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39 May 29th, 2015 Days of our Lives Turns 50! Cast Members and EP Ken Corday on a Celebration of Love, Heartbreak, and Drama in the Afternoon!

This feature was first published and presented exclusively inside the 42nd Annual Daytime Creative Arts Emmy program/almanac that was given out to all those attending the awards ceremonies.  Through the courtesy of the National Academy of Television Arts Sciences  (NATAS), On-Air On-Soaps Michael Fairman who wrote this piece for the program, is posting it here for this online exclusive.

The feature paying tribute and honoring Days of our Lives upcoming 50th anniversary is filled with notable quotes from interviews conducted for this piece with DAYS cast members:  Deidre Hall (Marlena), Kristian Alfonso (Hope), Melissa Reeves (Jennifer), Alison Sweeney (Sami), Bill and Susan Seaforth Hayes (Doug and Julie), Eric Martsolf (Brady), and the series executive producer Ken Corday.

Now below read how the DAYS stars and EP Ken Corday reflect on some of their most memorable moments and storylines during their time with the series, changes they have witnessed over the decades in Salem, and personal accounts of their time with the NBC daytime drama series.

DAYS OF OUR LIVES TURNS 50:  A Celebration of Love, Heartbreak and Drama in the Afternoon!

Courtesy/NBC

If you think making it to 50 in the world of daytime drama is an easy feat, think again!  Just speak to the actors and the producers, or anyone behind the scenes that has worked on Days of our Lives, and they will tell you that it’s really not that surprising that the series has made it to this milestone.  The longest running scripted series in NBC television history will have its golden anniversary on November 8th, 2015.  The show premiered back in 1965 when conversations were happening in black and white in the Horton family living room.  While the times have changed, one key theme has remained a constant … family.  The series created by Ted and Betty Corday has continued its family legacy with son Ken Corday as the series executive producer.  Family struggles, triumphs, loves, and tragedies have been a hallmark of the show, as well as devastating heartbreak, groundbreaking stories, and the shocking and the outrageous.

Being part of the first family of Salem, the Hortons, is a badge of honor for any performer, as well as following in the footsteps of series patriarch and matriarch, the late MacDonald Carey (Tom Horton) and Frances Reid (Alice Horton).  Long time cast member Melissa Reeves (Jennifer Horton) recalls when she found out she would be a member of this most notable of all on-screen clans: “People were like, ‘What? You’re gonna be a Horton?  That’s a good thing!’  I was like, ‘Oh good.  OK, great.  Does that name mean something in this town?’ (Laughs)  I have come to realize the enormity of it.”  The camaraderie of those fortunate enough to be part of the DAYS ensemble has always been very special and unique.  Alison Sweeney, who appeared on the soap for almost 22 years as Sami Brady, related, “When I think of all my big life moments – the DAYS cast and crew have been there.  The camera guys had to approve my boyfriend.  There were two tables of DAYS people at my wedding.  They survived my pregnancies with me… You name it!”

Courtesy/NBC

Throughout its 50 years, DAYS has tackled groundbreaking and emotional issues including the Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) storyline involving new mother Marlena (Deidre Hall) back in 1980.  “I was approached about the story, because there was a great debate among the executives as to whether the ‘Crib Death’ should happen to the audience, or whether they should be warned about it, and get to tune-in from a safe place, Hall recalled.  “At the end of the day, it was decided that when a woman walks into that room and finds her baby has died, she doesn’t get a warning.  So to do service to those people, we would not warn the audience about it. We got phone calls, and thousands of letters from people saying, ‘Oh, my gosh!  It happened to Marlena the way it happened to me.’  It was a moving storyline for a huge number of fans that have been through it, and it was cathartic. It was certainly a first for daytime.”  In 2014, DAYS wrote the same-sex gay male wedding between two core characters, another first for daytime.  Alison Sweeney watched her on-screen son Will (Guy Wilson) take his vows to Sonny (Freddie Smith).  She recalls it was quite the tearjerker … for her:  “I still groan about how I was such a mess during that wedding.  I couldn’t stop crying!  I kept looking at Bryan Datillo (Lucas) because he and I used to joke about some day playing grandparents on the show, and to be actually seeing ‘Will’ get married was just very emotional.”

