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The Brighter Day

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The Brighter Day, of course was a radio soap by Irna Phillips first aired in 1948 until it transitioned to TV in 1954 where it lasted until 1962. P&G sold TBD to CBS, and like CBS would do later to TSS and Love of Life, proceeded to destroy it resulting in cancellation. Here is this overview by Matt Smith:

Buoyed by their successful hour-long lunch soap line-up of Valiant Lady, Love of Life, Search for Tomorrow, and The Guiding Light, CBS expanded on that concept with the premiere of TBD in the time slot immediately following TGL. That seemed almost fitting considering that TBD and TGL had a lot in common -- both were created by legendary Irna Phillips, both began as radio soaps (TBD ran on radio from 1948-1956), and both began with a religious focus on a minister. Although TGL later lost its religious bent, TBD kept widowed Rev. Richard Dennis and his rather large family front and center throughout its run. It should also be noted that TBD, on radio, was a spin-off of sorts from the popular radio soap Joyce Jordan, MD, the lead character of Liz Dennis having been introduced on Jordan a few weeks before TBD's premiere. TBD also shares several changes in locale with TGL -- originally set in Three Rivers, the series moved to the town of New Hope when it premiered on TV (it was said that the rivers had flooded) and then later to the college town of Columbus.

Despite the Phillips lineage, TBD wasn't a big hit when it premiered because of its time slot. At the time, 1pm was the traditional time that CBS gave over to its affiliates to air local news and programming. It wasn't until TBD was moved to its long-standing late afternoon time slot (replacing the poorly rated Woman with a Past and pairing it with the new and successful The Secret Storm) that ratings really took off. In fact, TBD became so popular that it even hit #1 in the ratings during the month of April 1956. Although the ratings remained strong, a series of blunders by CBS doomed the show. For starters, P&G sold the show to CBS in the early 1960s. CBS then decided to move production from the show from New York to California in 1961. Unfortunately, a large portion of the cast didn't want to move. This resulted in quite a few core characters needing to be recast. The final blow came when CBS decided to expand both The Secret Storm (which then aired immediately after TBD) and The Brighter Day. TSS expanded to 30 minutes and took over TBD's time slot. CBS moved the expanded (to 25 minutes, making room for a 5 minute network newsfeed) TBD to 11:30 (immediately before Love of Life). The drastic move (from late afternoon to late morning) combined with the fact that no soap opera has ever performed well in the ratings when aired before noon essentially killed the long-running soap. When CBS cancelled the soap, they did it rather suddenly and quickly, only giving the writers 2 weeks to tie up all the storylines and loose ends before sending the once popular soap off into the great beyond.

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This show was a home to a fair amount of good, solid actors who would go on to enrich us for a long time, like Lois Nettleton and Hal Holbrook (Holbrook even used a drunk scene from his character Grayling as his audition for the Actors Studio). Some of the stories seem a bit ahead of their time, like the daughter who was told by a therapist that she needed to give up her acting aspirations because the happiest place for a woman was in the kitchen, and she told him to stuff it and ran off to New York.

Sam Hall mentioned the show in an interview (I think he may have also been interviewed at SON but I can't remember.

http://www.tvparty.com/70-dark-shadows.html

Jay: You worked frequently as a TV writer during the so-called Golden Age of Television during the 1950s. Tell me about the program The Brighter Day? [The show ran from 1954-62.]

Sam: Which I remembered. I was really young and rather silly. I was in my late 20s. Brighter day was the creation of one of those legendary women of television. [ima Phillips] I loved the producer of Brighter Day, Terri Lewis, and she was a fan of mine. She loved what I was doing with the show. The main character was this very pompous minister and I would make fun of him by writing he most pompous possible speeches for him and then coaxing Terri to keep them in for my own enjoyment. I remember one of the most pompous speeches – because he was always talking in fake minister-isms – in which he told his sister – this is a direct quote – “If life is a river, love is a channel through which the ships pass.” I conned Terri the producer into letting it go through. The actor, of course, loved it and gloried in it. And it was one of the worst moments of television of the year. A sponsor objected to it for whatever reason until the head of the network’s wife called personally and said, “There’s this beautiful, beautiful thought on ‘Brighter Day’ and I want the exact quote so I can do it in needlepoint.” So a friend of mine did it for me in needlepoint; I think I still have it somewhere.

