The Edge of Night
|The Edge of Night|
|Also known as||Edge of Night|
|Created by||Irving Vendig|
|Country of origin||United States|
|No. of episodes||7,420|
|Executive producer(s)||Erwin Nicholson|
|Running time||30 minutes|
|Original channel||CBS (1956–1975)
|Picture format||Black-and-white (1956–1967)
|Original run||April 2, 1956– December 28, 1984|
The Edge of Night is an American television mystery series/soap opera produced by Procter & Gamble. It debuted on CBS on April 2, 1956, and ran as a live broadcast on that network for most of its run until November 28, 1975; the series then moved to ABC, where it aired from December 1, 1975, until December 28, 1984. 7,420 episodes were produced, of which some 1,800 are available for syndication.
The Edge of Night, whose working title was The Edge of Darkness, premiered on April 2, 1956, as one of the first two half-hour soaps on television, the other being As the World Turns. Prior to the debuts of both shows, fifteen-minute-long shows had been the standard. Both shows aired on CBS, sponsored by Procter and Gamble.
Mystery and Mason
The show was originally conceived as the daytime television version of Perry Mason, which was popular in novel and radio formats at the time. Mason's creator Erle Stanley Gardner was to create and write the show, but a last-minute tiff between him and the CBS network caused Gardner to pull his support from the idea. CBS insisted that Mason be given a love interest to placate daytime soap opera audiences, but Gardner flatly refused to take Mason in that direction. Gardner would eventually patch up his differences with CBS and Perry Mason would debut in prime time in 1957.
It was in 1956 that a writer from the Perry Mason radio show, Irving Vendig, created a retooled idea for daytime television—and The Edge of Night was born. "John Larkin, radio's best identified Perry Mason, was cast as the protagonist-star, initially as a detective, eventually as an attorney, in a thinly veiled copy of (Perry Mason)."
Unlike Perry Mason, whose adventures took place in Southern California, the daytime series was set in the fictional Midwestern city of Monticello. A frequent backdrop for the show's early scenes was a restaurant called the Ho-Hi-Ho. The state capital, however, was known generically as "Capital City"; the state in which Monticello was located had never been identified. From its beginning in 1956 until roughly 1980, the downtown skyline of the city of Cincinnati stood in as Monticello. Coincidentally (or not), the soap company, Procter and Gamble, which produced Edge, was based in Cincinnati.
In later years, the jazzier and larger Los Angeles skyline replaced that of Cincinnati; according to the website "The Edge of Night Homepage", "the city of Monticello had grown from an average-sized city to the size of a major metropolitan area." The skyline motif was eventually eliminated altogether in the final two years of the show, as was the word "The" in the title.
While most soap operas centered on extended families or large hospitals that tended to be insular in their scope, The Edge of Night was probably the only daytime serial to truly capture the dynamics of a medium-sized city. Indeed, the city of Monticello — for all of its longtime friendships, age-old family vendettas, and insidiously cutthroat DAs and bad cops in the proverbial pockets of white-collar mobsters — was as vital a "character" as any human being depicted on the show.
During most of the show's run, the show's viewers were treated to an announcer enthusiastically and energetically announcing the show's title, "Theee Edge...of Night!" Bob Dixon was the first announcer in 1956, followed by Herbert Duncan. The two voices most synonymous with the show, however, were those of Harry Kramer (1957–1972) and Hal Simms, who announced until the series ended in 1984.
The Edge of Night played on more artistic levels than probably any other soap of its time. It was unique among daytime soap operas in that it focused 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 at the same time coping with more usual soap opera problems like courtship, marriage, divorce, child custody battles, and amnesia. The show's particular focus on crime was recognized in 1980, when, in honor of its 25 years on the air, The Edge of Night was given a Special Edgar Award by the Mystery Writers of America. It also should be stated that The Edge of Night had more prominent male characters than most soap operas, and included genuine humor in its scripts to balance the heaviness of the storylines.
Cast and characters
The show's central protagonist was Mike Karr, tireless crimefighter, introduced as a cop finishing law school. This character evolved from the earlier Perry Mason character on radio. He then progressed to the District Attorney's office as an ADA, hung his own shingle as a defense attorney for several years, then became DA of Monticello. Karr was portrayed by three actors: John Larkin (radio's Perry Mason), Laurence Hugo, and Forrest Compton. Later main characters included socialite Geraldine Whitney Saxon (Lois Kibbee); Mike's wife, newspaper journalist Nancy Karr (played the longest by Ann Flood), whom Mike married on April 22, 1963; Adam Drake (played by Donald May) and his wife Nicole Travis Stewart Drake Cavanaugh (played by Maeve McGuire, Jayne Bentzen, and Lisa Sloan); and Nicole's third husband Dr. Miles Cavanaugh (played by Joel Crothers).
