised Vanessa's veil and revealed Audrey Peters. Peters admitted that, during the wedding reception scenes afterward, she didn't know the names of all the characters that were interacting with Vanessa, so she called everyone "dear".

1960–1973[edit]

In the 1960s, most of the drama was focused on Van and her new marriage to Bruce Sterling (played by Ron Tomme). The late 1960s involved attempts to shake up the somewhat staid atmosphere through campus unrest and a return of Vanessa's first husband, who had been killed off in the mid-1950s. Vanessa divorced Bruce to reunite with her first husband, outraging many in the audience who could not accept their heroine getting a divorce.

The other major story of the late 1960s involved Tess Krakauer and Bill Prentiss, played by real-life couple Toni Bull Bua and Gene Bua. Tess and Bill had the perfunctory tortured love story, including separations, children, and murder trials, until Bill died of a "rare blood disease" in 1972 and Tess left town in 1973.

1973–1980[edit]

Sammy Davis, Jr. in a guest starring role on the show, 1975.

As ratings began to slide in the 1970s, Meg and her son Ben Harper were reintroduced. Meg was played by Tudi Wiggins, from 1974 to 1980. Ben, now an adult, was most notably played by Christopher Reeve. Under the reins of Claire Labine and Paul Avila Mayer, the show returned to the original "good Vanessa, bad Meg" theme. In one episode, Meg called her son's newborn daughter Suzanne a "bastard", one of the first times the word was spoken on daytime television.

However, Labine and Mayer left, and the show lost the original intended focus. There was increased emphasis on gritty story lines (for example, Ben, now played by Chandler Hill Harben, was nearly raped while in prison, while serving time for bigamy), but these were not warmly received by the audience, and the ratings dropped. The show occupied a vulnerable timeslot. Since the beginning, Love of Life had aired in the late morning – and few soaps had been successful when airing before noon. The show's ratings had been respectable but middling in the 1950s and 1960s, but dropped sharply in the early 1970s. In 1976 Rick Latimer (Jerry Lacy) and his wife Cal (Roxanne Gregory) welcomed a young vet Michael Blake (Richard E. Council) into their garage apartment. Michael's secret "crush" on Cal led to a vacation rendez-vous and a fatal boating accident resulting from Blake's failed attempt to save Cal's son (Hank) from a sudden lake squall. Their son survived but Blake drowned. Rick, Cal and their son left Rosehill for Montreal to start a new life.

On April 23, 1979, in a last-ditch effort to save Love of Life, CBS moved the show to 4:00 pm. Head writers Jean Holloway and Ann Marcus' stories did not catch on with the audience.

Love of Life ended its run with a cliffhanger on February 1, 1980. After testifying in a trial, Betsy Crawford (Margo McKenna) collapsed while leaving the stand. No other networks picked up the show, and the cliffhanger remained unresolved. The final shot of the series was longtime director Larry Auerbach walking through the empty sets as Tony Bennett's "We'll Be Together Again" played.

Main Crew[edit]

Awards & Nominations[edit]

External links[edit]