50 years ago on October 5th 1964, The Young Marrieds premiered on ABC. On the east coast it ran from 3:30 to 4:00 pm every weekday.
As a teenager back then, I remember waiting for weeks with anticipation for it to premiere and then finally, watched that first episode. It was totally different from any soap I had ever seen before.
For those of you who still remember The Young Marrieds and even those of you who don’t but have over the years come to know about it, I hope you might enjoy my tribute to this groundbreaking show and some of the information I have gathered over the last 50 years .
When the show premiered, Matt Stevens and Liz Forsythe were the main characters and main storyline. The stories of Walter and Ann Reynolds as well as Dr. Dan and Susan Garrett were subplots.
Jim Elward created The Young Marrieds with 4 storylines and 4 separate couples. 1 couple was never used (they were Dick and Marge Latham and Marge was to be a bored alcoholic wife). Ann and Walter were to have a 5 year old son. That idea was abandoned and Ann's sister Jill came to live with them instead.
ABC promoted The Young Marrieds as a sister soap to General Hospital taking place in the same town known as Queens Point. Dr. Dan Garrett and Dr. Steve Hardy were briefly mentioned in both shows to help viewers make the connection. The Young Marrieds also followed General Hospital’s time slot.
Lee Meriwether was only on for the first 2 weeks and became the first cast replacement. For those of you who know and love Susan Brown as I do were delighted when she was cast and took over the role of Ann Reynolds in Script 11. Obviously the change took place abruptly as the next 10 scripts were still using Lee's name as the actress portraying the Ann Reynolds.
An interesting anecdote concerning Susan’s first episode: The script, written a week before it was taped, had Walter saying to Ann, “You look completely different. Not like the Reynolds Girl at all.” There was a lot of joking about that line during cast dry when the line was discovered. The first thought was to rewrite the line but after some thought, it was determined to be apropos to the script as well as Susan’s arrival and it was left in and recorded for broadcast.
Jim Elward felt the casting department did a poor job casting Matt Stevens and Liz Forsythe as the engaged couple yet to be married. He thought they were both weak actors and not true to the characters he had created. They were to be the stars of the show and the Reynolds and Garretts were to be substories. (hence the name of the show: The Young Marrieds) Never reaching the potential he hoped they would he wrote them out of the show soon after he realized that Ann (Susan Brown) and Walter (Mike Mikler) had overnight became the powerhouse couple with amazing untapped talent. He said Susan and Mike knew the characters better than he did and that is what made them so amazing and strong so quickly. He knew they had trailblazing potential. The show then evolved with Ann and Walter as the main story followed by Dan and Susan Garrett as substory 1 and Jill and her friends as substory 2.
Jim Elward had never been a head writer and creator of a soap before The Young Marrieds. He thought it would be more thought provoking to control every character's life. He said he was wrong. In fact, said he had never been more wrong about anything. It was much easier to write dialog from a day page that someone else had thought out. (he referenced The Secret Storm). Because of 11th hour changes just before the first episodes were recorded he felt the show was not really his when it went on the air on October 5th with only 5 scripts written. That the worst thing was having to hire friends to write and then after doing such a bad job, he had to rewrite each one himself. He was so behind he was driven by panic. ABC hired Irna Phillips to help him for a couple of weeks so they could get more scripts in their hands to build sets and better control casting.
ABC knew he had just written a stage play that at some point may go into production so his contract was written with an escape clause at the end of every 13 weeks. His play went into production in January and he left after writing only for 13 weeks.
When John D. Hess took over the creating and writing after Jim Elward left, he was just as impressed with the Walter/Ann story line as Jim was. He continued writing with Walter and Ann as the main storyline but enhanced on some of Jim’s projections that went out 6 months. One of them being he enhanced the Jill and her friends storyline so that it encompassed and affected Walter and Ann to a greater degree and added to keeping them together living under the same roof in spite of their pending separation and divorce. For those of you who remember, Susan and Mike had some of the most amazing scenes to play out during that period of time (Summer and Fall of 1965). There was so much miscommunication and pride between them both that caused neither one to say the appropriate words when heart wrenching scenes were written for the views to expect just that to happen. As onlookers, we always knew Ann and Walter still loved one another and wanted nothing more than for them to reconcile.
John Hess had written his own 6 month projection for ABC to approve that unfortunately was rejected and never used in its original presentation. I guess in spite of The Young Marrieds having been given the leverage to make some groundbreaking strides in soap opera history, ABC felt what was being offered was just too trailblazing for daytime TV.
John Hess had intended for Ann to become pregnant during her affair with Paul Stevens (Matt’s brother). Even after learning she was pregnant with Paul’s child, Walter would offer to take on the child as his own and they would resume their marriage. Ann would feel she could not do that to Walter and would leave Queens Point for a significant time and when she returns, would be childless. Would she have had an abortion or would she have given the baby up for adoption???
Additionally, it was interesting to learn that some of the projections were used in a very different way. An example is that after learning she was pregnant and alone as she and Paul had already broken up, she was to have had thoughts of suicide. In the end, Walter is the one who attempted suicide. Also it was interesting to learn that even after reconciling with Walter after her return from many months away, she was slated to have still another affair with a new executive from Halsteads!
Was she destined to be the bad girl of daytime TV who everyone loved?
Well we were never to learn the answer to that since ABC cancelled The Young Marrieds on Friday, October 25th 1966. It would forever be remembered as the show that ended with the permanent Friday cliffhanger.
Those involved in the production of The Young Marrieds were so irate about its cancellation since it had attained its highest ratings ever at the time it was scheduled for cancellation that they refused to honor ABC’s request to wrap up the storylines and ended the show with Walter locking himself inside his home with a loaded gun and Carol West screaming WALTER, WALTER, WALTER as she pounded on the door from outside.
The final words spoken were those of Peggy McCay (Susan Garrett) frantically dialing the phone and crying out, “Operator, give me the police and please hurry!”
With those words, The Young Marrieds was gone--- but certainly not forgotten. ABC was bombarded with complaints from incensed viewers demanding an explanation for the abrupt cancellation. Eventually ABC felt they had to respond and put out a statement with what would have happened. TV Guide and several Daytime magazines quickly picked it up and published the ending.
As a tribute, I had hoped to be able to post a pdf file of the first script that aired for The Young Marrieds but unfortunately it is not possible to post that type of attachments here. If anyone knows of a way, please let me know.
Even after 50 years, there is still a warm place in my heart for The Young Marrieds and the wonderful actors and actresses who have appeared.
We have lost so many of these wonderful people over years gone by… Mike Mikler, Paul Picerni, Brenda Benet, Norma Connolly, Irene Hervey, Ted Knight, Frank Maxwell, Maxine Stuart, Constance Moore, Maria Palmer, Don Randolph, Barry Russo, and Irene Tedrow. We also lost both Jim Elward and John Hess.
But for me, the highlight of The Young Marrieds has been having a wonderful and amazing 50 year friendship with my dear friend Susan Brown. It has been an awesome journey and I will be forever grateful that you responded to that first fan letter I ever mailed out. That was the beginning and I so love you.
The Young Marrieds... from beginning to end... was amazing.