For the show's duration, the stories either revolved around or touched upon Monticello lawyer (and former Monticello police officer) Mike Karr. As the show began, Mike Karr's relationship with Sara Lane (Teal Ames) reproduced the radio serial's Perry Mason/Della Street relationship. Adding a complication for Mike Karr, Sara's family was involved in organized crime. In the early years of the show, Sara's younger brother Jack (Don Hastings) was drawn into the criminal world by corrupt uncle Harry Lane (Lauren Gilbert). Nevertheless, Mike and Sara eventually married. Their happiness was short-lived when Sara was written out of the show, killed as she saved the life of their daughter Laurie Ann, who ran into the street into the path of an automobile. By the 1960s, Laurie Ann was a teenager, supplying many plots for the show, and a young wife and mother by the 1970s.
Mike later married Nancy Pollock (Ann Flood), a journalist who helped in many of cases. Other important characters were Police Chief Bill Marceau (Mandel Kramer), who was one of Karr's best friends and shared a tremendous mutual respect, rare between a defense attorney and a chief of police (perhaps due to the fact that Mike had once been a police officer himself), Marceau's secretary (and later on wife) Martha (Teri Keane), fellow attorney Adam Drake (Donald May), his client (and later on, his wife) Nicole Travis (Maeve McGuire; Jayne Bentzen; Lisa Sloan), and wealthy socialite Geraldine Whitney (Lois Kibbee). Nancy had two siblings: Lee, who eventually married Geri McGrath, and Elaine (nicknamed "Cookie.")
Nicole Travis Drake has had a most interesting and bizarre history. An early storyline had her victimized by two different women who wanted her dead. She was then accused of murdering Stephanie Martin (Alice Hirson). Adam Drake defended her and proved her innocence. He then broke away from Mike Karr's law firm as partner and opened his own law practice. He hired Nicole as his secretary and a romance began to blossom. When Nicole sensed his lack of interest in marriage she walked out and went to work for another attorney, Jake Berman (Ward Costello). She continued to date Adam until she told him if he didn't propose to her by New Year's Eve their relationship were finished. She soon got another marriage proposal from her new boss widower Jake Berman. She didn't accept but moved to New York City with him when he was going to partner at an existing law firm. Adam then searched for Nicole in New York until he found her at the stroke of midnight on New Year's Eve and asked her "Will you marry me?" She ran into his arms, much to Jake Berman's jealousy. When Adam and Nicole returned to Monticello, so did Jake Berman determined to prevent them from every marrying. He plotted with ex-convict Johnny Dallas (John LaGioia) to frame Adam for attempted murder to prevent him from marrying Nicole. Johnny didn't show up but Jake was murdered by Joel Gantry (Nicholas Pryor) and Adam was arrested for the murder immediately following his and Nicole's wedding at the Karr residence. The day before the jury would find Adam guilty Joel Gantry was found by Kevin Jamison (Dick Shoberg) in San Francisco, who was really Edith Berman's son and convinced Jake had murdered his mother. Adam and Nicole were reunited and finally settled into married life. Sometime later, she was believed to have died in a boating accident in the Caribbean but was discovered alive 18 months later by Kevin Jamison (then played by John Driver) in Europe at the same time Adam proposed to Brandy Henderson (Dixie Carter). Adam and Nicole were eventually reunited once again and Brandy left town. But their marriage ended after Adam was murdered. In one of the foremost startling moments in this serial's history, the character of Nicole was replaced with a new actress 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. Nicole 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 first to Malcom Thomas and later to Ron Christopher, whose dealings with loan sharks affected Mike's good friends Louise and Philip Capice. In the show's later years, the Karrs' beautiful daughter Laurie Ann (Emily Prager), by now a young adult, was an important character. Her relationship with Jonah Lockwood, a sociopath, almost cost her her life, but he was revealed to be an alternate persona of Keith Whitney, scion of the wealthy Whitney family, nemesis of the Karrs and Marceau. Laurie subsequently married Mike Karr's law associate Vic Lamont (Ted Tinling) after he went to prison doing undercover work and his life was saved by inmate Johnny Dallas. Johnny was released from prison and became the owner of a restaurant The New Moon Cafe. Laurie (now played by Jeanne Ruskin) played the piano at the restaurant leading to her and Johnny falling in love. When Vic found out Laurie and Johnny were together in Chicago when he didn't show up to shoot and wound Jake Berman he walked out. Laurie and Johnny eventually married and Vic was murdered saving Johnny's life. Laurie (now played by Linda Cook) and Johnny had a baby they named John Victor. However, Laurie developed mental problems that led her to being placed in a mental institution and Johnny ran away.
