The Mother of All Soap Stars
Posted by Mr. Feeny on February 4, 2010
OK, that’s not literally true. It’s not even metaphorically true, as many soap operas came before Days of Our Lives in 1965. But Frances Reid was truly the classiest of all soap matriarchs. She died yesterday at the age of 95.
Days of Our Lives is the one soap opera I follow. I usually watch it for stretches, get tired of it or busy, and then pick it up a few years later. This might be me restart period, as I’ll be DVRing every episode hoping for clips from Reid’s heyday.
For the uninitiated, Days of Our Lives started as a story about a family in Salem, the Hortons. The Bradys soon became a fixture, and then other families like the DiMeras. But most everything revolved around Tom and Alice Horton (Reid’s character).
In truth, most of the storylines centered on their children. Those were the ones in and out of love, in and out of trouble, in and out of consciousness (I just assume…that’s what soaps do). Tom and Alice were the rocks. Supporting characters in terms of plot, but central characters on the show and in the viewers’ awareness. They didn’t have big problems. They didn’t have crises for themselves (the occasional health problem, but nothing that drove the story). They were just there with advice and wisdom…and sometimes assistance in making sure the right thing happens. And how about a soap couple that didn’t get divorced and stayed faithful!?
Macdonald Carey played Tom. He also voices the opening to the show (“Like sands through the hourglass, so are the Days of Our Lives“). But he passed away in 1994. As the show and Reid’s health progressed, she began to play a smaller role. Eventually, she made a once or twice-a-year appearance. And as soon as she did, viewers rejoiced to see Mrs. Horton. She was the old familiar face that everyone loved. She even got constant mentions during episodes, even though she was off stage. Her obituary says she was last seen in 2007, but my mother swears it was 2008. Either way, she worked well into her 90s. And she earned a Daytime Emmy for Lifetime Achievement in 2004 (one of several long-time stars who received it that year) (also won four Emmys for Outstanding Actress in a Mature Role…great category!)
Here’s to you, Frances Reid. Days fans will never forget you.
P.S. How’s this for a crazy coincidence. All the top runs in soap opera history are ending this year. The top 3, by force, since As the World Turns was canceled. Reid was #4 on that list. But then, down at #9 was John Clarke. He played Mickey Horton (Alice’s son) for 39 years. They brought him back a few months ago…and killed him off last week. So in the span of one week, Days of Our Lives lost two of television’s longest serving actors. That’s also the last of their original actors (though most could still return).