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Guiding Light

Guiding Light
Network CBS
Executive Producer Ellen Wheeler
Head Writer David Kreizman
Distributor Procter & Gamble Productions
Premiere Date June 30, 1952
Runtime 60 minutes
(15 minutes from 1952 to 1968)
(30 minutes from 1968 to 1977)
Alternate Titles Leiđarljós (Iceland)
Die Springfield Story (Germany)
Sentieri (Italy)
IMDb Page

The Guiding Light (or simply Guiding Light as it's known today) is credited by the Guinness Book of World Records as being the longest soap opera ever told. The program began as an NBC radio serial on January 25, 1937 before moving to CBS on June 30, 1952, as a televised serial. The serial also airs in many countries across Europe, most notably in Italy on Rete 4 under the title Sentieri.



The series was created by Irna Phillips, who based it on personal experiences in her life. After giving birth to a still-born baby at age 19, she found spiritual comfort listening to sermons by a preacher of a church centered on the brotherhood of man. It was these sermons that formed the nucleus of the creation of The Guiding Light.

The radio show's original storyline centered around a preacher named Rev. John Ruthledge, and all the people of a fictional suburb in Chicago called Five Points. The townspeople's lives had revolved around him. The show's title comes from a lamp in his study that family and residents could see as a sign for them to find help when needed.

During the radio years, succeeding preachers would carry on the work Rev. Ruthledge had started (and thus they became keepers of "the guiding light"). In turn, the show's setting moved to another fictional suburb, Selby Flats (supposedly in the Los Angeles area).

In 1952, "The Guiding Light" began airing on CBS television where it has been ever since. With the slow transition to television, the main characters had become a mid-town family called the Bauers. For the first few years of its television run, the show was produced (in separate sessions) via both radio and television, but eventually the show became exclusively a television production.

The television family was headed by wise patriarch Friedrich "Papa" Bauer, who had three children, Bill, Meta, and Trudy. Papa Bauer was wise and a hard worker, having immigrated to this country from Germany with little more than a dream (in real life, Papa Bauer's portrayer, Theo Goetz , a successful actor in his own right, escaped Nazi occupation in Austria). Papa Bauer imparted sage wisdom on his children in a folksy tone, commonly splicing in German words in his normal speech.

Bill's headstrong wife Bert (played by Charita Bauer) and her conflicts with the Bauer clan set the stage for much of the drama in the television show's first decade. In the 1960s and 1970s, the focus of the show slowly moved to Bill and Bert's children, Mike and Ed. Their lives and loves provided high drama for many years.

While Papa Bauer ended up being the bearer of the Guiding Light, the religious tones of the light and even religion in general were almost completely lost by the time the show moved to television. Religious matters gave way to cementing the bonds of family. In the 1970s, Bert Bauer's two sons fought over the lovely Leslie (Lynne Adams), a storyline which was criticized by Charita Bauer herself, whose role moved, in time, from Bauer matriarch to the beacon of support for the entire town. Bauer was quoted as saying, "Now [the show's producers] don't really care about the idea of the family anymore. That used to be the main theme of the show, but now it's gone."

In late 1975, the "the" in the show's title was officially dropped (in an attempt to modernize the show's image), and thus has become known as simply Guiding Light. The show's announcers, however, referred to the serial as The Guiding Light until early 1982, when the "the" was finally dropped from references completely.

By the early 1990s, the Bauers, Spauldings, Reardons, and Lewises had been established as core families in the fictional midwestern city of Springfield. To this, the Coopers were added. Buzz Cooper (Justin Deas) had abandoned his two children, Harley (Beth Ehlers) and Frank (Frank Dicopoulos) after his experiences in the Vietnam War.

The realism of the early 1990s was in stark contrast to the mid-1980s, when self-described "Slut of Springfield," Reva Shayne (played by Kim Zimmer) was Guiding Light's central character and storylines tended to be more campy. Infact, the show was so successful that executive producer Jill Farren Phelps didn't approach Zimmer to return even though she was available.