One of the later major story arcs was about a train wreck and a prisoner, Draper Scott (Tony Craig), who had been unjustly convicted of murder, escaping from the train accident. There was also an interesting storyline in the mid-1970s involving a troubled woman (Nicole's cousin, Serena Faraday) who would change her personality to Josie as she donned a frizzy, black wig in perhaps a nod to One Life to Live's popular Victoria Lord/Niki Smith storyline. Another memorable character was Charlotte "Raven" Alexander Jamison Swift Whitney (Juanin Clay, then Sharon Gabet), a duplicitous coquette who became more stable and faithful in the latter years.
Whitney family matriarch, tough Geraldine Whitney (Lois Kibbee) seemed to suffer the misfortune of losing most of those close to her to untimely deaths: her first husband, two sons, a beloved daughter-in-law, a nephew, and she herself was nearly killed, having been pushed down a flight of stairs in 1975 by her ne'er-do-well son-in-law. She became close to Raven Alexander, and Raven's ex-husband Logan Swift during later years (and became de-facto grandmother to Raven and Logan's son). However, when Logan was killed in 1984, Geraldine could hardly bear the grief to learn that, through a series of events, it had been she who accidentally shot him.
Near the end of the series' run came an unusual story wherein Mike and Nancy, after sleeping in twin beds for nearly their whole married life, decided to "go all out, and buy a double bed", thereby retiring their twin beds for good. It was one of the more unusual moments of the show.
Over the Edge
Uniquely among daytime dramas at the time, The Edge of Night finished its run with an ominous (and intentional) cliffhanger, revealing that an old enemy—Louis Van Dine, who had supposedly been sent to the state penitentiary—had returned to settle some scores, and none of the main protagonists were safe. In addition, police detective Chris Egan (Jennifer Taylor) - spying a supposedly-deceased henchman of Van Dine, Donald Hext - followed Hext into a previously unknown Monticello street called "Wonderland Lane." There, she discovered Van Dine's sister, Alicia Van Dine (Chris Weatherhead), in a shop. Alicia's brother viciously stabbed her in the back; her dying words to Chris Egan were: "...Off, off with her head...." Egan barely escaped from the shop after Van Dine and Hext attempted to capture her and ran out of Wonderland Lane, briefly falling by the post next to the street sign, a stuffed white rabbit propped against it.
The final scene of the series is of Chris Egan telling Mike Karr and others of her encounter with Louis Van Dine and Donald Hext, in addition to Alicia Van Dine's stabbing. The show's theme plays over the dialogue, masking Karr's words, but the audience is left to know that the story of Monticello continues onward, albeit off the air. The reason for the cliffhanger was that Procter & Gamble believed that they could find another network to take over production of The Edge of Night, or possibly continue the show in first-run syndication, but in 1984, there were no cable networks willing to take on such an expensive endeavor.
In 2010, actress Mariann Aalda, along with soap opera ghostwriter Alina Adams, attempted to continue the story (via blogging) of The Edge of Night by telling the story of Monticello 25 years later, with the explanation that The Edge of Night was actually television's very first reality television series. The blog entries ended abruptly in early 2011, with no explanation by either Aalda or Adams as to the status of the blog series.
Unlike most soap operas, which build a solid audience slowly over many years, The Edge of Night was an instant hit with daytime viewers; it amassed an audience of nine million in its first year, in some respects because the public did perceive it as a daytime Perry Mason, as the producers of The Edge of Night had intended. Through the 1960s, the show continued to flourish; it consistently ranked as one of the top six rated soap operas, alongside the rest of CBS' daytime lineup. It peaked at #2 (behind As the World Turns) in the 1966–67 television season and came in at #2 between 1969 and 1971.
At one point, The Edge of Night's audience was estimated to be more than 50% male, largely due to the show's crime format and its late start time of 4:30 PM (3:30 Central). In July 1963, the show was moved to the 3:30/2:30 time period after CBS gave the 4:30/3:30 slot back to the affiliates. The Edge of Night dominated the 3:30 slot even over otherwise-hit programs like NBC's You Don't Say and ABC's Dark Shadows and One Life to Live. However, when the show moved to 2:30 PM (1:30 Central) on September 11, 1972, as per Procter and Gamble's insistence upon running all of its shows in a continuous daily marathon, it slid from a solid #2 in the Nielsen ratings to near-last; it has been hypothesized that the show suffered this sudden and drastic ratings plummet because many male viewers and teenagers were unable to make it home from work or school earlier in the afternoon to watch. (This would also not be the only time that Procter & Gamble's insistence on a certain timeslot for one of their soaps would cause a catastrophic drop in ratings; the same problem would plague the long-running Search for Tomorrow a decade later.)
