Thursday, February 07, 2008

In the Balance

In Christopher Schemering's book, GUIDING LIGHT: A 50th Anniversary Celebration (1987, Ballantine Books), Agnes Nixon is quoted thusly: "When I was writing Bert, I tried to make her Everywoman in the sense that every woman could see a part of herself in Bert. Now Bert sometimes went overboard in butting into her children's lives, but she always meant well. Papa Bauer used to say, 'Bertha, liebling, you shouldn't get involved, you should leave them alone.' People didn't dislike her. The audiences wrote in letters, 'God, Bert, why don't you leave it alone?' So when women watched Bert, they might have said to themselves, 'there but for the grace of God go I.'"

Charita Bauer, who played Bert has been cited many times as having been the most satisfied during Nixon's term (1958-1966) as headwriter at THE GUIDING LIGHT and it's very easy to see why. In the Balance is comprised of just one fifteen-minute episode from September 20, 1963, but even in just these brief minutes, the raw, immediate quality of Nixon's writing is strikingly evident. This episode focuses on the difficult birth of a child who would become known as Hope Bauer (a front burner heroine of the show in the 70's and early 80's) and all of the trauma surrounding it.

In three riveting scenes, three separate sets of characters experience the event: Bert, Meta, and Papa Bauer at the Bauer home, Mike Bauer and George Hayes in the hospital waiting room, and finally Bruce Banning (Meta's husband), as he executes the precariously dangerous delivery of the baby from unconscious accident victim Julie Bauer (Julie had crashed her car after overhearung Mike tell Robin that he only married Julie because of the baby). Each of the three scenes has a different tone, but they all string together to form a truly exquisite whole. It's difficult to choose a favorite scene because eacj of the three has its own special power, from the restrained yet incredibly potent family scenes, to the raw angst of the Mike/George conversation, to the palpable, edge-of-your-seat tension of the operating scenes (featuring probably the best use of "old school" soap opera musical underscoring that I've ever witnessed).

It's my hope to one day have a lot more of this period to present and after viewing this episode, I suspect many of you will share that hope.

Enjoy In the Balance--

clip 1 , clip 2 , clip 3


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