Phelps herself is a controversial figure among Guiding Light fans. Actress Beverlee McKinsey played Alexandra Spaulding on Guiding Light during the Phelps years, and executed an option in her contract to leave the show without giving the show notice. It is widely believed that Phelps didn't read McKinsey's contract and thus allowed the show to lose the legendary actress. Another move considered a blunder by fans was the death of Maureen Reardon Bauer, played by Ellen Parker.

Michael Laibson succeeded Jill Farren Phelps, and brought back Kim Zimmer's Reva character, who had supposedly killed herself 5 years earlier in a bout with postpartum depression. Plots at this time became increasingly outlandish. Zimmer's character has been a business executive, a television host, a princess, a psychic, an Amish woman and a ghost.

A 2002 cover, featuring popular tortured couples Gus and Harley (Ricky Paull Goldin and Beth Ehlers), Olivia and Phillip (Crystal Chappell and Grant Aleksander), and Danny and Michelle (Paul Anthony Stewart and Nancy St. Alban). Today, none of the couples are together.
A 2002 Soap Opera Digest cover, featuring popular tortured couples Gus and Harley (Ricky Paull Goldin and Beth Ehlers), Olivia and Phillip (Crystal Chappell and Grant Aleksander), and Danny and Michelle (Paul Anthony Stewart and Nancy St. Alban). Today, none of the couples are together.

Also, in a hotly debated storyline, Reva, who was believed to be dead a second time (the first time, she drove off a bridge, only to be resurrected later as said Amish woman, Rebecca), was cloned at the request of her grieving husband Josh (Robert Newman). When Reva was found alive, the lonely clone (who, ironically, was named Dolly, like the sheep) committed suicide by drinking too much aging serum. As she lay on her death bed (actually a couch), Josh fumbled with a cure that would have reversed the effects of the aging serum. Unfortunately, he dropped it behind the couch and it was too late to save Dolly.

In the early 2000s, under Paul Rauch's watch, plots continued to be outrageous. Reva went on a time-travel misadventure, discover her psychic abilities, and uplugged her ex-husband Richard's life support at his request. In 2003, Jon Conboy and Ellen Weston became in charge of the show. Several vets were axed, including Maureen Garrett, Beth Chamberlin and Elizabeth Keifer. History was re-written when the characters Billy, Josh, Ed, Alan, and Buzz were revealed to have been the cause of the death of a young girl when they were young men in 1977. Although it was later they weren't responsible, the storyline was critized for its plot-holes, such as the fact that only two of the characters were even on in 1977, and re-writing of the characters' histories. Also, the storyline seemed to be a carbon copy of the Annabelle Sims storyline, which aired in 1983.

Conboy and Weston were in turn, fired. Ellen Wheeler of Another World fame became executive producer in the spring of 2004. So far, her regime has addressed unresolved plots including that of the characters of Roger and Dinah. Wheeler has won much critical praise, and Guiding Light was named Best Soap by many, including TV Guide.


Current Cast Members

Recurring Cast Members

  • George Alvarez (Ray Santos)
  • Kim Brockington (Felicia Boudreau)
  • Beth Chamberlin (Beth Raines)
  • Jordan Clarke (Billy Lewis II)
  • Maureen Garrett (Holly Lindsey Reade)
  • Gavin Alexander Houston (Remy Boudreau)
  • Elizabeth Keifer (Blake Thorpe Marler)
  • Yvonna Kopacz (Dr. Melissande "Mel" Boudreau Bauer)
  • Tina Sloan (Lillian Raines)

Coming and Going Cast Members

  • Stephen Martines (Tony Santos) (until spring 2005)

External links

  • Official web site
  • CBS website

Also see

"Guiding Light" is also a track from Television's 1977 release Marquee Moon.

Last updated: 05-02-2005 23:32:12
Last updated: 05-03-2005 17:50:55