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EricMontreal22

The Heart of Juliet Jones, full 15 mins 1954 Soap Pilot (written by first DAYS dialoguest?)

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I hope this hasn't been posted before, and this is the right place to put it...  Carl and others probably already know all about this...  But...
 

This is a 1950s soap curio I stumbled upon. I'm a big fan of the soap opera comic strips--particularly in their heyday of the 50s-70s. You know those often mocked strips that people can't believe are still running somewhere (well, a few are).  Mary Worth (which started the genre really, in 1943 by Allen Saunders with art by Ken Ernst), Saunders' protege and practicing psychiatrist Nick Dallis' three strips, Rex Morgan MD (1948), Judge Parker (1952) and Apartment 3G (1961 and a particular favourite for its "single girls in the 60s/70s" and Alex Kotzky's vibrant art), even the hybrid soap/adventure strip Leonard Starr's Mary Perkins, On Stage (1957).  And of course others that didn't last nearly as long...  Following them and reading older ones they really do follow a similar trajectory as radio/tv soaps in many ways--easily mocked but they actually were genuinely compelling (to me anyway) up through the 80s and then in the 90s things started messing them up--low readership, syndicate editors who interfered too much, the death of many of the original writers replaced by poor substitutes (Apartment 3Gs last decade--it ended in 2015--has got to be one of the most surreal, awful, and bizarre things I have ever read--one fan site mentioned how it started to seem like it existed in a Lynchian world drawn by toddlers).  I still follow the remaining three--Mary Worth, Rex Morgan and Judge Parker, but currently they all are terrible, albeit all three in rather different ways...  Anyway, I won't bore you all--I have a point here and a video and some questions :P

 

I always wondered why, when these strips were insanely popular in the 50s and 60s (and they genuinely were phenomenons in the strip world) none were adapted as soap operas until I found out from an old interview with Saunders that Mary Worth was almost made into a soap *three* times--once even with casting finished--but the Syndicate who owned it kept asking for ridiculous amounts of money and demands, much to Saunders' annoyance.  And then I found this...

 

Perhaps the very best soap strip was The Heart of Juliet Jones which started in 1953 as a rival to Mary Worth and quickly became a massive hit (especially in France). It eventually fizzled out, like TV soaps, in its last decades and ended in the 90s with mediocre art and on a bizarre cliffhanger (Juliet and her sister Eve were on a hijacked plane that was about to crash!  I guess no one told the then-writer and artist that it was ending...), but the collections of the 50s and 60s strips are wonderful fun, largely due to the incredible art by Stan Drake (some say the best comic strip illustrator ever) and the clever, almost film noir dialogue by Eliot Caplin (brother of Lil' Abner's Al Capp). It also has in its pedigree the fact that the initial concept was by Gone With the Wind author Margaret Mitchell who passed away before it began.

 

Anyway, apparently as early as 1954 there was an attempt to turn it into a soap, and a 15 minute pilot episode was made. It's not bad--the three main characters (Juliet, her younger sister Eve and their kind hearted Pop) all look pretty spot on, and the storyline here seems to be based on the initial plot in which Eve steals Juliet's fiance--who is also her high school teacher (within a year in the strip, Eve would be softened and become friends with Juliet). That setup reminds me of the sister rivalry in early Love of Life. However, it lacks the energy of the comic strip, but that's to be expected.

 

What's odd to me is by all reports this was intended as a daytime soap--and yet it has a fully orchestrated score and seems to have slightly higher production values than other daytime soaps from that time. Maybe this was just done for the promo pilot? The writing is by Charles Gussman who had a LONG history with radio and early tv soaps--I found this from the New York Times Obits:

 

OCT. 28, 2000

Charles J. Gussman, who brought delightfully tangled plots, addictively picturesque characters and heaping doses of steamy romance to soap operas he wrote for radio and television, died on Oct. 18. He was 87 and lived on a farm in Holland, Pa.

 

Mr. Gussman was a master of a genre that once claimed 20 million radio listeners a day, from Cole Porter to housewives to construction workers on lunchtime breaks. He strove to bring wit and cleverness to what often seemed a melodramatic formula of failed love, insidious illness and, always, the ever-dangling hope that all questions might be answered in the next episode, said Anthony Heilbut, who is researching soap operas as part of a book he is writing.

With relish, ''he turned the already baroque story lines rococo,'' Mr. Heilbut said.

 

Among the radio serials for which Mr. Gussman wrote were ''The Road of Life,'' ''The Right to Happiness'' and ''Young Doctor Malone.'' All three were among the top-rated programs of the early 1950's, when daytime soap operas, usually 15 minutes long and named for the soap companies that sponsored them, attracted far more listeners than nighttime dramas.

