All the Iconic Daytime Soaps of the 50s, 60s, and 70s
Soap operas are some of the most popular shows on television and have been a staple of American culture since the 1930s, when they were first popularized on the radio. In 1946, Faraway Hill began to air on television and soap opera history was cemented.
Over the next three decades, soaps would take over daytime TV. Some of these shows became huge hits, lasting for decades, such as As The World Turns and Days of Our Lives, while others didn’t enjoy the same level of success, lasting a single season. Whether a show ran 40 seasons or 4 seasons, we thought it would be fun to take a look back at all of the soaps from way-back-when whose plot twists and storylines still stick with us
Airing from: 1964-66
Number of Seasons: 1
Est. Production Budget: $10 million annually*
Starring: Kathleen McGuire, Richard Thomas, Jane Elliot, Lenka Peterson, Margaret Hayes
A Flame in the Wind was a soap opera from the sixties. It aired for two years, with 515 episodes in total. The show aired on ABC Daytime, and it centered around the class conflict that took place in the small, seemingly-friendly town of Haviland. ABC chose A Flame in the Wind as an attempt to build up its soap repertoire.
ABC already had The Young Marrieds and General Hospital, so A Flame in the Wind would keep that trend going. For some reason, A Flame didn’t air before General Hospital. That scheduling choice likely led to its low viewership and quick cancellation.
Airing from: 1963-Present
Number of Seasons: 57
Est. Production Budget: $50 million annually*
Starring: Maurice Bernard, Finola Hughes, Genie Francis, Steve Burton
General Hospital is the longest-running soap still airing. It features the lives of people living in Port Charles. The show is filled with wild plots, including medical drama, mafia wars, torrid affairs, and other absurd plotlines involving the Spencer and Quartermaine families.
The first episode of General Hospital aired in 1963, filming at The Prospect Studios in LA. Since then, there have been more than 14,000 episodes of the show, comprising fifty-seven seasons. Characters come and go on the show, but the members of the Spencer and Quartermaine family always have someone wreaking dramatic havoc on each serial.
Airing from: 1951-86
Number of Seasons: 35
Est. Production Budget: $70 million annually*
Starring: Mary Stuart, Larry Haines, Lisa Peluso, Don Knotts, Jane Krakowski
Search for Tomorrow was one of the first successful soap operas, viewership-wise, which proved that soaps could make networks big money. The show had thirty-five seasons, airing from 1951 until 1986. It was set in Henderson, a fictional town. The show focused on Joanne (“Jo”) and her struggles in relationships and work.
Jo got married tons of times, and her tumultuous love life enthralled viewers on the NBC/CBS show. Mary Stuart played the role of Jo. Search for Tomorrow was canceled after its ratings dropped nearly in half when it moved from CBS to NBC, showing how impactful scheduling is for soap operas.
Airing from: 1960-62
Number of Seasons: 1
Est. Production Budget: $12 million annually*
Starring: Bern Bennett, Phyllis Avery, Denise Alexander, Ed Kemmer, Jan Shepard
The Clear Horizon was a soap opera centered around the lives of a young USAF officer and his wife, who resided in Cape Canaveral. Before the show released, it was called The Army Wife before producers switched to Clear Horizon, which was a nod to an Alfred Hitchcock quote.
The Clear Horizon focused mainly on the tortured relationship between the officer and his wife. Both of them cheated on the other (not uncommon on soap operas; infidelity is the most common plotline in the book), and The Clear Horizon was distinct in that neither spouse killed the other by the end of the show.
Airing from: 1952-2009
Number of Seasons: 19
Est. Production Budget: $20 million annually*
Starring: Kim Zimmer, Grant Alexander, Robert Newman, Beth Chamberlin, Marj Dusay