Jim Craig (One Life to Live)

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Jim Craig
Polen as Jim.jpg
Nat Polen as Jim Craig
One Life to Live character
Portrayed by
First appearanceJuly 15, 1968 (July 15, 1968)
Last appearanceApril 1981 (April 1981)
Created byAgnes Nixon
Introduced byDoris Quinlan
ClassificationFormer, regular
Other namesJames Craig

Jim Craig is a fictional character on the American soap opera One Life to Live played notably by actor Nat Polen[1][2][3] from May 1969 until the actor and character's off-screen death in May 1981.[2][4] Love Is a Many Splendored Thing actor Robert Milli originated the role from the pilot in July 1968 until 1969.[5]


Nat Polen as Jim, with Peggy Wood as Kate Nolan, and Amy Levitt as Cathy in 1970.

At the start of the series, Jim is introduced as a neurologist[6] and the chief of staff at Llanview Hospital in fictional Llanview, Pennsylvania. He becomes supervisor and mentor to Llanview Hospital resident physicians Larry Wolek (Paul Tulley, Michael Storm after 1969) and Price Trainor (Peter DeAnda). Jim, a widower, has a young daughter, Cathy Craig. He falls in love with a young patient and aspiring actress Clara Benari (Ellen Holly) at the start of series in 1968.[7][8]

Dr. Craig soon asks Clara to marry him, and she accepts, even though she knows she does love him as much as he loves her. Jim continues to profess his love of Carla, even after learning that the assumed Italian American "Clara Benari" is actually a light-skinned black American Carla Gray (Holly) passing for white.[7][8][9]

Nevertheless, Carla returns his engagement ring. Soon afterward, Jim falls in love with Anna Wolek (Doris Belack) in 1969, and the two marry onscreen April 10, 1970.[10][11] Throughout the 1970s, Jim and Anna primarily serve as supporting characters, Jim as a primary town doctor, and Anna as a housewife and socialite who offers wise advise to the more dynamic characters. Jim's daughter Cathy, however, becomes a major troublemaker.[10][12][8]

Actor Nat Polen played the role for 12 years,[3][9][13][14] working and taping episodes for the show until days before his death from undisclosed pancreatic cancer May 3, 1981, aged 66.[2][3][4][9][14] The character is killed off concurrently and dies off-screen. Widow Anna leaves Llanview in December 1982.


One of the first popular storylines on One Live to Live involved the 1968 interracial relationship and love triangle of the white American Dr. Jim Craig (Milli), black American Dr. Price Trainor (DeAnda), and light-skinned black woman passing for Italian American Carla (Benari) Gray (Holly). The plot gained a following and a controversial reception,[7][8] and prompted an ABC affiliate in Texas to temporarily drop One Life to Live from its ABC Daytime lineup due to uproar at "white" Carla engaging in a romantic relationship with Dr. Trainor, a story that revealed Carla to actually be black and her actual interracial romance being with Dr. Craig.[8] The interracial love triangle storyline also caused the show to receive an increased amount of fan mail.[15]

The long-running pairing of Dr. Craig (Nolen) with Anna Wolek (Belack) was popularly received as familial patriarch and matriarch figures in early episodes of the series.[12] The raising of Jim's daughter and Anna's stepdaughter Cathy Craig and their insistence that she seek treatment for drug addiction at the real-life Odyssey House in New York City brought the show critical acclaim.[8][10]


  1. ^ "One Life to Live". The Day. New London, Connecticut. September 27, 1975. Retrieved August 13, 2016.
  2. ^ a b c "Nat Polen, 66, Portrayed Doctor On ABC-TV's 'One Life to Live'". The New York Times. New York City: The New York Times Company. May 6, 1981. Retrieved August 14, 2016.
  3. ^ a b c "Barbara Walters to interview Nancy Reagan, Lauren Bacall". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Pittsburgh. May 12, 1981. Retrieved August 14, 2016.
  4. ^ a b Hirsch, Lynda (May 24, 1981). "The Soaps". Toledo Blade. Toledo, Ohio. Retrieved August 13, 2016.
  5. ^ Graham, Michael A. (July 5, 1969). "The Vaudevillian". Baltimore Afro-American. Baltimore. Retrieved August 13, 2016.
  6. ^ "Night club singer to try her hand with soap opera". Eugene Register-Guard. Associated Press. August 26, 1973. Retrieved August 14, 2016.
  7. ^ a b c McCann, Bob (2009). Encyclopedia of African American Actresses in Film and Television. McFarland & Company. ISBN 0786437901.
  8. ^ a b c d e f Waggett, Gerry (2008). The One Life to Live 40th Anniversary Trivia Book. New York City: Hyperion Books. ISBN 9781401323097.
  9. ^ a b c Schemering, Christopher (1988). The Soap Opera Encyclopedia. Ballantine Books. ISBN 0345324595.
  10. ^ a b c "One Life to Live recap (1970–71)". ABC. Archived from the original on April 23, 2008. Retrieved July 22, 2016.
  11. ^ One Life to Live. Season 2. April 10, 1970. American Broadcasting Company.
  12. ^ a b Soares, Manuela (1978). The Soap Opera Book. Harmony Books. ISBN 0517533316.
  13. ^ "Nat Polen Dies". Spartanburg Herald-Journal. Spartanburg, South Carolina. June 6, 1981. Retrieved August 14, 2016.
  14. ^ a b Goudas, John (May 15, 1981). "Soap Opera Scene". Boca Raton News. Boca Raton, Florida. King Features Syndicate. Retrieved August 14, 2016.
  15. ^ Matelski, Marilyn J. (1988). The Soap Opera Evolution: America's Enduring Romance with Daytime Drama. McFarland & Company. ISBN 0899503241.