 

A typical story line for the Malone program might go: Jerry Malone, a principled and idealistic physician in the little town of Three Oaks, goes to New York on a business trip; there he falls into the clutches of the treacherous Lucia Standish. Meanwhile, his wife, Ann, is fooling around with Sam Williams, an aggressive Three Oaks businessman.

Though these shows were far from serious drama, Arthur Miller and other serious young playwrights were more than willing to write such episodes. A basic requirement for success, Mr. Heilbut argued, was not to be condescending. Of Mr. Gussman, he said: ''He wasn't really winking, but was trying to do the best he could with this idiom. He went for broke.''

 

Mr. Gussman was born in Kansas City, Mo., in 1913, his daughter, C. Brooke Gruenberg, said. His father was a railroad worker who became a lawyer by attending night school.

 

The boy was picked up by police at the age of 4 for ''promiscuous throwing of cardboard,'' but became an Eagle Scout. He attended the University of Missouri for two years before dropping out during the Depression because of lack of money.

 

He wandered from radio station to radio station working as an announcer. At 19, he managed a radio station in Iowa, his daughter said.

 

One of his earliest writing jobs was a serialized radio version of ''Lil' Abner,'' a brazen combination of soap opera and down-home humor, Mr. Heilbut said. Mr. Gussman conferred regularly with Al Capp, the comic strip's creator, but had license to develop his own plots.

 

As television became the dominant medium, Mr. Gussman turned to it enthusiastically. But he hedged his bets. For the last radio episode of ''The Road of Life'' in 1959, he left at least three cliffhangers hanging, including a man on the verge of realizing that the man he had just shot was his father.

 

Mr. Gussman's work for television included writing for some of its first soaps, including ''Search for Tomorrow'' and the television version of ''Young Doctor Malone.'' He wrote the pilot script of ''Days of Our Lives'' and gave the series its name. He once said of the title, ''The big guys loved it because it didn't mean a thing.'' He also wrote some episodes of ''Gilligan's Island,'' among other shows.

 

Ms. Gruenberg said that her father tried to fight blacklisting during the McCarthy era by requesting actors whom he knew were controversial because of allegations of Communist connections. When some of them began to be accepted, he knew the situation was easing.

 

He also faced another challenge in bringing the amount of sex to soap operas he sensed viewers desired. Network policies required all actors to have at least one foot on the floor at all times. ''His basic solution was contortionists,'' Ms. Gruenberg said.

 

She described his creative process as simultaneously reading a magazine and playing solitaire in the living room, then retreating to an officer to bang out a complete and almost always perfect script in less than three hours.

 

''My mother would say: 'Be quiet, Brooke. Daddy's working,' '' she said. ''I had the strangest idea what work was.''

 

In addition to Ms. Gruenberg, also of Holland, Mr. Gussman is survived by a son, Christopher of Kansas City, and a stepdaughter, Zoe Hollenbeck Barr of Santa Rosa, Calif. He and his first wife, the former Mary Alice Young, the mother of his children, were divorced in 1969. His second wife, the former Angelique Dean Hollenbeck, died in 1985.

 

For years, Mr. Gussman had said he wanted his last words to be memorable. As his death approached, his daughter reminded him of his wish. He slowly removed the oxygen mask, she said, and whispered in the faintest voice: "And now for a final word from our sponsor. . . .''

 

 

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9 hours ago, danfling said:

My favorite of these strips was Winnie Winkle.

Winnie is fun, I've been reading late 70s reprints.  It has a weird history though--starting off as a gag strip in the 30s, it didn't really go full on soap till the late 60s, and was still essentially light hearted but mixed with soap opera staples like husbands coming back from the dead, etc.  In the early 80s it actually was gonna have her son come out of the closet (and he had already been a male escort--presumably for women), but at the last moment the Syndicate forced it to change and he revealed instead he was seeing an older woman (hardly shocking).  The soap strips are still so conservative--though Rex Morgan and Judge Parker have had very minor gay and lesbian characters.

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I recall reading in an old Daytime TV about the plan to add Mary Worth to the daytime line-up. I believe Nancy Wickwire was set to play Mary. I totally agree about the current strips being terrible. I followed MW for about seven years and then bailed earlier this year after that dreck of a plot where Jeff's friend accosted Mary and she didn't tell a soul. The backlash online toward the writer was swift and severe. Her writing can be quite stilted and downright bizarre. I still recall that plot where Dawn meets Jim, an one-armed man who lost his arm in a boating accident. He falls in love with Dawn and it's then revealed that not only did his sister die in the same boating accident, but she was also a doppelgänger for Dawn. It was a creepy, fascinating twist and then, of course, the story ended and Jim vanished.

