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The Edge of Night

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The closing titles of the Edge of Night, 1967-1976.

The Edge of Night, called Edge of Night after 1982, sometimes known by its initials, EON, or simply Edge, was a soap opera that ran for 28 years on both the CBS and ABC television networks. The series was created by veteran soap writer, Irving Vendig.

One of TV's most unique soap operas

Edge premiered on April 2nd, 1956, the same day that As the World Turns premiered, and throughout it's history had always been unique as a soap opera. Along with As the World Turns, which was a more traditional soap opera, Edge was the first soap opera that ran thirty minutes in length. (At that time, 15 minutes was the usual standard running time for soaps.) 

The title came from the show's time slot, 4 PM EST, which would be considered the edge of evening, or night.

Edge was very unique, in that the show focused more on crime, mystery and courtroom action as opposed to the usual marital and romantic dilemmas that other soaps focused on.

Due to this angle, Edge would sometimes have the feel of a Police Procedural series, similar to the Law and Order and the NCIS franchises that are so popular today. However, despite its crime and mystery specialty, it kept true to its soap roots and would also focus on marital and romantic dilemmas as well.

Also the fact that the series had more male characters as opposed to female characters; the female characters were also working in various careers (journalism, being an assistant district attorney) and there was also genuine humor in the series to leaven the often very serious crime-based stories. It was a soap opera which men could also enjoy due to the crime and mystery motif.

Edge's beginnings as the radio Perry Mason

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Early Edge title from 1960s

Edge was originally called, "The Edge of Darkness" as a working title and was created by Vendig, who was, at that time, a writer for the old Perry Mason radio series. He would later create the short lived soaps, Three Steps to Heaven and Hidden Faces (which was quite similar to Edge), and would write for Search for Tomorrow in the show's early years.

Vendig had conceived an idea of bringing the famous attorney Perry Mason to television, but a disagreement with the character's creator, novelist Erle Stanley Gardner over its direction (Vendig wanted more soap oriented romance to placate daytime audiences, while Gardner wanted pure sleuthing and courtroom drama, which was more in line with his vision of Mason), would wind up postponing Perry Mason coming to TV until 1957 where it ran on CBS primetime until 1966.

As it turned out, Gardner did not like the radio show at all. In fact, he despised it, and was against any more adaptations of Mason, until his literary agent, Cornwell Jackson and his wife, former actress Gail Patrick Jackson, convinced him to put Perry Mason in prime-time. The result of that was a long-favorite TV series classic, and the first hour long Hollywood TV drama. This was produced by Paisano Productions, the production company owned by the Jacksons and Gardner.

Perry Mason starred Raymond Burr as the virtually unbeatable defense attorney Perry Mason and Barbara Hale co-starred as his long-time secretary Della Street. William Hopper played his Private Investigator, Paul Drake; while William Talmann and Ray Collins would play District attorney Hamilton Burger, and LAPD police officer Arthur Tragg, who would usually wind up on the losing end of the stick against the resourceful Perry.

Perry Mason would return in 1985, after an absence of twenty years, in a series of made-for-TV movies (mostly on NBC), retaining the same formula and format with Burr and Hale reprising their roles. Barbara Hale's real-life son, William Katt, would play Paul Drake, Jr., the son of the original William Hopper character of Paul Drake. Also starring in the movies was William R. Moses (of Falcon Crest fame) as attorney/private investigator, Ken Malansky. David Ogden Stiers (of M*A*S*H fame) played D.A. Michael Reston, becoming Mason's new adversary in the courtroom, replacing Hamilton Burger.

There were thirty Perry Mason made for TV movies that ran until Burr passed away in 1993. Four more Mason movies would be made with Paul Sorvino and Hal Holbrook playing Anthony Caruso and Bill "Wild Bill" MacKenzie respectively, two lawyer friends of Mason's who took over his caseload as he was out of town.

Becoming Edge

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Edge's opening title card from 1967-1976

What would eventually become Edge was the result of a retooled idea that Vendig wanted to do with Perry Mason, but couldn't, due to the objections of Erle Stanley Gardner.

Vendig brought actor John Larkin, who played Perry Mason on radio, to portray Mike Karr, a former police officer who was finishing law school.

Unlike Perry Mason, whose legal adventures took place in Los Angeles, California, Edge took place in the fictitious community of Monticello.

Monticello was an average sized Midwestern community, ostensibly located somewhere near Chicago. The state it was located in was never revealed and the state's capital was generically named Capital City. One of Monticello's most frequented night spots in the early years of the show was a club called the Ho-Hi-Ho club.

In Edge's famous opening and closing titles, the city of Cincinnati, Ohio's downtown skyline would stand in for Monticello from the series beginning in 1956 until 1980 (The show was produced by Procter and Gamble Productions which was based in Cincinnati). 

The Cincinnati skyline would later become famous once again as it would be more widely used (than it was on Edge) in the titles of the late 1970s situation comedy, WKRP in Cincinnati.

