Where the Heart Is was a daytime soap opera that was shown on the CBS television network. It aired from September 8, 1969, to March 26, 1973.
The series was created by Lou Scofield and Margaret DePriest, and was originally written by Scofield and DePriest. Pat Falken-Smith would take over from them, and she would eventually be replaced by Claire Labine and Paul Avila Mayer. One of Labine and Mayer's storylines, involving an Irish pub, would be the centerpiece of their later series, Ryan's Hope.
Where The Heart Is was cancelled in March 1973. It, and another show, a daytime sequel to the movie, Love is a Many Splendored Thing, would be removed from the schedule to make room for a new soap opera called The Young and the Restless, which is still airing today.
Set in the fictional town of Northcross, Connecticut, Where the Heart Is focuses on the sexual and psychological intrigues of the dysfunctional Hathaway family. Although some believe that the serial was patterned after Grace Metalious’ scandalous novel Peyton Place, the serial was actually CBS’ attempt to create a psychosexual, family melodrama popularized by NBC’s Days of Our Lives. With such prurient themes as unabashed adultery, out-of-wedlock babies, and vaguely incestuous love triangles, the serial's irreverent, fast-paced stories were in contrast to the other serials on CBS which were staid and conservative.
The serial opened with the death of pious Hathaway family patriarch Judge Daniel Hathaway. Judge Hathaway had three adult children: Julian (James Mitchell), a professor of literature at the local university, Kate (Diana van der Vlis), a sympathetic but sexually repressed law student, and Allison (Louise Shaffer), the snobbish, liberated, feminist, black sheep of the family.
In the first episode, Allison returned to Northcross for her father’s funeral, having left town years before with her sister’s fiancée Roy Archer (Stephen Joyce). Intrigued by the new family dynamic, Allison and Roy decided to settle down in the Hathaway mansion, much to the chagrin of Kate, Julian, and the family’s cantankerous housekeeper Stella O'Brien (Bibi Osterwald).
Having never gained his father’s love, Julian sought affection elsewhere, developing an unfortunate affinity for the many young women he taught at Northcross University. When the serial began, Julian had recently married nubile Mary (Diana Walker), his adult son Michael’s (Gregory Abels) former girlfriend. Michael was pursued by the amoral Vicky Lucas (Robyn Millan), even though she knew he still carried a torch for Mary. Vicky, the daughter of Ed Lucas (Joseph Mascolo) the owner of a restaurant in Northcross, called the Starlight, managed to seduce Michael, and when she conveniently became pregnant, he married her.
Vicky attempted to become the sort of wife in which Michael could take pride, even getting lessons in “style” from his snobbish Aunt Allison. However, when Vicky overheard her husband profess his love for his stepmother, she angrily drove off in an ice storm. The car crashed, and she miscarried. Vicky exploited Michael and Mary’s guilt for weeks by faking paralysis, but when Mary accidentally discovered her standing, the two rivals had a fight at the top of a staircase.
Mary, who was also pregnant, fell down the stairs and languished in coma. Undaunted, Vicky slipped into Mary’s hospital room and tried to unplug her respirator, but was caught. Vicky was confined to a state mental hospital, while Mary, now recuperated from the accident, gave birth to Julian’s son and Michael's half-brother, Daniel.
Julian’s hard-hearted sister Allison didn’t find success in love either. After her husband Roy died, Allison married Dr. Hugh Jessup (Rex Robbins and David Cryer), who had problems with commitment. Allison’s demanding nature sent him into the arms of confused, but sweet, Christine Cameron (Terry O'Connor and Delphi Harrington), a woman who was Kate Hathaway's best friend.
When Christine became pregnant, Hugh filed for divorce and left stony Allison, who was aghast that Christine seemed to elicit sympathy from most of their family and friends. After giving birth to Hugh’s illegitimate daughter Katina, Christine became the target of harassing phone calls and insidious notes, and everyone believed that Allison was her rival’s stalker. It transpired that the real culprit was Christine’s kindly, old neighbor Will Watts (Robert Symonds), a deranged psychopath who had murdered his adulterous wife decades before.
Envisioning Christine as his dead wife, Will spirited her away to an isolated cabin, where Hugh managed to rescue her just as Will was ready to kill her. Christine had a nervous collapse and had to be hospitalized.
Meanwhile, a bored Hugh cheated on Christine with ex-wife Allison, who decided she wanted Hugh back. While she was in the hospital, the boutique that she owned, was run by Amy Snowden (Clarice Blackburn) who was a friendly woman, and was a friend to everyone in Northcross.
Kate, who was Julian and Allison’s more sensible sister, married stalwart Steve Prescott (Lawrence Luckinbill, Ron Harper) after a long courtship. Steve quickly developed amnesia and became involved with single mother Ellie Jardin (Zohra Lampert). Eventually, Steve’s memory returned, and when Ellie was murdered, he and Kate adopted Ellie’s mute son Peter (Michael Bersell).
