1 9 5 1 – 1 9 8 0 (USA)
7,316 x 15/30 minute episodes
One of American television’s earliest daytime serial successes, Love Of Life made its debut on 24 September 1951 and remained on the screen for 28 years.
For most of the series’ run, the plots centred on two very different sisters – the noble, long-suffering Vanessa ‘Van’ Dale and her selfish opportunistic sister, Margaret ‘Meg’ Dale.
Meg was written out of the show in 1956 but returned in December 1973 and became one of the show’s most popular characters.
The role of Vanessa was played over the years by Peggy McCay (1951-1955), Bonnie Bartlett (1955-1959), and for most of the series’ run, Audrey Peters (1959-1980).
During the course of the show, Van was widowed and divorced, suffered a miscarriage, was wrongly accused of murder, and married (and remarried) an amnesia victim.
Meg was originally played by Jean McBride (1951-1956) and then – after a 17-year absence – by Tudi Wiggins (1973-1980). She was involved with adultery, murder charges, gamblers and unsavoury activities of many kinds.
Originally created by Roy Winsor and John D Hess, the show did not stand still as time wore on. Appropriate changes were made to accommodate the tastes and ideas of its viewers and characters found themselves increasingly involved in situations involving extra-marital liaisons, mental illness, abortions, political corruption and racial conflicts.
When the series first aired in 1951, the programme was set in the (imaginary) rural town of Barrowsville, but the show’s location eventually changed to Rosehill, New York, where it remained until it was cancelled in 1980 when it stood as daytime’s lowest-rated soap.
The years between 1964 and 1966 was Love of Life‘s golden period, ranking 8th of all daytime shows, but the ratings progressively fell and by 1980 it was in 25th place.
Other popular characters over the years were Van and Meg’s mother, Sarah; their father, Will; Meg’s first husband, Charles Harper; Meg and Charles’ son, Benno; and Van’s husband, lawyer Paul Raven.
As the series grew older, various younger characters were featured in storylines, but always with Vanessa and Meg remaining pivotal.
Among the many actors who had both short and long-term roles on the series were Martin Balsam, Christopher Reeve, Warren Beatty, Peter Falk, Paul Michael Glaser, Tony Lo Bianco, Roy Scheider and Nancy Marchand.
Vanessa ‘Van’ Dale Sterling
Peggy McCay (1)
Bonnie Bartlett (2)
Audrey Peters (3)
Margaret ‘Meg’ Dale Harper Hart
Jean McBride (1)
Tudi Wiggins (2)
Sarah Dale McCauley
Jane Rose (1)
Joanna Roos (2)
Joe Allen Jr
Ellie Hughes Crown
Benno “Beanie” Harper
Dennis Parnell (1)
Tommy White (2)
Christopher Reeve (3)
Chandler Hill Harbin (4)