Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
History of As the World Turns (1970-1979)
1970 - 1979
Notable storylines during the 1970s revolved around the two Sullivan sisters; Jennifer (Gillian Spencer) and Kimberly (Kathryn Hays) came to town and shook up the moral fabric. Destined to become one of the show's great heroines, the character of Kim was creator/writer Irna Phillips's last great contribution to As the World Turns. At a time when soaps were under pressure to become more relevant and reflect the enormous societal changes of the period, Kim was conceived as an ideal of the burgeoning women's movement: a strong, smart, self-made career woman who did not require a man to define her identity (partly modeled after Phillips herself, who, in the 1930s, was an unmarried woman with two adopted children). It was not long, however, before Kim was involved in romantic entaglements as complex and tortured as those of any other daytime heroine, including an affair with her sister's husband Bob that resulted in a pregnancy. Phillips planned to have Bob divorce Jennifer and marry Kim. Fans were outraged and CBS, wary of falling ratings, demanded Kim "pay" for her adultery. Phillips refused and CBS fired her (Phillips died a year later, in 1973). Kim was "punished" by miscarrying her baby and marrying evil Dr. John Dixon, but 15 years later, Bob and Kim would learn their child had been snatched away at birth and raised in England as Sabrina Stuart.
When ethically-challenged Dr. John Dixon (Larry Bryggman) first came to Oakdale in 1969, a professional and personal rivalry began between him and Bob Hughes that lasted more than twenty years, and eventually blossomed a love triangle with Kim in the center. John tortured Kim emotionally during their marriage, at one point faking paralysis to keep her by his side, at another raping her (their son Andy would become a core character in the 80's and 90's). However, Kim's pairing in the 1970s with Dan Stewart (John Colenback ) was a great favorite with many viewers, making Kim a full-fledged heroine and weaving her into the fabric of one of Oakdale's core families. 10 years later, Bob and Kim reunited, by which time fans had forgiven their past transgressions.
Other popular storylines in the 70's included the quadrangle between brothers Paul and Dan Stewart, heroine Liz Talbot, and boozy, bitchy Dr. Susan Stewart, the wife who would not let Dan go under any circumstances. As with many early 70's ATWT plotlines, the outcome of this storyline was influenced by backstage fighting with Irna Phillips. Phillips despised Jane House , who played Liz, because of House's concurrent stint on Broadway as a stripper (with nude scenes) in the play Lenny. Phillips planned to kill Liz off via pneuomonia, but as she languished in the hospital bed day after day, angry viewers flooded the network with calls and Phillips was ordered to give Liz a miraculous recovery. House could not work with someone who had such clear loathing for her, and left soon after. Incredibly, Phillips continued to hate the character even after House departed, and planned to have Liz set herself on fire during her wedding night. CBS objected, as another of their soaps had just done the same thing, so Phillips instead had Liz fatally injure her spleen while saving baby Emily from a nasty fall. Liz fell UP the stairs, an exit considered one of the oddest deaths in the history of daytime and a low point in As the World Turns history. Of the 4 main characters, it was boozy Susan who would remain on the show, reformed, for the next several decades. Baby Emily would grow up into a teenage vixen played by Colleen McDermott , Melanie Smith , and later Kelly Menighan-Hensley.
By the late 70's ATWT had fallen from the #1 slot and repetitive storylines about alcoholism and discos, plus a slew of characters who had been going through the same scenarios day after day for a decade or more, led CBS to make much-needed changes. The 80's would take As the World Turns to new heights.
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