Courtesy/Pinterest

While DAYS brings the drama, it has also been known for the outrageous!  Look no further than former head writer, the late James Reilly, whose twisted plots included burying a character alive, and Marlena’s possession by the devil!  Ken Corday remembers when the plots were pitched: “Originally, I would say to Jim, ‘Are you serious? You are going to bury someone alive for a week and half?’  And, ‘They are going to puke green soup, and their head is going to spin around?  No, no, no.!’ (Laughs)  But, again, the way it was woven into the fabric of the show it was just as effective as the baby-switch stories we have told.  The outrageousness in the 90’s seemed to work really well.  These days the viewers are a little savvier.” Kristian Alfonso, who has played the popular Hope Williams Brady for decades, was really put to the test when she played multiple roles mostly at the same time: Hope, Princess Gina, Hope as Princess Gina, and Princess Gina playing Hope. “If they had told me that it was going to be as big of story as it was, with all these different characters, I totally would have panicked. I thought, ‘How am I going to do this?  How am I going to learn my lines … her lines … this one’s lines,” Alfonso shared.  “Trying to keep straight who knew what, and when they knew it, and playing opposite myself, was so challenging. I remember I would fall asleep with my scripts on my chest. But, it was the most amazing experience as an actress.”

Courtesy/TIME

Super couples have also been synonymous with Days of our Lives, from: Bo and Hope, Patch and Kayla, Shane and Kimberly, Justin and Adrienne, Marlena and John, to the show’s original super couple … Bill and Susan Seaforth Hayes (Doug and Julie Williams) … who were the first soap stars ever on the cover of a mainstream publication, TIME Magazine back in 1976.  When Doug and Julie got married on the air for the first time, most of America tuned-in!  “There were 16 million people watching, it was that big of a deal,” Bill Hayes said.  “We had students not go to class.  People wouldn’t go to work, because back then you couldn’t tape the show!”  Susan added, “Fans sent snap shots of everyone they knew dressed up, and having champagne and cake in honor of Doug and Julie’s wedding.” As to the success of the super couples of Salem, Ken Corday says he can’t take credit: “I never invented the idea of the super couple; that was really the viewers.  It was kind of the perfect storm.  Everyone who we cast at the time seemed to have the “IT” factor.  Then when the actors would get thronged during public appearances, we realized this is something we need to run with and not ignore.”

Photo Credit: Getty Images

Days of our Lives has had its share of Daytime Emmy winning moments, and none more special than enduring veteran Suzanne Rogers’ (Maggie) winning the very first Outstanding Supporting Actress Emmy back in 1979.  Rogers recalled: “I remember sitting there, and Frances Reid was in my category!  Oh, my God!  So, they were presenting the category and named all the nominees.  I was the last one, because “Rogers” was after “Reid”.  Then, the late Al Freeman Jr., who presented the award, announced: “And the winner is “Susan” …  and Susan Brown from GH is in front of me.  I lean forward and say “Congratulations!” … and he says “Rogers” … “Suzanne Rogers!”   There were about 17 steps down the aisle, and then more to get up to the stage!  All I could think of was ‘Don’t fall!’ I couldn’t believe it!”

Courtesy/NBC

No matter what’s on the screen, Days of our Lives would not be where it is today without its passionate fans who have stuck with the show through its ups and its downs.  Daytime Emmy winner Eric Martsolf (Brady) relates: “I’m one of those crazy guys that actually does a lot of fan events during the year.  I love the flight home from these events, because it makes me remember and realize why we’re doing it.  I think we can easily forget that we just come to our little warehouse in Burbank, and we do our little skits, and we go home.  But the fact is; there are people out there that depend on us, and these stories.  I was talking to a 16-year-old-girl at an event I did in Florida.  She had several operations and she had special needs.  She came right up to me and said, ‘You saved my life.  I just wanted to let you know.’  It was that simple, and that made that trip worth it.  I love the fans.  We all know we wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for them in the first place.”

Courtesy/NBC

As the anniversary approaches, the iconic MacDonald Carey and Frances Reid are no longer with us, but their presence still reverberates throughout the show.  The soap’s opening to this day is still voiced by Carey with its signature line: “Like sands through the hourglass, so are the Days of our Lives.”  Kristian Alfonso remarked: “We keep them alive on the show; we talk about them.  They’re our family.  The love I had, and still have, is enormous for both of them.  I miss them very much.”  The chair that still sits in the Horton family living room set belonged to Alice Horton, and as the show continues its unbelievable run, could that privilege be handed down to another generation?  Melissa Reeves, who was close to Reid, and plays granddaughter Jennifer, shared, “It would be much more of an honor than I can even fully understand, because that was Francis, and that was huge to me.  To think that I would ever be that person in her place is kind of mind blowing.  I hope we keep going, and our show continues to live on.”

