Friday, January 25, 2008

GUIDING LIGHT celebrates 71 years!

71 years. That's a very long time, boys and girls. Superman has only been around for 70.

GUIDING LIGHT celebrates 71 years on the air on January 25 and I think that's incredibly significant. I think that every year that's added to GL's unparalleled, lengthy run is a meaningful milestone and I mean to take note of this year's milestone in this blog entry by taking a look at the opening sequences that have heralded the beginning of the show throughout the course of the its long history

First though, I want to bring readers of this blog into a better understanding just how far back the history of the show goes by presenting a full 15-minute radio episode of THE GUIDING LIGHT from 1950. In this episode a friendly card game at the Bauer house turns sour as long unspoken tensions bubble to the surface. The characters in this episode are Papa Bauer, his children, Meta, Trudy, and Bill, and Bill's wife Bertha (also called Bert). These characters had all been introduced in 1948, eleven years into the show's run, and quickly became the focus of most of the action.

In 1952, the show made the leap to television and each episode began with a drawing of a lighthouse with the announcer saying, "The new Duz brings you The Guiding Light," just as he did on the radio shows.
By 1953, they had developed a more standard television opening.
The 1955 opening features the beginning of the lighthouse image.
This opening, begun in 1956, remains the second longest lived in the show's history and was used until 1967.
While no video record of the 1967-68 opening is available, I did find this description online:

The Guiding Light changed its opening logo and theme music when it went from
black and white to color on Monday, March 13, 1967. From
March 1967 to September 1968, according to soap opera historian John Kelly
Genovese, GL opened with a shot of a major character posed in the mood of that
day's episode. One fan of GL e-mailed me with the following memories of
the 1967/68 opening:
. . .The program opened on a close-up of one of the
character's faces against a black background. . .the announcer proclaimed the
title, and the music swelled, as the camera remained fixed in a very tight shot of an actor or actress' face (normally with a very intense expression--I particularly recall Ed Bauer), after which the title was superimposed.

Also, the title of the show appeared in small cursive lettering in the lower right
corner of the screen.

It should also be noted that THE GUIDING LIGHT expanded from 15 minutes to 30 in 1968.
There also seems to be some debate over what the exact opening was between 1968 and 1970. I'm sure someone somewhere must know, but I don't have the information available
The 1970-74 opening (which some seem to feel was used in that 68-70 period) is known but, to my knowledge, unrecorded. However, there is an image available. This time period falls in the "Great Collector Blackout". There seems to be no one at all with any videographic evidence of THE GUIDING LIGHT (except for the briefest snippets here and there) from 1967 through the beginning of 1979.
As you can imagine, this is unbelievably frustrating for me and for a great many others. Even the most cursory perusal of the history of this period makes it clear that we're really missing out on some of the best storylines in GL's history.
Only this audio recording of the closing from this period is available.
1974 brought a new opening and while no recoding of that is available, this video of the closing sequence is probably very similar to the opening.
Here is an audio recording of the opening: 1974 opening audio
It was in 1975 that the name of the show changed to just "GUIDING LIGHT", although CBS and even the show's announcer continued to call it "THE GUIDING LIGHT" until 1981. Also, in '75, a new opening sequence debuted, which I have here in a slightly altered version that began in 1977 and which, I should note, is my favorite opening from the history of GL. Also, GL expanded to an hour in 1977.
The disco era gave us this memorable opening at the end of 1981, featuring dancing Katie and Floyd!
A more sweeping, "romantic" theme was instituted in 1983...
...and drastically revamped in 1985
1986 brought a very bouncy, "twinkly" new intro...
...of which there were many versions.
Then came the 1991 opening, which lasted (through many iterations) longer than any other in the history of the show.
Various versions of it include (but are not limited to):
... and the final version without the cast, which aired unaltered for five years.
1997 opening (still basically the '91)
The show celebrated 50 years on television with this unjustly maligned opening, which I really like.
A new, "modern" wave of production took over in the form of EP John Conboy, who whooshed the old opening away and whooshed this one in its place. It went through many changes as cast came and went before ending up in this final version. (The "whoosh" references are an in-joke that you will not understand unless you were a viewer during the Conboy era. Sorry.)
Incoming EP Ellen Wheeler spruced things up at the end of '05 with a duo of new openings. In hindsight, these are actually really amazing.
Which brings us to where we are today, with the opening that debuted in January of 2007.
And finally, since this is an anniversary, I thought it only fitting to pay tribute to GUIDING LIGHT's longest running (even to this day) cast member: Charita Bauer, who played Bert from 1950 until her death in 1984. This tributed is taken from the 50th anniversary celebration in 1987 and is hosted by Ed Bryce (Bill Bauer #2). It's a really lovely set of clips (6 minutes total) that show just what a presence she'd been on the show.
Additionally, here's a tribute to another of GL's great ladies, Mary Stuart, who assumed the role of Meta in 1996. This aired in 2002, the same year she died.
And so, Happy 71st Anniversary, GUIDING LIGHT! To paraphrase Ed Bryce, here's to 71 more!!
On February 29 of this year, the show will enter a new phase-- a new way of filming, a new feel and look for GUIDING LIGHT. A lot of people are panicking about this, but as I composed this blog entry, I became more sure than ever that GUIDING LIGHT is now, as it has always been, a force for change and for forward thinking. That spirit continues today and we viewers are in a similar position to radio listeners in 1952 who had to change the way they appreciated the show. I know I'll be along for the ride and I hope all of you are too.
Happy viewing!
Research for this blog entry was done at and at Wikipedia.


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