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The First Hundred Years

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Here is an article published in a newspaper in Iowa on January, 27th 1951 about "The First Hundred Years". It is written by reporter John Crosby and is very ironic on the show but I wanted to share because there was some information.

"Scholars of television history, a small but enormously erudite bunch of hard-drinking intellectuals, will never foregt Dec. 4, 1950. It dawned clear, bright and cold and somehows in the very air you could detect the odor of history about to be made, an acrid smell if you've never noticed. Dec. 4, 1950 is the day television's first soap opera "The First Hundred Years" went on the air, thus instantly taking rank among historic dates somewhere between the fall of the Bastille and the death of Charlemagne. "The First Hundred Years" is an apt title for a soap opera, each of which is designed to run at least that long, though of course, it refers to the first hundred years of marriage as being rather more trying than the next hundred. In soap opera, marriages, though fraught with every sort of peril from mothers-in-law to flirtations, endure for centuries.

The particular marriage commemorated in this epic is that of Chris and Connie Thayer, a couple of misty-eyes youngsters whos wedded life is already beset by extraordinary tensions. For one thing, Connie's mother-in-law, a flibberty gibbet, lives across the street, will lead to endless trouble. Chris'in-laws live nearby. Across the stree from them lives Scott Blair. Any student of soap opera will tell you that a man with a name like that is up to no good. The moment he walked on to my scree I distrusted him. Sleek good looks, curly hair and a moustache - obviously a scoundrel. He's a writer, too, and you know what those people are like.

One of the more striking characteristics of any soap opera is the pace of its plots, which are about half the speed of an aging snail. In his exhaustive treatise on the subject in "The New Worker", James Thurber mentioned several specific examples of just how slow the action is in soap opera. In one case - if my memory is at all accurate - a man clambered into a barber chair to get shaved on Monday and hadn't even been lathered by Friday.

This tradition of slowing time almost to a halt is being nobly perpetuated in "The First Hundred Years". Two weeks ago, for example, the denizens of this opera started getting ready for a dance at the country club, a relatively simple operation anywhere except in soap opera, where tying a black tie can take quite awhile. They finally got to the dance last Monday. Elapsed time: 11 days. Getting them out of the country club is another matter. That may take up the rest of the winter.

Last week one day's plot consisted entirely of Connie and Chris getting into a spat over a girl he once knew named Mildred. Mildred crept into the discussion because Chris said she likes a song they were dancing to. Connie took umbrage and fled to her mother's house. The next day's episode was largely devoted to Connie telling her mother what Chris had said about Mildred, just in case anyone had missed it the day before.

Another soap opera tradition carried forward on this program is that of giving the listener the minimum of plot and the maximum of commerical. "The First Hundred Years" opens with an extensive paean to Tide, a detergent, set in prose and song and included both live action and cartoons. This elaborate operation takes about three minutes. There is a reprise just before closing. Altogether, this leaves about 10 minutes to investigate the marital woes of Chris and Connie.

To be quite fair to the show, there has yet been little of the mood of sustained anxiety which is both the curse and stock in trade of radio soap opera. Soap opera heroines are perpetually on the brink of losing something valuable - their careers, their husbands, their homes, their virtue - to list them more or less in the order of their soap opera importance. Chris and Connie are relatively free of worries so far but I wouldn't bank on their continuing to be for long. About the only other thing to tell you about this historic show is that it is set - according to a press release - in a middlesized town "somewhere east of the Rockies and west of the Alleghenies" - which takes in an awful lot of real estate. The lead on this press release, incidentally, is a classic of press argentry. Television, the young giant, reaches maturity with the start of a new daytime dramatic serial show...Reaches what?"

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Thanks for the article. This is a real find. You always treat us.

I remember Schmering writing about this in the Soap Opera Encyclopedia, and he said the woman who wrote it only knew how to write for radio soaps and had no idea what she was doing in a TV format.

She later went on to headwrite Love of Life and was supposedly the deathknell for that show, as she wrote some Bambi Brewster story, a hooker with a heart of gold who wanted to find her minister father and learned he had abused her, that made the show the laughingstock of the industry.

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Yes, her name is Jean Holloway. She wrote for Love of Life in the late 70s'. Schemering definitely did not like her. I recently saw an episode of TFHY on youtube and it did not look like a soap. It was very theatrical and every episode seemed to be very independent.

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Some info on First Hundred Years.

This show has historical significance as it was the first P&G sponsored show and the first daytime soap.

