Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
The Edge of Night
The Edge of Night was a long-running American television soap opera. It debuted on CBS on April 2, 1956. It ran on that network until November 28, 1975 and aired on ABC from December 1, 1975 until December 28, 1984. 7420 episodes were produced, with some 1800 available for syndication.
Edge was the second of the two original half-hour soaps; As the World Turns also premiered in this format earlier the same day. These two programs were the last two American soap operas generally to be aired live, which they were into the 1970s and which also accounts why only about one-fourth of the episodes of The Edge of Night are available for syndication. The last live episode aired on November 28, 1975, which, coincidentally, was the last episode aired on CBS. The episode ended with Serena Faraday (Louise Shaffer) shooting her husband on the steps of the courthouse. The next Monday, ABC aired a special 90-minute episode, which started with dowager Geraldine Whitney (Lois Kibbee ) in a coma after she was knocked unconscious in a robbery.
The show was originally conceived as the daytime version of Perry Mason, which was popular in novel and radio formats at the time. Erle Stanley Gardner was to create and write the show, but a last-minute tiff between him and the network caused Gardner to pull his support from the idea. A writer from the Perry Mason radio show, Irving Vendig , created a retooled idea and the show as we know it was born. Gardner would eventually patch up his differences with CBS and Perry Mason would debut in prime time the next year.
Unlike Mason, whose adventures took place in Southern California, Monticello, the city of The Edge of Night, was somewhere in a generic state in the Midwest — a state so generic that its capital city was "Capital City". It was admitted that the city skyline seen in the opening credits was that of Cincinnati, Ohio, where the show's sponsor, Procter & Gamble, was based.
The Edge of Night was unique among daytime soap operas in focusing on crime, rather than domestic and romantic matters. The police, district attorneys and medical examiners of fictional Monticello, USA dealt with a steady onslaught of gangsters, drug dealers, blackmailers, cultists, international spies, corrupt politicians, psychopaths and murderous debutantes while coping with more usual soap opera problems such as courtship, marriage, divorce, custody battles and amnesia.
Due to the show's crime format, and its late start time (the show usually aired either at 4 or 4:30 in the afternoon, when many men could rush home early from work), Edge had an audience which was estimated, at one time, to be more than 50% male. When the show moved to 2 PM in 1972, the show slid from a solid #2 in the Nielsen ratings to near the bottom of the pack, and it has been hypothesized that this drop was due to the exodus of many male viewers who could not watch earlier in the afternoon.
Despite ABC's decision to move Edge back to its old 4 PM slot when it debuted on the network in late 1975, the serial never recovered from its steep drop, and stayed close to the bottom until its cancellation. As the show moved into the 1980s, more and more ABC affiliates either moved Edge to late-night timeslots or chose not to air the show at all, causing the show's sponsor to lose more money with each passing year. An announcement that many ABC affiliates would drop The Edge of Night in 1985 caused P&G to pull the plug.
For the show's entire duration, the stories either revolved around or had much to do with Monticello lawyer Mike Karr (first played by John Larkin, then by Laurence Hugo and finally Forrest Compton). His wife Nancy (Ann Flood) was a journalist and helped in many of his cases. Other important characters were Police Chief Bill Marceau (Mandel Kramer ), who was one of Carr's best friends and with whom was shared a tremendous mutual respect, rare between a defense attorney and a chief of police, Marceau's wife Martha, who battled alcoholism, fellow lawyer Adam Drake (Donald May ), and television personality Nicole Travis (first played by Maeve McGuire ).
Nicole had the most interesting history, as she was married to Adam Drake, feared dead in a boating accident, came back to life, and when her marriage to Adam was finished for good, the character was replaced with a new actress (Jayne Bentzen had assumed the role) and was subsequently de-aged a decade, a rarity for an adult character in the genre. Now younger and more vibrant, Nicole was suitable for a relationship with young doctor Miles Cavanaugh (Joel Crothers). She was eventually killed off when her makeup powder was poisoned.
Another important relationship was that between Nancy and her younger sister Cookie, who was married to Mike's friend, Philip Capice (Ray MacDonnell). In the show's later years, the Karrs' beautiful daughter Lori Ann, by now a young adult, was an important character. Her relationship with Jonah Lockwood, a cult leader very much in the style of Charles Manson, almost cost her her life, but he was revealed to be an alternate persona of Keith Whitney, scion of the weatlhy Whitney family, nemesis of the Karrs and Marceau! One of the later major story arcs was about a train wreck and a prisoner who was unjustly convicted escaping from it, much in the style of Dr. Richard Kimble of The Fugitive.
In addition to the 1,800 episodes (from the latter part of the show's run) available for syndication, a handful of episodes from the 1950s and 1960s also survive, some in kinescope form, others in film and television archives in their original videotape format. Some classic episodes have been seen on The World of Soap Themes web site (which showcases rarely seen episodes of soap operas long thought lost).
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