Jay: Were you able to have that level of fun on other programs, interjecting insider jokes which pleased you?

Sam: Yes [laugh], I always kept trying. None of them were ever as blatant as that. As a head writer, I didn't really write the scripts ever. I just plotted them. If I didn't like the writing [my staff] did, I could certainly rewrite it. But it became more of a routine: editing and plotting and dealing with network s. The networks became more and more important in the course of the years.

Jay: Meaning they became more intrusive as well?

Sam: Yes, oh yes. [ima Phillips] finally got me fired because I had had the minister defrocked. So she took the show over again.

Edited by CarlD2

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I wonder how long this would have lasted if it'd stayed in its afternoon slot. It definitely would have made it to color, at least.

Carl, where have you read about the show's storylines? I always neglect the somewhat long-running 50s-60s soaps, but I'm very interested.

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From Schemering's book (cutting out some of what has already been said):

The story revolved around the Reverend Richard Dennis, his flock, and his five children: Liz (happily married, she appeared briefly in the TV version in 1956); Althea, a neurotic young woman; Grayling, an alcoholic; Patsy, a teenager; and Barbara, the baby of the family, who was nicknamed Babby.

Because Dennis was a widower, Aunt Emily (played by Mona Bruns) was seen as a mother figure, not only for the Dennis children but for the community at large (She even wrote an advice column for The New Hope Herald). Each episode opened with the words, "Our years are as falling leaves. We live, we love, we dream, and then we go. But somehow we keep hoping, don't we, that our dreams come true on that brighter day." Initially the show ran simultaneously on radio and television, but the radio version was discontinued in 1956, the year of The Brighter Day's greatest popularity. In April of that year it became the number-one daytime drama, a status it was never to achieve again.

Early storylines concentrated on Althea's dreams of becoming an actress - a career which abruptly ended when Althea was decked onstage by a falling sandbag. Experiencing wild mood swings afterwards, Althea was convinced to seek psychiatric help. Dr. Blake Hamilton told her that women like her were happier in the kitchen. "The kitchen," he declared, "is the warmest place in the house, perhaps the warmest in the world." Undaunted, Althea told her shrink to stuff it and fled New Hope for the Big Apple to become a star! Meanwhile, the family struggled with Grayling's alcoholism (Hal Holbrook, who played Grayling for five years, used one of Grayling's drunk scenes as his successful audition to the Actor's Studio.) Grayling eventually settled down with Sandra Talbot; years later - in a storyline that would prove disastrous for The Brighter Day - Sandra experienced a hysterical pregnancy while Grayling enjoyed a brief affair with Nurse Marion Dorsey, who was treading Sandra.

In 1961, when the production moved from New York to Hollywood, the show expanded from daily fifteen-minute episodes to a half hour. Popular when written by John Haggart and produced by Bob Steele (the A Woman to Remember team), The Brighter Day suffered from a continual change of writers, staff, and air time. Writers included such notables as Sam Hall, Eileen and Robert Mason Pollock, and Irna Phillips, the creator.

Then it goes into the timeslot changes and meddling already mentioned. This talks about the ending:

On the final episode, Walter Dennis stepped forward and bid viewers farewell as the camera pulled back and the other members of the Dennis family gradually receded into the background. "The microphones can't pick up the voices," Walter said, "and soon the picture will fade. If on occasion you think of us, we hope your memory will be a pleasant one." Mona Bruns Thomas - whose son Frankie Thomas (Tom Corbett, Space Cadet) said she dressed like "Whistler's Mother" throughout The Brighter Day's run - has written a full account of her experience on this and other soaps in By Emily Possessed (Exposition Press).