By Summer 1975, CBS prepared to make its first-ever expansion of a serial to 60 minutes daily, in response to NBC's lengthening of both Another World and Days of our Lives some months earlier. Daytime executives chose the ratings-leading As the World Turns, which faced Days of our Lives directly at 1:30/12:30. However, CBS' affiliates usually aired newscasts in the 1:00/12:00 access slot, and also would preempt The Edge of Night if it returned to 4:30/3:30. Given the foregoing, CBS itself had no vacant timeslot into which to expand The Edge of Night, and had no choice but to cancel it.
CBS informed Procter & Gamble that The Edge of Night would have to leave its schedule because the show had lost viewership to the point of losing in the afternoon ratings to NBC's The Doctors for some time. Meanwhile, ABC successfully revived shows from the other two major networks, namely Let's Make a Deal (from NBC in 1968), and The $10,000 Pyramid (from CBS in 1974). Further, since ABC had been the only network at the time to have never had a Procter & Gamble program on its schedule, ABC was actually enthusiastic about bringing The Edge of Night onto its daytime lineup when in contact with Procter & Gamble about doing so. However, officials informed Procter & Gamble that contractual obligations to other programs would not permit ABC to admit The Edge of Night onto its lineup until December 1975.
This raised a serious problem because CBS wanted to expand As the World Turns when the fall season began in September, in which event The Edge of Night would have had to leave the air for nearly three months. Had this happened, ABC would have probably rescinded its decision to acquire The Edge of Night due to near-certain loss of viewer interest caused by any interruption. In the end, Procter & Gamble negotiated with CBS to delay the expansion of As the World Turns until ABC had an available slot for The Edge of Night. On December 1, The Edge of Night moved to ABC, and on CBS, As the World Turns began occupying the 1:30-2:30 block with Guiding Light moving down one half-hour to The Edge of Night's former timeslot.
The last CBS episode of The Edge of Night on November 28, 1975, ended with the discovery that Nicole Travis Drake was alive. She had been presumed dead in an explosion 18 months earlier while on a boating trip with her husband Adam Drake. ABC aired the show beginning on December 1, with a 90-minute premiere. This episode picked up where CBS had left off, with Geraldine Whitney still in a coma after having been pushed down a flight of stairs in a murder attempt by her daughter-in-law Tiffany's second husband, Noel Douglas. Nicole - with the help of Geraldine's adopted "son", Kevin Jamison - regained her identity after suffering from amnesia since the boating trip explosion. The final scene of that day's episode was an exciting climax in which Serena Faraday, in her "Josie" split-personality, shot her husband on the steps of the courthouse.
Initially, The Edge of Night showed promise when it began airing on ABC. It was the first serial to change networks (the only other to do so would be the Procter & Gamble-packaged Search for Tomorrow, which would move from CBS to NBC in 1982); it aired in a late afternoon time slot of 4/3 p.m. for ABC affiliates in the Eastern and Central time zones, and Noon for ABC affiliates in the Pacific time zone due to a different scheduling pattern for ABC's West Coast feed. At first, the show's overall ratings declined because fewer homes had access to it; this happened because many ABC affiliates had opted for local or syndicated programs at the 4/3 slot instead of the network feed for many years, and decided not to abandon the practice. As a result, in some markets, Edge would disappear altogether after relocating from CBS to ABC. In other markets, stations (either a local ABC affiliate or an independent station which picked the show up) tape-delayed the program for morning slots, airing on a delay ranging from one day to two weeks behind. Nevertheless, The Edge of Night was typically either first (or a close second) in its time slot in markets where the local ABC station cleared it at 4/3 p.m., due mainly to the weakness of competing programs on CBS and NBC. Further, the show's demographics were significantly better on ABC because the show got its youth and some of its male demographics back; thus, ABC was actually able to charge higher advertising rates for it than several series with higher audience ratings.
