With everyone experiencing the golden afterglow of this morning's Oscar nominations, I thought it would be a good time to pay tribute to the daytime soap stars (as well as a few from Aussie and Brit daily serials), who have taken home the gold!
No. 22. James Earl Jones, The Guiding Light and As The World Turns
Generations of movie lovers can immediately distinguish James Earl Jones' thunderous baritone, but what they may not realize is, decades before the 2011 Honorary Academy Award recipient gave voice to such characters as Darth Vader in the original Star Wars trilogy or Simba’s dad, Mufasa, in The Lion King, he appeared on two of Procter & Gamble’s longest running daytime soaps, The Guiding Light and As The World Turns. In 1966, Jones replaced fellow future Star Wars actor Billy Dee Williams as Dr. Jim Frazier. He played another soap physician, Dr. Jerry Turner, on World Turns that same year.
No. 21. Melissa Leo, All My Children
Almost three decades before she picked up the 2011 Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress as the rowdy, Irish mama to Mark Wahlberg in The Fighter, Melissa Leo was starting fights with heiress Nina Chandler as vicious Linda Warner on ABC Daytime’s All My Children (1984-85).
No. 20. Heath Ledger, Home and Away
In 2008, Heath Ledger was posthumously awarded the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for his mesmerizing, psychological take on classic comic book villain The Joker in The Dark Knight. The brilliant young actor had come a long way from playing hunky Scott Irwin in Australia’s long-running daily soap Home and Away back in 1997.
No. 19. Morgan Freeman, Ryan’s Hope and Another World
Whenever a “Before They Were Stars” clip airs featuring 2004 Best Supporting Actor winner Morgan Freeman, snippets of his time on the PBS series The Electric Company are generally showcased, but soap lovers know Freeman was dealing with bubbles long before he was in that bathtub on kid TV! The acclaimed thespian portrayed Cicero Murphy on Ryan’s Hope in 1981 and starred opposite future 227 star Jackée Harry as Roy Bingham on Another World during 1982-84. I wonder if Miss Daisy watched the stories?
No. 18. Russell Crowe, Neighbours
New Zealand-born actor Russell Crowe owes hit Aussie soap Neighbours for giving him the exposure he needed to land his first film role. Following a stint on the daily evening sudser as Kenny Larkin in 1987, Crowe went on to build a stellar filmography in Australia and later the U.S., including his turn as Roman General Maximus Decimus Meridius in the epic film Gladiator, which earned Crowe the Academy Award for Best Actor in 2000.
No. 17. Tim Robbins, Santa Barbara
During the first season on NBC’s cult hit soap opera Santa Barbara back in 1984, future Academy Award winner Tim Robbins (Best Supporting Actor in 2003 for Mystic River) played the integral role of an unnamed surfer dude, who was hassling Jade Perkins (Melissa Reeves) on the beach. Good thing Robbins believed in the saying, there are no small parts, just small actors!
No. 16. Mira Sorvino, Guiding Light and Swan’s Crossing
The role of porn star Linda Ash in Woody Allen’s Mighty Aphrodite may have netted Mira Sorvino the Academy Award for Best Actress in a Supporting Role in 2005, but it was her role as Sophia Eva McCormick DeCastro in the short-lived, 1992 teen soap Swan’s Crossing that won her a place in soap history. While the syndicated daytime sudser only lasted 13 weeks, SC provided big breaks not only for Sorvino (who prior to that had been a temporary recast for Mallet’s little sister Julie on Guiding Light), but also Sarah Michelle Gellar, who played rich, scheme queen Sydney Rutledge.
No. 15. Susan Sarandon, A World Apart and Search For Tomorrow
Her portrait of a courageous nun who befriends a death row inmate in Dead Man Walking, led to Susan Sarandon winning the Oscar for Best Actress in 2005. We bet it took plenty of courage for a then ingénue Sarandon to bring to life a character based on legendary soap opera creator Irna Phillips’ real-life family drama! That’s exactly what Sarandon did from 1970-71 on ABC Daytime’s A World Apart. The actress played Patrice Kahlman, adopted daughter of an overbearing soap opera writer. The series was created by Phillips’ own adopted daughter Katherine Phillips. Her first stint in daytime must not have scared Sarandon off, because the actress went on to play the role of Sarah Fairbanks on Search For Tomorrow in 1972.
No. 14. Tommy Lee Jones, One Life to Live
While most of the actors on this list weren’t on soaps for any significant amount of time, 1993 Best Supporting Actor (The Fugitive) winner Tommy Lee Jones spent 1971-75 as the popular Dr. Mark Toland on ABC Daytime’s One Life to Live. Wouldn’t it have been great if he'd made a cameo on the sudser before it went off the air earlier this year?
No. 13. Marisa Tomei, As The World Turns
Who can forget Marisa Tomei’s shocking 1993 Best Supporting Actress win for her wisecracking turn as the fiancé of Joe Pesci’s title character in My Cousin Vinny? Hollywood may have been stunned by the starlet's upset victory, but fans of daytime soap opera As The World Turns were probably happy to see former teen queen Marcy Thompson, a part Tomei played in 1984, walk away with the golden lady.