The Cincinnati skyline would become surpassed by the much larger Los Angeles skyline (using the explanation that the city of Monticello has become a much larger urban area than just an average sized city).

The use of the Los Angeles skyline was unusual, as Edge was a New York produced show, and the New York City courthouse was used as a location shoot, especially in the milestone episode where Mark Faraday was shot on the steps by his demented wife, Josie.

The skyline titles were finally phased out in the final two years of the show, as was the word The, with the show being called Edge of Night. 

In many ways, Edge played on a lot more artistic levels than many soaps did, due to its uniqueness as a soap/mystery/crime drama. In a lot of ways, the city of Monticello itself was as much of a player in the series as Mike Karr himself was. With all its flaws, Monticello was a featured player as well.

Alumni

Many notable actors had worked on Edge over the course of its 28 years. The most notable alumni include Larry Hagman who played Detective Ed Gibson, the husband of Judy Marceau; who would become better known, first, as Captain (later Major) Anthony Nelson on the NBC situation comedy, I Dream of Jeannie and then as the famous, or infamous, oil baron/all-around sleaze, JR Ewing on both incarnations of the series Dallas.

Another alumni was Dixie Carter who played ADA Olivia Brandeis "Brandy" Henderson. She was best known for her many roles on prime time television. She played various characters, some dramatic, some comedic. But she was most notably remembered as the outspoken (and sharp-tongued) liberal interior designer Julia "The Terminator" Sugarbaker on the long running CBS sitcom Designing Women.

Other alumni included actress Mari Gorman (gun moll and murder victim, Taffy Simms) who would be known for her frequent guest star roles on the ABC sitcom, Barney Miller; Lori Laughlin (Jody Travis, Nicole's younger sister) who played John Stamos' on-screen wife Becky Donaldson Katsopolos on the ABC comedy series Full House and its sequel Fuller House; actress/director Dorothy Lyman (villainous Elly Jo Jamison) who went on to bigger fame and an Emmy on All My Children (as the first Opal Gardner); and a long running role on the Vicki Lawrence sitcom Mama's Family, as her daughter in-law Naomi Oates Harper; and Amanda Blake (Dr. Julianna Steinauer), best known as Miss Kitty Russell on Gunsmoke, in one of her final roles before her AIDS related death.

Former actress Johanna Leister (who had played the role of Dr. Phoebe Smith Jamison, who had been married to Kevin Jamison, before Raven Alexander sank her claws in him) is an alumna who is now teaching others what she herself had learned. Ms. Leister is an acting instructor at the famous HB Studio in New York (along with another former soap star, Helen Gallagher of Ryan's Hope fame).

Cast, crew and personnel

Edge made famous (at least their voices) veteran CBS staff announcers Harry Kramer and Hal Simms, who were most identified with the series over the show's 28 years. Previous announcers were Herbert Duncan and Bob Dixon. All four of them (Kramer and Simms most notably) would always announce the show, "Theeeee Edge....of Night." Simms, who would become permanent announcer on Harry Kramer's death, would carry his announcing duties to ABC, and would announce the series up to the end.

For most of its run, Edge was written by mystery writer Henry Slesar, and when he left the show, writer Lee Sheldon took over for the last couple of years. The first theme song (called "Warmly") was composed and performed by the show's first music director, the late Paul Taubman; once the show moved to ABC, however, another equally well-known theme called "The Edge of Night" was composed by Jack Conter and John Barranco.

The two main characters who were considered the tentpole characters of Edge during its long run were prominent attorney and former Monticello police officer, Mike Karr (who was played by John Larkin, Lawrence Hugo and finally by Forrest Compton, who played him to the show's end); and his second wife, newspaper reporter Nancy Pollock Karr (played by Ann Flood who played her for over twenty-two years and was her best known role). 

Originally, Mike was married to sweet Sarah Lane (played by actress Teal Ames), whose uncle Harry Lane was involved in organized crime.  Sarah was killed when she was run over by a bus while saving her baby daughter, Laurie Ann, from the same fate.

Sarah's mother, Mattie Lane (Peggy Allenby) later married Winston Grimsley (Walter Greaza), one of Monticello's wealthiest citizens. Winston and his family, including daughter, Louise (Mary K. Wells), who married businessman, Phil Capice (Ray McDonnell), were also stable characters.

Ray McDonnell would leave the series after almost 10 years on Edge to create another beloved character, Dr. Joe Martin, on the long-running, All My Children. He was one of only two members of the original cast (Susan Lucci was the other, as Erica Kane) to stay with the show from beginning to end.

Another frequent character was long-time Monticello Police Chief Bill Marceau (Mandel Kramer), who was replaced by the much younger Derek Mallory (played by porn actor Dennis Parker). Bill Marceau (and later Derek Mallory) and Mike Karr were close friends, unusual between a police chief and a defense lawyer (mainly because Mike Karr had once been a police officer himself).

