60 Sizzling Years of ‘General Hospital’: Looking Back on the Soap’s Endless Thrills
A stunning bride marries her love, hops in a limo and is blown to smithereens. Joy, scandal, tragedy — and returning from the dead, of course — have kept General Hospital fans tuned in since its 1963 debut.
Today, ABC’s GH is one of four soaps still standing — with CBS’s The Young and the Restless and The Bold and the Beautiful, and Days of Our Lives on Peacock — and remains a perfect shot of afternoon intrigue. It even grabbed a record 15th Daytime Emmy for Outstanding Drama Series in 2022.
“General Hospital always explored stories not told in primetime,” executive producer Frank Valentini says.
What’s the secret serum that’s made GH a winner? We visited with show VIPs to find out.
Lessons in Chemistry
During the 1976-77 season, GH ranked a lowly No. 10 out of 15 daytime dramas. (CBS’s As the World Turns dominated for nearly two decades.) That changed when exec producer Gloria Monty threw worldly Luke Spencer (Anthony Geary) and ingenue Laura Webber (Genie Francis) together.
They fell hard for each other. Viewers went crazy, and the term supercouple was born. By the 1979-80 season, GH was No. 1, a spot it would hold for nearly a decade. The lovers’ lavish wedding aired November 17, 1981, and 30 million viewers watched.
“This huge moment made it stand out from any other soap — it transcended the medium,” recalls Francis, who later left the show but came back in 2015. “I never dreamed we’d be celebrating the 60th [anniversary] and still talking about that moment.”
Guest star Elizabeth Taylor’s devious Helena Cassadine was another draw, venomously spewing, “My curse on you, Laura and Luke” outside the reception! The couple survived the sorcery, and though Geary later left, Francis’ Laura is now the mayor of fictional Port Charles.
'Curtis stands on honesty, and he’s willing to cut ties due to the lack of that very thing,' teases Donnell Turner.
Nurse Jessie Brewer (Emily McLaughlin) and Dr. Steve Hardy (John Beradino) were a tight but platonic twosome in the 1960s and ’70s, but now the show churns out charismatic, randy couples.
Dashing criminal Duke Lavery (Ian Buchanan) swept town police chief Anna Devane (Finola Hughes) off her feet (she’s now with Valentin Cassadine, played by James Patrick Stuart); World Security Bureau agent Robert Scorpio (Tristan Rogers) romanced con artist Holly Sutton (Emma Samms); and rocker Frisco Jones (Jack Wagner) made Felicia Cummings (Kristina Wagner) and audiences swoon.
Mafia man Sonny Corinthos (Maurice Benard) brought lustful fire in the ’90s with feisty Brenda Barrett (Vanessa Marcil) and keeps raising the heat in his love triangle with self-assured Nina Reeves (Cynthia Watros) and fierce ex-wife Carly Spencer (Laura Wright).
Keeping It Real
Illicit affairs and other soap staples were General Hospital norms, but the show powerfully reflected real-life issues.
We wept in 1995 as Robin Scorpio (Kimberly McCullough) watched boyfriend Stone Cates (Michael Sutton) die of an AIDS-related illness, then con-tracted HIV herself; breast cancer almost took out sturdy Dr. Monica Quarter-maine (Leslie Charleson); and Bobbie Spencer (Jacklyn Zeman) and Tony Jones (Brad Maule) faced the unimaginable death of 7-year-old daughter B.J., left brain dead after a crash with a drunken driver.
Besides pulling at heartstrings, timely, controversial themes revealed layers of characters we thought we knew.
“Before the Alzheimer’s storyline, I thought, ‘I’ve done my best work,’” says Benard of Sonny’s father Mike’s (Max Gail) battle with the disease. Both actors won 2019 Emmys for their performances.
Pour the Bubbly!
This TV drama knows how to have fun too — so how will it celebrate 60 successful years? Valentini says nothing “encompasses the whole cast like the Nurses Ball.”
The hospital’s annual HIV/AIDS fundraiser, created in the ’90s, never fails to gather the gang and punctuate song and dance with gasp-inducing moments. It’s been two and a half years since the last soiree, after COVID struck. This year’s party won’t disappoint.
Leading up to the gala on March 29, a tribute is set to honor beloved nurse Epiphany Johnson (Sonya Eddy, who died in 2022) with Community‘s Yvette Nicole Brown playing a top-secret role. Then the ball kicks off on April 3 with the return of saucy journalist Sydney Val Jean (Grey’s Anatomy’s Chandra Wilson) interviewing attendees on the red carpet.
Drama lurks too in episodes to come. Instigator Tracy Quartermaine (Jane Elliot) returns, searching for presumed-dead Luke. New supercouple Spencer Cassadine (Nicholas Chavez) and Trina Robinson (Tabyana Ali) enter a “new trajectory in their relationship,” Chavez says. And Marcil has teased Brenda’s (unconfirmed) return: “There’s no way that it won’t happen.”
GH is has only just begun. “The 70th, 80th, 90th anniversaries are in its future,” Valentini says. This is our party RSVP!
General Hospital, Weekdays, check local listings, ABC