What were your favorite quotes  shared by some of your DAYS favorites for this tribute piece?  What has been your favorite memory of Days of our Lives through the years?  Share your thoughts below!

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  1. Mateo says:

    I congratulate DOOL for their 50 years. It’s an honor and a rich history. It breaks my heart however to see what this show has dissolved to. The storylines are boring. The core characters have minimal airtime and nothing of value ever happens. There are some dynamic actors on this show. Kassie DePaiva, Arianne Zucker, Jennifer Liley, Suzanne Rogers, John Aniston. Those are actors with class and talent. The sad part is that they are devoting way too much time to characters that have little value. Eric and Serena? Really? No one likes them much less their ridiculous hide the diamonds in an elephant from Africa tripe. They keep killing off DiMearas and they bring substance and drama to the show. They are catalysts and instead they are made to be comical relief instead of the driving force of drama. The storyline with Will and Sonny and Paul had so much potential until they basically threw Sonny’s character down the garbage can. Will is so much like Sami but never in a good way. And Paul being John Black’s son makes ZERO sense. I hope the new writing regime can save Days from the cancellation monster. If they keep dragging out boring stories and focusing on characters other than the core we will watch one more daytime drama go the route of cancellation. We only have 4 left. Save DAYS now.

    Reply

  2. Jeremy says:

    I cannot wait! Happy 50th DAYS. DAYS OF OUR LIVES is my favorite daytime drama, granted I only watch DAYS & GH. So looking forward to November!

    Reply

    Tom84 replied

    Me too Jeremy! Can’t wait to see what’s in store for us when November rolls around.

    Reply

    4ever DAYS replied

    Steve (Patch) returns in August and Bo returns in September!!

    Many minds will be blown well before the anniversary!!!!!

    Jeremy replied

    @ Tom84, I’m looking forward to Jason Cook’s return as Shawn Douglas, and looking forward to Allison Sweeney, and of course Stephen Nichols as PATCH.

  3. rainie says:

    My favorite couple has always been Bo and Hope. I have watched them from the beginning and I know they are soulmates. I hope the writers do a tribute to Mac and Francis. Plus get rid of the boring unnecessary characters such as Eve, Paige and especially Aiden.

    Reply

  4. 4ever DAYS says:

    DAYS premiered in color.

    Reply

    Jimh(leave it to beaver) replied

    It was in color……i was 5 and seen the ep. when it originally aired…..my mother won a color tv in a local contest…..we watched days in color! Doug and Julie remain my favorite no.1 soap couple!

    Reply

    4ever DAYS replied

    Read my comment regarding Doug and Julie below.

  5. Patrick says:

    I have to read this later on tonight… congrats to all Salem’ites !!!

    have to put right out their : ” I love ” that “TIME” magazine cover of Susan Seaforth Hayes and Bill Hayes….

    “Sex and Suffering” in thee…. afternoon

    LOL

    very reminiscent of Liz Taylor and Richard Burton

    Days’ Triumph

    Reply

  6. Tom84 says:

    The 90′s were the big story lines that got me hooked as a 12 year old. Not being able to cut school everyday to watch Days, I’d spend my pocket money each week buying Soap World magazine each fortnight or whatever and read it all intricately. In Australia, we were 3 to 4 years behind what was happening in the U.S. So the first storyline that sticks out in my memory for me was watching Sami being tormented by Alan the rapist. That, and Mark Valley as Jack trying to win Jennifer back from Peter were what first got me in to the show.

    Like anything, the show has its ups and downs but I am so happy to hear that the team at Days are planning to make the big 5-0 as epic as the fans are dying to see. Can’t wait to see what’s in store for the rest of 2015, 2016, and hopefully beyond!

    Reply

    Patrick replied

    “…Mark Valley as Jack trying to win Jennifer back from Peter were what first got me in to the show. ”

    that was an epic story line… especially, with Jason Brooks as Peter DiMera

    i have to so agree with @Mateo post above… DAYS ! the DiMera drive and propel Salem with so much intrigue… stop the cartoon and stratosphere Stefano, Chad… bring back Peter….

    and …. what’s going on with EJ ?

    Reply

    Bryan replied

    ICAM Bring Peter Blake. The show has had several perfect opportunities to bring him back, most recently Kristen’s death, and they have not done it. The show keeps making it a point to mention that Chad is Stefano’s only living child and I don’t know why since its not true. Hopefully the new writers will have sense enough to remedy this situation and bring Peter back.