It was more lighthearted than the 'traditional' shows.

cast members who appeared on later soaps were

Charles Baxter ,who later appeared on TGL,AW,LIAMST and LOL

Valerie Cossart-Kitty Foyle & LOL(as Meg& van's mother)

Larry Haines,who went on to SFT for 35 years

Nancy Malone on TBD and TGL(also countless primetime shows in 60's thru 80's)

Katherine Meskill -SFT,TD,WTHI,GL,LOL,TEON

Nat Polen-ATWT,EON,TN,HF,OLTL

Jean Holloway wrote many primetime shows b/w FHY and LOL

Gloria Monty was also director.

The show began as a radio show in 1948 then became one off nightime drama,with the same title as part of an anthology series'The Silver Theatre' in 1950.

Jimmy Lydon continued his role on the daytime show and William Frawley was announced as also continuing.However,he did not and went onto nightime fame on 'I Love Lucy' and 'My Three Sons'.

The cast had 4 hours rehearsal each day at NY's Leiderkranz Hall,which several other later CBS soaps used.Apparently,it was quite basic.

Background film of Long Island and Westchester County was used and it was the first use of a teleprompter.

It stayed on the air for 2 and1/2 years and was doing well in the ratings but P&G wasn't happy and replaced it with a TV version of The Guding Light.

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This article talks about how execs felt TV soaps needed to be lighter fare than radio counterparts with FHY putting that into practice.That theory was soon proved wrong...

NEW YORK, Dec. 9.-Television soap operas, which teed off with Procter & Gamble's (P&G) First Hundred Years on CBS this week will spread sweetness and light and an optimistic philosophy, in contrast to their radio progenitors. The video serials will shy strictly away from the stock in trade of the AM weepers these many years --divorces, illegal surgery, triangles, deaths and miscarriages-of justice and otherwise. The sentiment among agency and web execs is that the terrific impact of tele, plus its realism via the graphic, would mean the psychiatrist's couch for many fem viewers if given repeated doses of the radio formula. The result is that all efforts are being bent toward angling the TV serials along lines of optimism, uplift and the good old home-and-hearth line. An interesting aspect is the strong use being made of radio serial scripters and producers. First Hundred Years, on CBS, is a Jean Holloway presentation. NBC is using such folk as Carl Bixby (Life Can Be Beautiful) for its forthcoming Susan Peters soaper, and John Haggart for Family Doctor. Al McCleery, who will pro- duce-lirect Family Doctor, put in a considerable apprenticeship working for Frank and Anne Hummert. Carol Irwin, packaging Candy and Bill for NBC, formerly headed the daytime radio division of Young & Rubicam. In cases where the scripters have no TV experience, they are nevertheless being given their head, with reliance on the production staff to insert picture value. So Tender! Story lines indicate the direction being followed. First Hundred Years is a tender tale of young marriage, while Candy and Bill is a domestic comedy. Hawkins Falls, stressing small town humor, tends to glamorize the goodness of people. Susan Peters' vehicle, Miss Susan, will be a tale of the heroic try of a gal to make her way despite being confined to a wheel chair, paralleling the saga of Miss Peters herself. NBC execs indicate that, altho the gore may be gone, the cliffhanger aspects of soapers will remain. But it won't be on the basis of the gal nearing the buzzsaw or lying tied to the railroad tracks. The complications, instead, will have to be angled to avoid dread. In some quarters, it's expected that this may force the creation of an entirely new brand of literature, that of writing a cliff-hanger sans cliff.

Edited by Paul Raven

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An episode of The First Hundred Years has been placed on YouTube.  In it, I learned that the show used orchestral accompaniment.

Jimmy Lydon looked and acted very well.   His looks indicated that he could have had a successful career in serials.   However, his voice was almost the same as he had previously used in the Henry Aldrich movies.

Edited by danfling

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  •  

Patricia Kirkland, daughter of the late Nancy Carroll, film star, and the late Jack Kirkland, playwright, has been named New York casting director for the television network of the Columbia Broadcasting System, effective immediately. She succeeds Jean Arley, who becomes associate producer of “Where the Heart Is,” daytime serial.

Edited by Paul Raven

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Newspaper blurb Nov 1 1951

Never A Dull Moment On “FHY”

 It can’t be dull on CBS-TV’s daytime drama, “The First Hundred Years.” The adventures of Chris and Connie Thayer (played by Jimmy Lydon and Olive Stacey) and their lively parents range all the way from brushes with the underworld to the elder Thayer’s nomination for Mayor and nothing’s ever simple! And roundabout these high spots of adventure, the young Chris Thayers cope with the sometimes tender, always engrossing problems of newlyweds. 

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