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11 minutes ago, robbwolff said:

I recall reading in an old Daytime TV about the plan to add Mary Worth to the daytime line-up. I believe Nancy Wickwire was set to play Mary. I totally agree about the current strips being terrible. I followed MW for about seven years and then bailed earlier this year after that dreck of a plot where Jeff's friend accosted Mary and she didn't tell a soul. The backlash online toward the writer was swift and severe. Her writing can be quite stilted and downright bizarre. I still recall that plot where Dawn meets Jim, an one-armed man who lost his arm in a boating accident. He falls in love with Dawn and it's then revealed that not only did his sister die in the same boating accident, but she was also a doppelgänger for Dawn. It was a creepy, fascinating twist and then, of course, the story ended and Jim vanished.

Moy is the worst.  I've read a number of 1950s and 1960s Mary Worth strips (where Mary herself used to barely be featured and she'd kinda wander from city to city--more of an anthology soap) and they have a classic movie feel to them--and then I've read a number of John Saunders, creator Allen Saunders' son's strips--he created most of the supporting cast and Mary's current location--and while they're easy to mock, slow moving, and not classic, they also have a clear start, middle and end and genuinely unexpected twists and are at least *fun* to read (well, at least for me).  Moy's stuff--and I have no idea what her credentials are but she came in when John suddenly passed away mid story--started off at least with sorta entertainly bizarre ideas.  I know people on the internet still talk about the Aldo Kelrast storyline early in her run, with Captain Kangaroo look alike Aldo stalking Mary and ending up drunkenly driving off a cliff, or some other similar stories (although they always ended very abruptly) but lately, not only can she not really tell a story, she doesn't even seem to be bothered anymore.  She will endlessly repeat the same dialogue and scene for weeks, and then the set up for a story will come to a conclusion, exactly the way you thought it would.  Well, except for that #metoo Mary sexual harassment story which was just insultingly inept as you said.  Mary, who is constantly telling troubled people to always reach out to your friends, etc, etc, decides to not even tell her boyfriend of two decades (!) what his friend was up to??  Blah.  But, there's no way she'd be replaced--I think MW is still carried in enough papers to last a few more years, but the syndicates really can't be bothered. 

But man, now I wanna track down the Dawn story you mention which I think somehow I missed.  I'm not surprised that it had a bizarre reveal and then... nothing.

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2 hours ago, EricMontreal22 said:

Moy is the worst.  I've read a number of 1950s and 1960s Mary Worth strips (where Mary herself used to barely be featured and she'd kinda wander from city to city--more of an anthology soap) and they have a classic movie feel to them--and then I've read a number of John Saunders, creator Allen Saunders' son's strips--he created most of the supporting cast and Mary's current location--and while they're easy to mock, slow moving, and not classic, they also have a clear start, middle and end and genuinely unexpected twists and are at least *fun* to read (well, at least for me).  Moy's stuff--and I have no idea what her credentials are but she came in when John suddenly passed away mid story--started off at least with sorta entertainly bizarre ideas.  I know people on the internet still talk about the Aldo Kelrast storyline early in her run, with Captain Kangaroo look alike Aldo stalking Mary and ending up drunkenly driving off a cliff, or some other similar stories (although they always ended very abruptly) but lately, not only can she not really tell a story, she doesn't even seem to be bothered anymore.  She will endlessly repeat the same dialogue and scene for weeks, and then the set up for a story will come to a conclusion, exactly the way you thought it would.  Well, except for that #metoo Mary sexual harassment story which was just insultingly inept as you said.  Mary, who is constantly telling troubled people to always reach out to your friends, etc, etc, decides to not even tell her boyfriend of two decades (!) what his friend was up to??  Blah.  But, there's no way she'd be replaced--I think MW is still carried in enough papers to last a few more years, but the syndicates really can't be bothered. 

But man, now I wanna track down the Dawn story you mention which I think somehow I missed.  I'm not surprised that it had a bizarre reveal and then... nothing.

The Dawn story was back in 2012. It lasted forever. It started around April 2012 when Dawn's boyfriend Dave breaks up with her. Wilbur takes her overseas. They arrive in Italy and go on a cruise. Mind you, this was months after the Costa Concordia sank. Guess where we're going? Yep. Moy ripped off the sinking of the Costa Concordia, even using verbatim statements from the official record of the disaster. Once back in Santa Royale, Dawn volunteers at the hospital where she meets Jim. I think the story finally wrapped in December 2012.