Despite never recovering the ground it lost from its CBS days, even sliding into the lowest third in the ratings by 1977, The Edge of Night's ratings improved slightly during the early 1980s, thanks in no small part to the overall rise of ABC's soap opera lineup. While the numbers were less solid, The Edge of Night still pulled in ratings in the 5.0 range and improved its position on the ratings list, peaking at 11th in both 1981 and 1982. However, from 1982 on, ratings would fall even further as even more ABC affiliates dropped the show in favor of the aforementioned syndicated offerings: At the end of the 1981-82 television season, The Edge of Night pulled in a 5.0 rating, but with the resulting pre-emptions, the show's rating dropped to a 3.8 in 1983. This caused Procter & Gamble to lose more money on the program with each passing year.
The series was also broadcast in Canada on CBC Television since the early 1970s, but after more than a decade, CBC opted in Fall 1982 to drop The Edge of Night from its daytime afternoon lineup and replace it with another ABC soap, All My Children.
In May 1983, Procter & Gamble dismissed the show's headwriter, Henry Slesar, whose 15-year stint with the soap was at that time the longest in daytime serial history, and appointed a new headwriter, Lee Sheldon. Although Sheldon's emphasis on younger characters and some humor reflected an attempt to boost ratings, the show's ratings slump only worsened: more and more ABC affiliates continued to drop the show.
By fall 1984, The Edge of Night aired on only 106 of ABC's 213 affiliate stations, while a further two dozen more affiliates planned to drop the series in the first quarter of 1985. Although ABC intended to continue The Edge of Night, even by offering to move it to a mid-morning timeslot, Procter & Gamble could no longer afford to continue producing the show due to the constant loss of revenue from frequent pre-emptions. Thus, on October 26, 1984, ABC and Procter & Gamble made a joint announcement that the absolutely final telecast of The Edge of Night would be on December 28 of that year. At this point, the show's ratings were less than half of what they had been at the beginning of the decade; it finished the 1984-85 television season last in the daytime ratings race with a 2.6 rating in only four months of episodes.
To date, The Edge of Night is the last ABC network program to have aired in the 4 p.m./3 c time slot; ABC returned the 4 p.m. hour to its affiliates after Edge finished its run. NBC had done this in 1979, while CBS, which programmed the 4 p.m. timeslot with Body Language at the time The Edge of Night left the air, followed suit in September 1986 after cancelling Press Your Luck a month prior.
Most CBS episodes no longer exist. The network had terminated its wiping practice of shows it owned in September 1972, but Procter & Gamble still continued wiping tapes for several more years. Many monochrome episodes and some color episodes of the show were kinescoped; the color kinescopes survive in black-and-white. 45 episodes of the CBS era are known to exist, the best-known of which include the Christmas Day 1974 episode and a September 1975 episode depicting the attempted murder of Geraldine. Some fans also have the second episode of the series (April 3, 1956), which featured Don Hastings, John Larkin and Teal Ames. The first two years of the ABC run also followed this practice, which ceased in 1978 for ABC and all Procter & Gamble shows.
From August 5, 1985 to January 19, 1989, reruns aired in a daily late-night timeslot on cable's USA Network, transmitting episodes from June 1981 up to the series finale.
From August 2006 to January 2009, Procter & Gamble made several of its classic soap operas available, a few episodes at a time, through AOL Video Service, downloadable free of charge. AOL downloads of The Edge of Night commenced with episode #6051 from July 17, 1979.
Daytime Emmy Award wins
- 1985 "Outstanding Achievement in Music Direction and Composition for a Drama Series"
- 1984 "Outstanding Achievement in Any Area of Creative Technical Crafts - Electronic Camerawork"
- 1979 "Outstanding Achievement in Technical Excellence"
- 1974 "Outstanding Drama Series Writing"
Primetime Emmy Award wins
- Cox, Jim, Radio Crime Fighters, 2002, p. 201, McFarland, Jefferson, North Carolina, ISBN 0-7864-1390-5
- Lackmann, Ronald W. (2000). The encyclopedia of American radio: an A-Z guide to radio from Jack Benny to Howard Stern. Facts On File. ISBN 0-8160-4137-7.
- 'As World Turns' on CBS Will Expand to Hour Dec.1
- "AOL to Launch New Video Portal," WebWire.com, July 31, 2006.
- "PGP Classic Soap Channel," pgpclassicsoaps.com, January 1, 2009.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to The Edge of Night.|
- Edge of Night Home Page
- Classic TV Hits: The Edge of Night
- AOL Video: Edge of Night Episode #6380
- Soapworld Classic Soaps discussion forum: The Edge of Night
- The Edge of Night at the Internet Movie Database
- EW.com: "Photo Gallery: 12 Soap Operas We've Loved, Lost": The Edge of Night
- The Someret Register