1 9 5 2 – 2 0 0 9 (USA)
15,762 x 15/30/60 minute episodes
The longest-running drama in television history, The Guiding Light entertained radio and television fans for 72 years. The series premiered on 25 January 1937 on radio, making the transition to television on 30 June 1952. It ended its 57 years on television in 2009.
Set in the fictional Midwestern town of Springfield, this drama focused on the lives of complex characters and unforgettable families like the Bauers, Spauldings, Lewises, Chamberlains, Reardons, Marlers, Coopers, and Thorpes.
The first family to be introduced were the Bauer’s. Bert Bauer as played by Charita Bauer (yes, the name is coincidental) appeared on the show from 1950 until her death in 1984.
Her on-screen son, Mike Bauer, however, was in fact named after Charita’s real-life son Mike. This was done on her request to “avoid confusion”.
Over the years, The Guiding Light introduced intriguing families from the Bauer’s, Lewis’, Spaulding’s, Cooper’s, Reardon’s, Thorpe’s and Shayne’s to the relatively recent arrivals of the Santos’ and Lemay’s.
It also became the first integrated Soap Opera when James Earl Jones and Ruby Dee became daytime television’s first African-American Actors in their roles as Dr Jim and Martha Frazier which reinforced the fact that not all ‘coloured’ people were domestics like Prissy in Gone With The Wind, or foolish children like Buckwheat in The Little Rascals.
Although the show faced the threat of cancellation on more than one occasion and some actors left the show under circumstances that were far from amicable, the show continued to educate and delight its many loyal fans all over the world until its eventual demise in 2009.
For example, it was one of the most popular soap operas in Germany due to the fact that the show originally focused on a German immigrant family whose presence still remained after five generations, The Bauers.
From Papa Bauer’s words of wisdom to Great-Grandson’s Rick Bauer’s loss of his beloved son, we saw one of many families whose tragedies sometimes outweighed their triumphs but still survived because they loved one another pure and simple.
Other families also endured a great deal of hurt and pain – From Billy Lewis’s drinking and prison conviction, to Reva’s confrontation of her stepson Joshua for treating her as “The Slut Of Springfield”.
The only family that seemed to be wealthy in emotion and strapped financially were The Coopers, one of the true realistic families on Soaps.
Their main headquarters was The 5th Street Diner, where people went to eat, listen to music and have fun.
Most of their customers were single parents, blue-collar workers and social security recipients who survived week by week on what little they had. The Diner was founded by the late Achilles Cooper, who was a Greek Immigrant who passed the Diner on to his Son Franklin Achilles Cooper Sr, (Buzz) – A well-meaning man who sometimes allowed his emotions to get himself in situations that he couldn’t always get himself out of.
From money issues to marital issues, his actions always had disastrous consequences but deep down, his intentions were always honourable.
The Spauldings were a successful, powerful family whose patriarch Brandon Spaulding inflicted deep wounds on his children Alan and Alexandra. Alan’s continued obsession with the past subsequently had a damaging effect on his emotional well-being. From the loss of his mother Penelope to the loss of his true love Jennifer Richards, Alan was living proof that your past relationships will always affect your future relationships.
Alan’s sister Alexandra was also a woman who couldn’t have a successful relationship with a man because of her father’s cruelty towards her when she was growing up.
She lost her family because she chose to be with Eric Luvonaczek, her lover and the father of her twin sons.
Her marriage to Roger Thorpe ended when he had an extra-marital affair with Mindy Lewis and although she also had a relationship with Fletcher Reade, it didn’t last because of her own scheming.
The title of the series stemmed from the first character the show introduced, Reverend Ruthledge, whose reading lamp in the window served as a guide for troubled parishioners. The “The” was dropped from the title in 1975.
The Guiding Light – owned from start to finish by Proctor & Gamble – was a proving ground for several big-name stars, including Kevin Bacon, Calista Flockhart, Cicely Tyson and James Earl Jones.
Bertha ‘Bert’ Bauer
Tim T.J. Werner
Nola Reardon Chamberlain
Maureen Reardon Bauer
Dr Mark Jarrett
D.A. Andrew Murray
Dr Bruce Banning
Dr JIm Frazier
James Earl Jones
Lainie Marler Bowden
Rita Stapleton Bauer
Holly Norris Bauer
Lois Holmes (1)
Kate Herrington (2)
Dr Jim Frazier
Billy Dee Williams