Edited by CarlD2

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WOW, that does sound like some good soap. I had no idea TBD was ever the top soap on the air. It's been off the air for so long and has faded into obscurity, it's hard to believe it was once the most watched soap on TV. The set up sounds similar to TSS, with the widowed father raising his troubled kids, so I guess they worked well off of each other.

I wish some reeeeeal..."experienced" posters would materialize who remember watching this back in the day. It's always creeped me out a little bit, with the churchy organ music, the wrought-iron gates, the steeple, the religious theme, etc. I don't think I've sat down and watched a whole TV episode yet, but I have listened to the radio show's first episode and enjoyed it.

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From LaGuardia's book

Jan 4th 1954

When TBD premiered, the Dennis family and some of their friends had moved to the town of New Hope after their homes had been washed away by a horrendous flood. Liz,the oldest Dennis had had a breakdown and been institutionalized before the show went to TV.

Brooke Byron was the first actress to play Althea Dennis Bigby on TV. Althea had many worries. When the story began on TV,her husband Bruce had died in Korea, leaving her to care for infant daughter,Spring.Having gotten a job touring in a play,Althea was crushed on the first night by a falling sandbag.She had now returned to her family and was prone to frequent fits of hysteria. Her brother, Grayling, discovered she had stopped her psychiatric treatment and persuaded her to became a patient of her brother in law Dr Randy Hamilton (Larry ward). She later left for New York to become a glamorous career girl.

1956

Blair Davies replaced Bill Smith as Rev Richard Dennis. Mona Bruns was his widowed sister,Emily Potter, and Jayne Heller mow played Althea. "Aunt" Emily otter soon became the show's mother figure.

The love story between Rev Max Canfield(Herb Nelson) and Lydia Harrick(Muriel Williams) was extremely popular with viewers. The couple wed after overcoming numerous obstacles.

1957

Lori March played Lenore,Lydia's spoiled rich sister. The warm and loving life that Max,Lydia and the Dennis family led helped Lenore change into a more sympathetic person. Lori stayed with the show a year and a half.

1958

Gloria Hoye played Sandra Talbot, a new arrival in new Hope. At first, Sandra was mysterious, but later it was revealed that she had once been involved with Robert Ralston (Mark Daniels) a shady character who had become Grayling's business partner. Grayling and Sandra married. He had a drinking problem, but later overcame it. Some years later, Sandra had a nervous breakdown over her inability to conceive and became insanely convinced she was pregnant. Meanwhile, Grayling had a brief affair with her nurse.

1960

Mary K Wells played Sandra during the later troubled years of her marriage to Grayling.Grayling was now played by James Noble.

1961

Nancy Malone now played the youngest daughter Babby Dennis, who had a tender love story with tough gambler Peter Nino (Joe Sirola)

1962

Richard and Emily's luckless, misfit brother Walter (Paul Langton) came to visit them and stayed on longer than they would have liked.Walter was dreamer and Emily would reprimand him.

June Dayton was the last actress to play Patsy, whose psychiatrist husband,Dr Randy Hamilton, was now dead.Patsy turned to alcohol and Poppa Dennis tried to console her.

Blair Davies and Mona Bruns, although not original cast members, were the show's mainstays, remaining until it left the air. Emily,who wore a lace collar on almost every show, and Richard usually spent a great deal of time in the kitchen talking over the family's problems. scenes such as these will always be remembered by fans. Mona Bruns gives an excellent account of her years in the show in her autobiography By Emily Possessed.

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Seems LaGuardia and Schemering can't agree on what happened with Liz. Schemering makes it seem like she lived a drama-free life out of town (kinda like Kathleen on RH), but LaGuardia says she was in the nuthouse.

LaGuardia's got some things wrong, though. Sandra and Grayling's upcoming wedding was a focal point of the 1955 episode Carl posted, so she had to be introduced several years before what LaGuardia has.

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Schmering claims that she first appeared in 1956. I'm not sure how accurate that is though, I know some have said his book was full of errors.

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Here is Schmering's full cast list.

