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Tuesday, October 25, 2016

October 25, 1928

You know how all this month, I've been doing Soap Suds Sundays?  Well, as it so happens, today's Tuesday Timeline entry is also soap themed.  But that's your only clue for the time being.

In the meantime, let us see what went on in the world on October 25 through the history pages, shall we?

1760 - George III becomes King of Britain

1854 - The Battle of Balaclava takes place

1861 - The Toronto Stock Exchange opens

1881 - Artist Pablo Picasso (d. 1973) is born in Malaga, Spain

1920 - Sinn Fein Lord Mayor of Cork, Terence MacSwiney, dies in prison following a 74-day long hunger strike

1924 - Actor Billy Barty (d. 2000) is born in Millsboro, Pennsylvania

1940 - Benjamin O. Davis is named the first African American general in the United States Army

1959 - Divinyl's frontwoman Chrissy Amphlett (d. 2013) is born in Geelong, Australia

1962 - Adlai Stevenson shows photographic evidence proving that Soviet missiles are installed in Cuba at a meeting of the United Nations Security Council

1973 - Actor Lamont Bentley (d. 2005) is born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin

1977 - The OpenVMS V1.0 is released by Digital Equipment Corporation

1980 - Proceedings on the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction conclude

1986 - Cyndi Lauper scores a #1 hit on the Billboard charts with "True Colors"

1992 - Singer Roger Miller dies at the age of 56

1995 - Seven high school students are killed in Fox River Grove, Illinois, when a commuter train crashes into their school bus

1996 - The movie "Thinner" is released at the box office

2008 - Journalist Anne Pressly succumbs to the injuries she received five days earlier after being brutally attacked in her home during a robbery attempt - she was just 26

2010 - Actress/producer Lisa Blount dies at the age of 53

2013 - Actress Marcia Wallace passes away at the age of 70

And for celebrity birthdays, we have the following famous faces turning one year older; Barbara Cook, Marion Ross, Helen Reddy, Glenn Tipton, Daniel Mark Epstein, Mollie O'Brien, Glynis Barber, Nancy Cartwright, Phil Daniels, Lynn Toler, Ward Burton, Chad Smith, Nick Hancock, Darlene Vogel, Tracy Nelson, Michael Boatman, Kevin Michael Richardson, Wendel Clark, Adam Goldberg, Adam Pascal, Ed Robertson, Chely Wright, Craig Robinson, Jonathan Torrens, Sarah Thompson, Mehcad Brooks, Josh Henderson, Sara Lumholdt, Katy Perry, and Ciara.

Okay, so what date are we going back in time to this week?  Prepare yourselves, because this date is almost a century back in time.

The date?  October 25, 1928.

Obviously, we're talking about something or someone that has a connection to the world of soaps.  After all, I eluded to that in the opening paragraph.  I'll let you know that this date is the birthday of a soap actress.  It can't be for a soap opera...the oldest soap I know is "Guiding Light", and that didn't debut until 1937.

Sadly, this is an actress who is no longer among the living.  She passed away three years ago from an infection shortly after doing a series of promotions for the upcoming anniversary of the show she acted on for almost four decades. 

And although she wasn't an original character of the series - she joined the show approximately six months after its March 1973 debut on CBS - she made enough of an impact to have her character be as endeared and remembered as Victor Newman, Nikki Newman, Jack Abbott, or Paul Williams.

This is a blog about actress Jeanne Cooper, who would have been 88 years old today.  And of course, Jeanne Cooper will forever be remembered for her role as Katherine Chancellor, one of the longest serving characters on the hit daytime drama, "The Young and the Restless".  The show has been the most watched soap opera since 1988 and part of the reason why could be attributed to the many storylines that Cooper acted in during the thirty-nine years she spent on the show.

And of course, we'll get to some of her most memorable plots on the series later on.  But for those of you who think that Jeanne Cooper started her career on the soap opera, you would be mistaken.  In fact, she got bit by the acting bug a full two decades before "The Young and the Restless" filmed its very first episode!

