Seeing a picture of Jacqueline Courtney in 1964 was like seeing the Ideal Teenager. She had perfect blond hair, perfect teeth, and a lovely smile. She could’ve been Doris Day’s daughter, or a sister to Sandra Dee. Yet she was was part of the first supercouple in soap operas, ushering in a new trend in soaps that lasts to this day.
She was eighteen when Another World debuted in 1964. It wasn’t her first soap role; she had been on Edge of Night and the short-lived Our Five Daughters. On AW, she played Alice, the youngest child in the Matthews family. Alice hung out at the local hangout (something called Copper...Copper Kettle? Copper Pot? ) Things didn’t perk up for Alice until Steve Frame (George Reinholdt) came to town. Suddenly it was all about Steve and Alice. She was the good girl from the well-to-do family. He worked for everything he got. If you thought these two crazy kids would fall in love, you're right!
Alas, they were separated by Rachel, who happened to be pregnant with Steve's baby. Cue the music! Get out the Kleenex! How could they separate these lovers? But they did, and the ratings soared. In the movie Awakenings, there’s a clip of Another World with the nurses watching the show, seeing what was going to happen next. Okay, they were ignoring their patients! But their patients had been in comas for years! Can you blame them?
In clips and pictures I’ve seen, they dressed Jacqueline Courtney in white. Being the English major I am, I figured they did that to show how “good” Alice was, the angel, floating around, wronged by Rachel, hurt by the world. Yet she stays good, stays pure. Maybe she did have some nervous breakdowns, but by God, give her three weeks! She’ll recover by sweeps!
In 1975, everything was falling into place. Steve and Alice were finally married. Rachel was moving on, being romanced by Mac Cory (Douglas Wyndham). Of course it couldn’t last; it’s a soap! This is when Paul Rauch fired both Jacqueline Courtney and George Reinholt, causing anger through the soap world. Thirty-five years later if you talk to a fan of AW, they will get still get upset about this. Maybe it was the fact that he fired them on Good Friday. Or you get people who will defend Rauch’s position, saying he did it on advice on Harding Lemay, who called Courtney’s acting too “soap opera-ish” (as documented in Lemay's memoirs). True, but since she was on a soap opera, it did make sense.
So Courtney was cast off from the job she had since she was eighteen. She wasn’t unemployed long; One Life to Live came a calling. They had in mind for her the glam Pat Ashley. And who was her love interest? Why Tony Lord played by George Reinholt! And did I mention that Another World was in direct competition with One Life To Live? Pure genius, I tell you!
However, people still missed Courtney’s Alice. And after she left OLTL, she found herself as Alice again on Another World. Paul Rauch just left to become executive producer of... One Life to Live. I’m not making this up. The good news was that Alice was allowed to wear something other than white this time. The bad news was that the writers didn’t give her a good storyline, and she was gone again, this time for good.
Except for some appearances, Courtney pretty much disappeared. Soaps were changing from when she first started; and if you’re a follower of my blog, you know how I feel about some of those changes. When I first saw Courtney’s name appear on a news feed, I thought perhaps she was returning to OLTL. No such luck. She died of melanoma weeks ago, and left behind a daughter named Jennifer.
And yet, in many people’s minds, she’s not really dead. She’s still the girl in white, suffering through so many traumas. She’s still Alice in that wonderland called soap operas, where children grow up overnight, people have odd names, and people live on in their work.
Causes Jennifer Gibbons Supports
Gilda's Club, Greenpeace, Rosie's Broadway Kids,Westwind Foster Family Agency, Amber Brown Fund, Linda Duncan Fund for Contra Costa Libraries