    Bryan replied

    Yeah I have been wondering what’s going on with EJ as well. Why did Kristen inject him with that syringe? Does this mean Ej’s still alive? Will Clyde’s role in EJ’s murder ever be revealed to the residents of Salem? Are the rumors that EJ and Abby had a baby and that’s why Stefano is so interested in Abigail and Chad’s relationship with her true? Again hopefully the new writers will remedy the situation and answer some if not all of these questions.

  7. janet says:

    i love the the 80′s story my favorite couple are shane & kimberly i can’t seem to get enough of them and kayla & steve to hope they come back again and the rest to thanks for the many years of days .

    Reply

    diane replied

    The story lines in the past were hopeful no matter what drama was going on. Today Days has no relief of sadness. There are many fans who have watched Days for 50 years. We need some feel good stories to keep watching.

    Reply

  8. Rj says:

    Congrats Days on making it to 50! As Michael said no small feat. Quite amazing in fact. I have watched Days on and off over the years, so I always feel something nostalgic, and the comfort of the familiar when I see the hour glass and hear the opening theme statement – like sands through the hour glass…. and the the music. I realize Days has to stay current to attract younger viewers, and I loved and was thrilled when they had the gay storyline with Sonny and Will – that was great and kept me watching, but I also like seeing the Vets and holding on to romance, family, and relationships – a throwback to the past golden years. I hope that they will go back to some of that because that is the ‘stuff’ that made you want to watch. Still love to watch the Horton family tree trimming every year, and always loved the singing and music at Doug’s place. Kudos to Ken Corday, the other powers that be, the cast, and crew who have had the foresight to keep the show going for this long.

    Reply

    Patrick replied

    Applause

    Reply

    Rj replied

    Thank you, Patrick! :)

  9. Al says:

    Kristen, Susan, the Banks triplets, Marlena, John, baby Elvis: the 1996-98 saga. That was so great!!! I was glued to the set!

    Reply

    Bryan replied

    Ken mentioned in a recent interview that any character deaths after September 1st are permanent. Hopefully that means that Kristen is coming back on the show. If not, killing her character off will be one of the biggest mistakes this show has ever made. She such interesting character to watch (whether you love her or hate her), she can play crazy villain and sympathetic character equally well, and she’s a great rival/nemesis for Marlena.

    Reply

  10. Mary SF says:

    There were so many great moments how could I chose a favorite?

    I loved Jennifer and Jack’s romance– it was so cute, playful and enduring. And at the time all the super couples on the show were off on all these wonderful adventures— I was young myself so to get swept up in all the romance and obstacles they had to endured was exactly what my imagination craved. Before I had a VCR I was taping the audio with blank cassette, reliving scenes over and over in my mind while listening to soundtrack. Of course I loved all the weddings back then — big budget affairs, nothing like the weddings of today.

    I honestly don’t know if the stories were better back then or if I simply had a different perspective because where I was in my life, but if the 50th year could recapture just a bit of what made this soap so special to me in my twenties, then this almost 60 year old lady would be very happy.

    Reply

    4ever DAYS replied

    Even Martha and Reggie had a lavish wedding…and they were dogs!!

    Reply

  11. Pam says:

    Where are Jack and Jennifer? They are totally a part of that SuperCouple era! COD, Alamania Great Train Adventure were some of my favorite stories. Always loved Alice & Tom. The greatest SuperCouple of Days

    Reply

  12. 4ever DAYS says:

    PETE & MELISSA!!!!!

    Reply

  13. Lou Piikes says:

    Where is Susan Banks when you need her? You’re mean, mean, mean!!! Eugene and Calliope were the best at humor. I was ten years old when Marlena’s twin sister Sam was killed by Salem Strangler. Those were some good times.

    Reply

  14. cindylee says:

    Some of my favorite memories are of the early 80′s. I loved Roman & Marlena, they are my favorite couple! I loved the Salem Strangler storyline, and when Roman showed up at Marlena’s apt. to protect her! He brought his sleeping bag, and camped out on her floor, she was not happy! (He even brought his own food!). Loved their, first dance, the Strawberries & Cream, the first time Roman told Marlena he loved her, the firsdt tme Roman recited their poem “That Is The True Season Of Love’, the first time Marlena told Roman she loved him on the beach in Mexico, the first time they made love in the Country Inn, the goblets… I loved their wedding, even though Stefano tried to have Roman shot during the ceremony! The excitement of ‘Ridgecrest” and Stefano kidnapping Marlena & Liz…. Oh and Roman trying to teach Marlena how to ski on their Honeymoon!!!! Also the Salem Slasher storyline, when Andre DiMera was murdering the people of Salem and framing Roman for it! “The Great Doughnut Caper” with Alice Horton helping Bo, break Roman out of jail by giving him some of he home made doughnuts with poison in them!!! I loved the birth of the Brady twins, Sami & Eric…..but the saddest scene ever was Nov. 1984, when Roman fell from the cliff to the beach below, after being shot by Stefano. Roman ‘died’ in Bo’s arms while the waves washed up on them, and the haunting music of Roman’s death played, and then was merged with Roman & Marlena’s Theme….I cried like a baby… Deidre Hall & Wayne Northrop were magical together…I miss that.

    Reply

  15. Laurie Moore says:

    I have been a Days fan since I was 5 years old. Next week I turn 49!
    I have adored every single moment I have watched on Days over the years.
    I would cry as a child to stay home and watch my favourite soap!
    I am a 3rd generation Days fan as well….my Mom and Grandmother both loved Days too.
    My favourite show over the years was Patch and Kayla’s wedding and I love any scenes with Sami Brady and Stefano!
    Thank you Days for all the fun, drama and wonderful stories…God bless you all.
    Happy 50th everyone!!!!!!!!

    Reply

  16. Annonymous says:

    Its nice reading about the history of this iconic show however I don’t see it making it past 50 years.

    Reply

  17. 4ever DAYS says:

    Watch out GH, there’s a new (G)riffith/(H)igley in town…Days of our Lives!!

    Reply

  18. Jessica Payan says:

    My mother,aunt, cousins and I have been watching Days of our lives forever lol. I grew up watching Sami,Eric,Brady, and Jennifer and Jack grow up and become who they are TODAY and now their kids and I just gotta say I love the actors and their characters theyare awesome! congratulations on 50 years and the love for the work you all displaying your characters. Thank you

    Reply

  19. Donny says:

    I agree with you Lou, we need Susan Banks back on Days. I love her so much , Kristen is mean mean mean LOL. Please bring back Calliope Jones and Eugene, they were hilarious.

    Reply

  20. 4ever DAYS says:

    Jimh,

    I stumbled onto some info regarding upcoming appearances involving Doug and Julie…

    July 22; August 6; September 10; October 23, 26, 27 and November 2, 3, 4, 5 are specific Doug airdates. Juie’s airdates are not available, but hers will most likely be the same as his.

    Notice how frequent the airdates are close to DAYS 50th!

    Reply

  21. Tim says:

    Congratulations to Days of Our Lives for 50 fabulous, and memorable years..

    Reply

  22. KAREN KINSES says:

    I HAVE WATCHED DAYS FOR DAY 1 :) DOUG & JULIE STILL TOGETHER IN REAL LIFE IS AWESOME. I THINK OF MY MOM EVERYDAY AT 1PM EVEN THO I WORKED MY DAD GOT ME A TV BAND RADIO SO I COULD AT LEAST LISTEN AT WORK. NO ONE THERE HAD A CLUE. THEY THOUGHT I WAS LISTENING TO A TAPE OF MY BOSS GIVING ME STUFF TO TYPE. I STILL LAFF. LOVE THE SHOW XXOOKK

    Reply

  23. mark says:

    I love Days but they need to go back to the romantic/gothic stories of the 90s that had me hooked. It was like no other show on daytime then, I just loved it. I love it now too but it has lost some of its unique flavor. All of the soaps have I suppose but Days is just so special.

    Reply

  24. sherri says:

    Love Days, never miss it unless tennis or something takes it’s spot. Love all the Characters, was sad to see Sami and EJ go but figure they can hire new Characters to play them if they need to. It will take time to get used to new Characters, but it has been done. Love Days, keep doing what your doing!!

    Reply

  25. Amie (louisville) says:

    I love Days!!! I’ve been watching on and off since I was 3 years old and all the special women in my life growing up all watched too. My mom and I still watch everyday and call each other to talk about our favorite stories. Thank you for such great years and a great actors. I hope the show lasts 50 more years. Please let us fans know if there will be a 50 year celebration with the fans. I would love to bring my mom to meet all the wonderful actors whom have made our lives so fun and colorful all these years. Happy 50th Days of our Lives! We will never forget you!!!

    Reply

  26. April says:

    I loved, loved Vivian!! Vivian and Ivan.

    Reply

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