Gordon Russell (writer)

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Gordon Russell (August 15, 1929 – January 19, 1981) was an American daytime soap opera writer.

Dark Shadows[edit]

Russell and his writing partner, Sam Hall, were best known for their work on Dark Shadows and One Life to Live. Their hallmark was introducing characters who would, under normal circumstances, be considered villains, but tell the storyline in their point of view to gain more sympathy from the viewers. They worked with Dark Shadows from the time Barnabas Collins (played by Jonathan Frid) was introduced as a vampire, transforming him over the years into a rather more multi-layered anti-hero.[citation needed]

One Life to Live[edit]

After Dark Shadows wrapped, Russell and Hall took over at One Life to Live for Agnes Nixon, who began to focus more on her other soap All My Children. During its first few years, One Life to Live was a groundbreaking soap which addressed racial, ethnic, and class issue. But under Russell and Hall’s watch, the show took on more haunting character studies tied in with the exit of previous established characters.

With the onscreen death of Nixon’s original character Dave Siegel came the arrival of Dr. Dorian Cramer, who prescribed Dave’s widow, Eileen Riley Siegel, pills for depression which led to an out-of-control addiction. Dorian then stole their daughter Julie’s husband, Dr. Mark Toland (played by an unknown Tommy Lee Jones), and Dorian’s sister Melinda befriended Meredith Lord Wolek before her death. Her cousin by marriage, a nun named Jenny Wolek fell in love with Tim Siegel (played by an unknown Tom Berenger), and then married him on his deathbed after fall from a flight of stairs where he had an argument her cousin Vinny Wolek over causing her to stray from her religious beliefs. Russell and Hall would later write out the remaining members of the Riley family along with early characters like Cathy Craig and created the dysfunctional Brad Vernon, who would be a feature of the show for over a decade.


In addition to their long-lasting work on Dark Shadows, their work on One Life to Live led to memorable storylines, one of which involved Dorian giving terminal patient Rachel Wilson a dosage of treatment going unmarked on her medical chart prompted her lover Mark Toland to give her a second more lethal dosage and Dr. Larry Wolek get framed for her mercy killing (ironically Rachel Wilson wanted him to end her life in the first place). When the truth was revealed, the board of directors at Llanview Hospital took a vote to decide whether or not to suspend her medical license with Victoria Lord casting the deciding against her. To get even, Dorian became her ailing father Victor Lord's private physician, and withheld his medication during a heart attack and walking away, allegedly causing his death and starting the Viki/Dorian feud which has lasted almost 35 years. Russell and Hall also wrote the provocative Karen Wolek storyline.

Awards and nominations[edit]

Daytime Emmy Awards


  • (1980 & 1981; Best Writing; One Life to Live)

Writers Guild of America Award


  • (1979 season; One Life to Live)

Head writing tenure[edit]

Preceded by
Agnes Nixon
Paul Roberts
Don Wallace
Head Writer of One Life to Live
(with Agnes Nixon: August 1972 — September 1973)
(with Sam Hall: November 1978 — March 1980)

August 1972 — March 1980
Succeeded by
Sam Hall
Peggy O'Shea