Also seen frequently was Adam Drake (Donald May), Mike Karr's long time law partner, and his former client and later wife, Nicole Travis Drake (Maeve McGuire; Jayne Bentzen and Lisa Sloan), the daughter of a state senator, Ben Travis; and the wealthiest citizen of Monticello, Geraldine Weldon Whitney Saxon (played by Lois Kibbee). 

Besides her role of Geraldine, Lois was also a writer on the show, and did some scripts.

Involved in Bill's life was Martha Spears (Teri Keane), his long-time secretary who later married the widowed police chief. Also seen was Bill and Martha's son in-law, Ed Gibson (Larry Hagman), a detective on the Monticello police force, who was married to Bill's mischievous daughter from his first marriage, Judy. The Marceaus also had an adopted daughter, Phoebe Marceau Jamison (Heidi Smith; Johanna Leister), who was a doctor at Monticello General Hospital, the community's hospital.

Nicole would later marry Dr. Miles Cavanaugh (Joel Crothers), a new doctor to town, and would become a television news reporter for WMON, the city's television station, until she was murdered (for real this time) with a poisoned powder puff. The original Nicole (Maeve McGuire) would leave the show for a year to work on the short-lived series, Beacon Hill. When that series ended, she returned to the show as Nicole.

Other characters came and went, but some, like mischievous and multiple married but lovable Raven Alexander (Juanin Clay; Sharon Gabet) became long-term characters, and she became known for her many marriages including to the love of her life, Sky Whitney (Larkin Malloy), who was another one of Geraldine's nephews. 

Veteran actress Dorothy Stinnette would play the role of Raven's mother, Nadine Alexander, who would remarry herself, to an unscrupulous man named Ansel Scott. Stinnette would return to acting when she took over the role of Rose Donovan on the series, Loving. At different times, both Stinnette and Teri Keane (who created the role of Rose) were on Edge.

The most unique case of an actress returning at different times would be that of Millette Alexander. She would play THREE different characters during Edge's early years. She first played commercial artist, Gail Armstrong from 1958-1959. Gail was involved with Dr. Hugh Campbell who was played by actor Wesley Addy; then she would later play the role of Laura Hillyer, the socialite wife of wealthy Orin Hillyer; and then she would play the role of Laura's look-alike cousin, Julie Jamison.

Interestingly, after the cancellation of the series From These Roots, where she played Gloria Saxon, a gun moll, when the role of Nancy Pollock was created, Millette was approached to play the new role, but she turned it down due to the amount of time she would have had to devote to the role. The role would eventually go to Millette's From These Roots co-star, Ann Flood (she had played the main role of Liz Fraser Allen), and she would play the role for twenty-two years until the series end.

She would later return in 1966 to play the role of Laura Hillyer and then would return in 1968 to play Julie. At that point, she would join the cast of Guiding Light to become the third (and most recognized) actress to play Dr. Sarah McIntyre Werner, until she left acting altogether to become a concert pianist, which she is to this day.

Ratings issues, and its move to ABC

After various problems and time slot shifts, CBS was planning on cancelling the show (it had been facing cancellation because rating had begun to slide due to an unwise time slot change (which had eliminated the men who watched and also the teenagers who watched), and also that CBS was wanting to expand two of its more successful shows, The Guiding Light and As the World Turns to an hour, and because of that, Edge had to be removed from the CBS schedule in order to make room).

P&G, the owner of the show, agreed to ABC's proposal for them taking the show. At that time, ABC had not had a Proctor and Gamble series on their schedule. P&G soaps were mostly on NBC (Another World; Somerset and Texas); and the rest were on CBS.

This made Edge the first soap opera to change networks while still on the air. When it moved to ABC, the cast at that time remained intact. Search for Tomorrow, another P&G CBS show that switched to another network, NBC, would do the same thing seven years later.

Edge premiered on ABC with a ninety minute episode dealing with the climax of the Mark Faraday murder trial where his ex-wife, Serena (Louise Shaffer) had murdered him in cold blood on the steps of the courthouse, after they had come from a brutal custody hearing concerning their son, Timmy (Doug McKeon), who was now living with Mike and Nancy.

During a blistering examination by her own lawyer Adam Drake, Serena had an emotional break and it was revealed that she was having what is now called Dissociative Identity Disorder. She took on the personality of her sister, Josie.

Edge was then shown at the time slot where it had seen its most enduring success on CBS, at 4 PM Eastern time.

However because of the fact that ABC did not clear Edge in all markets and other syndicated shows were more profitable in that time slot (by this time, the 4 ET hour was given back to local stations), it failed to gain a foothold even in its original time slot. Edge was finally cancelled on December 26, 1984, after 28 years of crime, murder, mystery and mayhem, but it would still leave viewers guessing with several different cliffhangers.

Legacy

After Edge's cancellation in 1984, about 1,800 episodes (all of them from the ABC years of the series) were put out for Syndication. These episodes were shown on the USA cable network. Many of the episodes from the CBS years of the show were "wiped" to save money on videotapes, and many timeless episodes were lost. Only very few CBS episodes survive, namely the 1974 Christmas episode.

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