 

 

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5 hours ago, robbwolff said:

The Dawn story was back in 2012. It lasted forever. It started around April 2012 when Dawn's boyfriend Dave breaks up with her. Wilbur takes her overseas. They arrive in Italy and go on a cruise. Mind you, this was months after the Costa Concordia sank. Guess where we're going? Yep. Moy ripped off the sinking of the Costa Concordia, even using verbatim statements from the official record of the disaster. Once back in Santa Royale, Dawn volunteers at the hospital where she meets Jim. I think the story finally wrapped in December 2012.

 

 

Oh man, well I do remember the cruise ship sinking lol...  She really just doesn't know how to tell a story--but like I said, in the past year or so she seems to have given up even her lame attempts at trying--we just had a 3 month story of Tommy the Tweeker's return, sober, and dating a girl he's working with and worrying for day after day about if he should tell her about his past.  Then he tells her about his past, she's ok with it, story end.  That's not a story :P

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4 hours ago, EricMontreal22 said:

Oh man, well I do remember the cruise ship sinking lol...  She really just doesn't know how to tell a story--but like I said, in the past year or so she seems to have given up even her lame attempts at trying--we just had a 3 month story of Tommy the Tweeker's return, sober, and dating a girl he's working with and worrying for day after day about if he should tell her about his past.  Then he tells her about his past, she's ok with it, story end.  That's not a story :P

It's a shame. Some stories really do have promise but then they go nowhere. For instance, there was that story where Mary went to New York to visit Olive. They then went around New York visiting places like Macy's and Whole Foods. At one point, I thought Moy was going to kill off Olive's parents and then the girl would go to live with Mary. Nope. You would think that a buttinsky like Mary would confront Olive's neglectful parents. Nope. No conflict at all.

 

 

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Just now, robbwolff said:

It's a shame. Some stories really do have promise but then they go nowhere. For instance, there was that story where Mary went to New York to visit Olive. They then went around New York visiting places like Macy's and Whole Foods. At one point, I thought Moy was going to kill off Olive's parents and then the girl would go to live with Mary. Nope. You would think that a buttinsky like Mary would confront Olive's neglectful parents. Nope. No conflict at all.

 

 

YES, just when there should be conflict or a twist... nothing happens.  I was really sick last Spring and so got way too involved in all of these and became a paying member of ComicsKingdom which has archives to their strips going back 20 years--so I read a number of the final John Saunders stories.  I also found an interview with Moy when she was hired where she denigrates his stories for being old fashioned, but mostly for sometimes lasting more than a year.  Which... they did.  She said she'd keep hers to around three months.  The difference is, though, at least in the Saunders stories I read--he kept things interesting for that whole year--stories would start involving different characters, Mary's endless platitudes would not take up a full week, there would be surprising character revelations--genuinely soapy stuff, albeit still in a relatively conservative Mary Worth mode.  Moy may have been trying for some of that in her earlier stories but never succeeded, and like I said, seems to have completely given up now.

Did you ever read any of the other "soap strips"?  The end of the once great Apartment 3G (more daring than Mary and better art...) is a particularly tragic affair with the editors seeming to just not care that apparently a very old and sick artist was inserting random head shots into writing that equally made no sense (they'd say they were giving someone a needle in a hospital, and yet you'd see two heads talking to each other in a random street...)  This blog gives a good run down.  It makes current Mary Worth look like Terry and the Pirates in comparison http://www.comicsreporter.com/index.php/i_binge_read_apartment_3_g_this_weekend_and_part_of_me_thought_it_was_beaut/

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I love June Brigman's art work for MW. It's definitely elevated the strip in many ways and also highlights the weakness in the writing. You're right. Moy does seem to have given up. It's really evident this year. Even worse this year was when Mary's answer for a suicidal Wilbur was to go out and sing karaoke. I think there was just a small reference to him seeing a therapist. I bailed on the strip when I saw that the next story was about Tommy. All Moy seems focused on these days are Dawn, Wilbur, Tommy, and Iris. That said, have we ever seen Tommy and Dawn interact? There could be so much conflict with just those two interacting.

 

Years ago, I read Prince Valiant but never got into any other strips of there MW. I looked up Apartment 3G. Wow. It's kinda like the equivalent of Guiding Light's Peapack period, though at least the writing on GL made sense at the end (for the most part).

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Juliet Jones was one of a few attempts by syndicators in the 50's to get a soap of the ground.

 

They all failed because of economics. There was no videotape at the time so they had to be filmed (the only alternative would be kinescopes of live performances which would be poor quality) Film was much more expensive.Hence,why soaps went to tape in the 60's once it was feasible to do so.

 

Unlike self contained dramas they could not be rerun repeatedly. Local stations were rerunning movies  and other shows over and over to great profit.

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