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'General Hospital' Producer Gloria Monty 1921-2006


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'General Hospital' Producer Gloria Monty 1921-2006

by Valerie J. Nelson

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(L-R) Sisters Norma and Gloria Monty

RANCHO MIRAGE, California - Gloria Monty, a producer whose reinvention of the ABC daytime drama "General Hospital" in the late 1970s turned it into a pop phenomenon that helped modernize television soap operas, has died. She was 84.

Monty died of cancer on Thursday, March 30 at her home in Rancho Mirage, California according to an announcement made by ABC. Monty was the model for the motherly soap opera producer in the award-winning 1982 film, "Tootsie," starring Dustin Hoffman and Jessica Lange.

When she took the reigns of "General Hospital" in 1978, the show hovered on the brink of cancellation, and Monty was given 13 weeks to save it. With more women joining the work force, the traditional audience for soap operas was eroding, and Monty needed to hook the teenage and college crowd.

She broke new ground in storytelling by introducing action-adventure and science fiction to the tried-and-true daytime staples of romance and infidelity. She cast younger actors, quickened the pacing, upped the glamour and brought in a Broadway designer to modernize the set.

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Gloria Monty with Anthony Geary and Genie Francis

One of her boldest moves was a shocking and oddly disconcerting story line: After the troubled Luke raped Laura, the sweetheart of the show, the pair began a romance. Outraged rape victims and counselors accused Monty of glorifying violence against women.

Monty recast the controversial plot turn in a 1987 Us Weekly interview. "Some people call it a rape. We call it a seduction," she said. When Luke and Laura, portrayed by Anthony Geary and Genie Francis, respectively, got married, it was considered the television event of 1981.

Elizabeth Taylor, a fan, was cast as a wedding guest. Newsweek put the bride and groom on the cover along with the headline, "TV's Hottest Show." An estimated 30 million viewers tuned in, a record for a daytime drama. Geary had almost finished his 13-week stint in 1978 as a character's ne'er-do-well brother when Monty came to him and said, "I have an idea for this character."

"I told her, 'I don't really like soaps.' She said to me, 'Honey, neither do I. We're going to change all that,'" Geary told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution in 2003. "Gloria gave us the kind of freedom that no longer exists in the genre," Geary recalled. "It was a time when decisions were not made by committee."

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Gloria Monty directing a scene for 'General Hospital'

With Monty at the helm, the show won two Emmy Awards as outstanding daytime drama series. By the 1979-80 season, "General Hospital" had moved to the top of the ratings and stayed at No. 1 for five years. Nearly three-quarters of its audience was said to be made up of 18- to 34-year-olds prized by advertisers.

"During Gloria's early reign, I had the great good fortune to watch her genius at work. She was tough and fearless and brilliant," Jill Farren Phelps, the show's executive producer, said in a statement.

At the height of "General Hospital" mania, the show earned upwards of $50 million a year

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