Rev. Richard Dennis - William Smith 1954, Blair Davies 1954-1962

Emily Potter - Mona Bruns 1954-62

Althea Dennis - Brooke Byron 1954-1955, Jayne Heller 1956, Maggie O'Neill 1960, Anne Meacham 1960-61

Grayling Dennis - Hal Holbrook 1954-59, James Noble 1959-60, Forrest Compton 1961-62

Patsy Dennis Hamilton - Lois Nettleton 1954-57, June Dayton 1961-62

Dr. Randy Hamilton - Larry Ward 1954-57

Babby Dennis - Mary Lynn Beller 1954-59, Nancy Malone 1959-60

Sandra Talbot Dennis Diana Gentner 1956, Gloria Hoye 1957-59, Mary K. Wells 1960-61, Nancy Rennick 1961-62

Peter Nino - Joe Sirola 1959-60

Walter Dennis - Paul Langton 1962

Ellen Dennis - Patty Duke 1958-59, Lanna Saunders 1960

Rev. Max Canfield - Herb Nelson 1956-58

Lydia Canfield - Murial Williams 1956-58

Lenore Bradley - Lori March 1956-58

Adolph McClure - Frank Thomas 1960

Donald Harrick - Walter Brooke 1956-58

Steven Markley - Peter Donat 1958

Tom Bradley - Robert Webber 1958

Diane Clark - Lin Pierson 1959

Eliot Clark - Lawrence Weber 1959, Ernest Graves 1960

Bud Clark - Charles Taylor 1959

Lois Williams, R.N. - Marian Winters, 1960

Dr. Charles Fuller - Dean Harens 1961-62

Chris Hamilton - Mike Barton 1961-62

Toby Ballard - Don Penny 1962

Mort Barrows - Benny Rubin 1962

Judith Potter - Bennye Gatteys 1962

With: Jack Lemmon, William Windom, Santos Ortega, and Judy Lewis

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From the October 1955 Radio TV Mirror. Daytime Diary, a synopsis of each soap. I'm not sure how far behind this was.

Editor Max Canfield has had one unhappy experience in romance. Is he heading for another as he learns the truth about Lydia Harrick, the charming sister-in-law of the temperamental, selfish architect whom Revered Dennis hired to build the Youth Center? Has Don Harrick a hold over Lydia more significant than his own demanding nature? How will Grayling Dennis and his bride Sandra be involved in Max's love affair?

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From the April 1952 Radio TV Mirror's Daytime Diary section. This just covers the radio show obviously.

As Althea Dennis and her daughter appear to be embarking on a promising new life, the rest of the Dennis family also faces a situation that may be more trying - and more rewarding - than any they have yet faced. It is a time of trial for a whole township, and Reverend Richard Dennis at last shows the true strength and quality of his character which in the past has often appeared so deceptively gentle. What effect will all this have on his youngest daughter, Patty?

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I've heard one radio episode--it's interesting in many ways it seemed like Irna actually created the show to take over the relitious element from Guiding Light as that had been phased out. It also seemed like it could have been, like GL the rare radio soap that would have a long life on TV--until they sold the show.

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It's a shame that all the meddling seemed to kill the show so quickly, after it had built up success. I'd love to see more of the show, as the characters and setup seem fascinating, and I'd also like to see some of the writing of Sam Hall's that got him fired.

Irna Phillips had so many similar themes yet her shows also seem to be very different from each other.

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From the December 1954 and January 1955 issues of TV Radio Mirror.

Bert Ralston shows every sign of wishing to become a part of New Hope's quiet, simple community, but there are at least three people he has not convinced. One is Reverend Dennis, who knows people too well to be taken in by Bert's smoothness. Another is Sandra Talbot, who has good reason to know Bert's true character. The third is young Babby Dennis, who doesn't like shaking hands with the stranger in town.

When Sandra Talbot came to New Hope, she did not expect to fall really in love with Grayling Dennis. Surprised by her own unexpected sincerity, and frightened by the pursuit of Bert Ralston, whom she knows to be dangerous, Sandra feels she must forsake Grayling and the new life that had once seemed possible. Will Grayling's worried family be forced to stand by helplessly as this becomes his excuse to start drinking?

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