No. 12 Kathy Bates, The Doctors, One Life to Live and All My Children
The year 1990’s winner of the Academy Award for Best Actress, Kathy Bates has the distinction of being the only Oscar winner on our list to have appeared in not one, not two, but three daytime soap operas! Before Bates was inflicting Misery on James Caan, she was appearing as Phyllis in NBC’s The Doctors (1977), Evelyn Maddox in One Life to Live (1984) and Erica Kane's (Susan Lucci) prison bully Belle Bodelle in All My Children (1984). Now how do you like those Fried Green Tomatoes?!
No. 11. Brenda Fricker, Coronation Street
Acclaimed Irish actress Brenda Fricker took home the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress in 1989 for her stirring work in My Left Foot, however it was on England’s beloved evening sudser Coronation Street where she honed her craft, way back in 1977 as Staff Nurse Maloney.
No. 10. Kevin Kline, Search For Tomorrow
Much like fellow soapers-turned-Oscar winners Mira Sorvino (Mighty Aphrodite) and Marisa Tomei (My Cousin Vinny), Kevin Kline managed to pull off a feat rarely done in Hollywood, when he scored an Academy Award for a comedic performance in 1988’s A Fish Called Wanda. The actor no doubt fine-tuned those Oscar-winning chops back in 1976 when he appeared on Search For Tomorrow as Woody Reed.
No. 9. Lee Grant, Search For Tomorrow
Screen bombshell and Blacklist victim Lee Grant had been nominated for the Academy Award several times before finally scoring the trophy for Best Supporting Actress for 1975’s satire Shampoo. In the flick, Grant played the rich, married lover of a hairdressing playboy, portrayed by Warren Beatty. The role was quite a departure from Grant’s daytime stint as Rose Peterson on Search For Tomorrow some 20 odd years earlier in 1953.
No. 8. Jack Lemmon, The Road of Life
Considered one of the most versatile and prolific actors of all time, it’s no wonder two-time Academy Award winner Jack Lemmon (Best Supporting Actor in 1955 for Mister Roberts; Best Actor in 1973 for Save The Tiger) found time to add a daytime soap to his lengthy resume. The late Lemmon played a surgeon in 1954 on the daily melodrama The Road of Life.
No. 7. Sandy Dennis, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?
Poor Honey. The horrors she and her husband Nick (George Segal) endured at the hands of one of theatre and film’s most dysfunctional married couples, George and Martha (Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor) in Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? is still disturbing to think about. It was the late Sandy Dennis who brought Honey to life for the big screen adaptation of Edward Albee’s classic play. It was also Dennis who won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress in 1966 for her efforts. We wonder if the avowed proponent for method acting first perfected her craft during her 1956 television debut as Alice Holden in The Guiding Light?
No. 6. Dame Elizabeth Taylor, General Hospital, All My Children
Dame Elizabeth Taylor already had two golden ladies (Best Actress in 1960 for Butterfield 8; Best Actress in 1966 for Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?) before she agreed to appear on her favorite daytime soap opera, General Hospital. As legend has it, La Liz grew so tired of waiting for her favorite couple, Luke Spencer (Tony Geary) and Laura Vining Webber Baldwin (Genie Francis), to get married, she told the show’s then co-head writer Thom Racina she would appear on an episode of the soap — if he promised to finally get the supercouple hitched! Racina kept his end of the bargain, and so did Taylor, creating the role of the venomous Helena Cassadine, who cursed Laura and Luke at their 1981 wedding. Later, the icon appeared on another of her ABC Daytime faves, All My Children, in a pair of cameos during 1984.
No. 5. Martin Balsam, Valiant Lady
Character actor Martin Balsam may have been best known for turns in Psycho and A Thousand Clowns (the latter for which he won the Best Supporting Actor Oscar in 1965), but if you happened to turn your new-fangled TV to CBS Daytime in 1955, you might have seen the actor playing Joey Gordon on Valiant Lady.
No. 4. Ed Begley, The Guiding Light
His performance as Tom “Boss” Finley in the film adaptation of Tennessee Williams’ Sweet Bird of Youth won Ed Begley the Academy Award for Best Actor in a Supporting Role in 1962, but it was his appearance among the original 1952 television cast of the longest-running scripted series in broadcast history, The Guiding Light, that is likely just as impressive to fans of classic daytime dramas.
No. 3. Shirley Jones, Days of Our Lives
Like Liz Taylor before her, Shirley Jones had won her Oscar (Best Supporting Actress for 1960’s Elmer Gantry) decades before she appeared on a daytime soap. The Partridge Family matriarch joined the cast of NBC soap opera Days of Our Lives for a time in 2008, playing the role of Colleen Brady.
No. 2. Joan Crawford, The Secret Storm
In one of the most ridiculous examples of stunt casting in the history of daytime television, fading film star Joan Crawford temporarily replaced her adopted daughter Christina on the soap opera The Secret Storm. By then in her sixties, Crawford attempted to play the 29-year-old Christina’s part on the daily serial. The character was appropriately named Joan Kane. This daytime disaster was infamously immortalized in Christina Crawford’s scathing memoir Mommy Dearest, as well as its subsequent big screen adaptation. We still love Joan though, if for nothing else, her fabulous, Oscar-winning turn as the title character in 1955’s Mildred Pierce.
No. 1. Celeste Holm, Loving
Veteran of stage and screen, Celeste Holm had reached legend status long before the actress ever appeared on ABC Daytime’s Loving. The actress, who won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress in 1947's A Gentleman’s Agreement, played two roles on the sudser, that of Lydia Woodhouse in 1986 and later a recast for beloved Alden family matriarch Isabelle from 1991-92.