Among her very first roles was Myra in the 1953 film "The Redhead from Wyoming".  She made several other appearances in films throughout the 1950s and 1960s, starring alongside some big names in the Hollywood industry at the time - including Tony Curtis, Henry Fonda, and Maureen O'Hara among others.

During this time, she also became a wife to husband Harry Bernsen Jr. (they were married for twenty-three years before divorcing in 1977), and together they had three children, Corbin, Collin, and Caren.

(And, although all three followed their mother in the acting business, many of you probably remember Corbin the most, as he starred in eight seasons of "L.A. Law".)

But while she made several film appearances, she thrived even more on the small screen.  She received her very first Emmy nomination in 1956 for a role she played in the series "Ben Casey", and she also made appearances on "Perry Mason", "Tales of Wells Fargo", "The Big Valley", "The Twilight Zone", and the original run of "Hawaii Five-O".

Arguably though, it was on "The Young and the Restless" that Jeanne Cooper became a Hollywood legend in her own right.  There aren't too many people you could call a soap opera veteran.  Prior to Jeanne Cooper, you might say that Susan Lucci, Eileen Fulton, and Charita Bauer were the only ones to be on a soap opera longer than Cooper. 

(Those three actresses played Erica Kane on "All My Children", Lisa on "As The World Turns" and Bert Bauer on "Guiding Light" respectively.)

Certainly, as Katherine Chancellor, Jeanne Cooper went through a lot of emotional storylines.  During the entire series, her character battled alcoholism and fell off the wagon many times - but when she found sobriety, she was a trusted friend to other Genoa City residents who had gotten addicted to alcohol themselves - Nikki Newman and Neil Winters, for example.

Katherine also had to deal with a long-standing rivalry between herself and Jill Foster (Brenda Dickson/Deborah Adair/Jess Walton).  Interestingly enough, Katherine and Jill started off as good friends and they confided everything to each other.  At least, that is until Jill went after Katherine's husband and soured the friendship forever.  The rivalry was one of the longest conflicts to have ever been shown on television - over thirty years it lasted!  Even when Katherine believed that Jill was her daughter - which was later proven to be not true - these two had the ultimate love-hate relationship. 

Katherine also became the first soap character to undergo cosmetic surgery.  In 1984, she underwent a facelift - as did actress Jeanne Cooper.  The show did a good job of portraying the storyline and really gave the viewer the real story behind how cosmetic enhancements really work.  It was that touch of realism that helped draw viewers to the soap, and Cooper was one of the reasons why.

Even when she found herself in convoluted storylines where she had a doppelganger named Marge trying to take over her life, Cooper made the dual roles work and Marge would become a respected character in two separate stints - one in 1989, and one in 2008. 

(And, I'm sure that Jeanne Cooper was thrilled to have Marge come back for other reasons.  After all, the same year Marge returned was the same year she won her first Daytime Emmy Award!  Though, she would get ten nominations total.)

Sadly, Jeanne Cooper's run as Katherine Chancellor came to an end right around the time that "The Young and the Restless" was celebrating its 40th anniversary.  She filmed her last scene with Jess Walton on March 26, 2013, and that scene aired six weeks later on May 3, 2013.  It would be the last scene that Jeanne Cooper would ever film.

Five days after that scene, Cooper died in a Los Angeles hospital.  She was 84 years old.  And to say that the whole cast was devastated by her passing would be an understatement.

In fact, to pay tribute to the actress and character, the show did two things.  First, the show aired a special one-hour tribute episode in memory of Jeanne Cooper, filled with cast interviews, memorable show moments, and a final goodbye.

And secondly, a brand new set was created in memory of Katherine Chancellor.  A park was erected in the heart of Genoa City and it was fittingly named Katherine Chancellor Park.  As of 2016, the park set is still being used, though in recent shows, the park has been filmed on an outdoor soundstage instead of an indoor one.  You can see characters enjoying the sunshine, characters eating ice cream by the tree planted in memory of Delia Abbott, and a huge plaque honouring Katherine Chancellor.

I'm sure that Mrs. C would be proud. 

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