Peter’s muteness was psychosomatic, having developed after he witnessed a deadly fire involving his Aunt Margaret Jardin (Rue McClanahan), who had an incestuous attachment to her brother Robert (Keith Charles), Peter’s father. When Robert failed to return his sister’s feelings, she ran him down with a car and killed him.
Peter also died in a tragic accident, and Kate, unable to cope with all the tragedy around her, began to display increasingly erratic behavior, hearing voices and acting lewdly. Kate feared that she was dying from the same brain aneurysm that claimed the life of her mother, but in reality, she had developed a truculent split personality called “Betty”.
In the show’s final year, Julian fell into a steamy affair with conniving student Liz Harris Rainey (Tracy Brooks Swope). After he rejected her, Liz, secretly pregnant with his child, married Michael. Now ensconced in the Hathaway home, Liz tortured Julian, constantly threatening to tell Mary and Michael about their affair.
She also instigated vicious rumors on the university campus that Julian and Mary were engaged in a ménage à trois with Loretta Jardin (Alice Drummond), Peter’s aunt, a recovering alcoholic high school teacher.
Meanwhile, Liz’s father John Rainey (Peter MacLean) became involved with Christine Cameron, who was caught in a court battle with Hugh and Allison for custody of Katina.
Christine sought therapy with psychiatrist Dr. Adrienne Harris (Priscilla Pointer), unaware that she was John’s estranged wife. Desperate for reconciliation with John, Adrienne subtly manipulated Christine into having a complete nervous breakdown, forcing her to be institutionalized.
During the serial’s last week, all of Liz and Adrienne’s machinations were exposed, and they decided to move in together to rebuild their lives, without Michael and John. Mary, who left Julian after discovering that Liz was pregnant with his child, forgave him. Christine was released from the psychiatric hospital, reunited with John, and happily learned that Hugh and Allison agreed to share custody of Katina with her.
Kate realized that her psychological problems stemmed from the repressive moral code inflicted upon her for so long by the late Judge Hathaway. Before she entered intensive therapy, Steve promised to whisk her away for a long, relaxing vacation in the Caribbean.
Julian, who had always blamed Michael for his mother’s death in childbirth, went to visit Michael, who was falling in love with the now reformed Vicky (now played by Lisa Richards), the new proprietor of a country health food store called Back to Nature. Father and son agreed to put the past behind them and concentrate on the future. They were left in a warm embrace as the scene faded to black for the last time.
Notable among those were Gregory Abels (Michael Hathaway, Julian's son), who would play Ryan in-law, Art Thompson (he was married to Cathleen Ryan); Robyn Millan (Vicky Lucas #1, Michael's first wife) would later be one of the many actresses who played troublesome Delia Reid; Louise Shaffer (Allison Archer Jessup, Julian and Kate's snobbish sister) would play the major role of troublemaking media mogul, Rae Woodard; Diana van der Vlis (Kate Hathaway, Julian and Allison's more sympathetic and sensible sister) would play Dr. Nell Beaulac in the show's first year and in the last year, play socialite Sherry Rowan, who looked a lot like Nell, who had charmed Seneca Beaulac.
The two most well known alumni however, were the late James Mitchell and the late Rue McClanahan.
James, who played central character Julian Hathaway, would be best known for his long running role of crusty and cantankerous, but always well-meaning, electronics mogul/fried chicken entrepreneur Palmer Cortlandt on All My Children.
Rue, who played troubled Margaret Jardin, would later be better known for her roles in situation comedies, most notably as the scatterbrained Vivian Cavender Harmon, the title character's best friend on the series. Maude and much later would reunite with Bea Arthur (who played Maude) on the series The Golden Girls, playing the overly-sexed Blanche Devereaux.
Other alumna included Priscilla Pointer, who played scheming psychiatrist, Adrienne Harris), who would later play Rebecca Wentworth, the never before seen mother of Pamela Ewing and Cliff Barnes, on the series, Dallas; and Bibi Osterwald, who played the cantankerous Hathaway family housekeeper, Stella O'Brien, would later play Sophie Steinberg, the down-to-earth mother in-law of Meredith Baxter, on the situation comedy, Bridget Loves Bernie.
- DIANA VAN DER VLIS -- Kate Hathaway Prescott
- JAMES MITCHELL -- Julian Hathaway
- GREGORY ABELS -- Michael Hathaway
- LOUISE SHAFFER -- Allison Hathaway Jessup
- BIBI OSTERWALD -- Stella O'Brien
- ROBYN MILLAN -- Vicky Lucas Hathaway
- DIANA WALKER -- Mary Hathaway
- JOSEPH MASCOLO -- Ed Lucas
- REX CRYER -- Dr. Hugh Jessup
- DELPHI HARRINGTON -- Christine Cameron
- CLARICE BLACKBURN -- Amy Snowden
- RON HARPER -- Steve Prescott
- ZOHRA LAMPERT -- Ellie Jardin
- RUE McCLANAHAN -- Margaret Jardin
- KEITH CHARLES -- Robert Jardin
- MICHAEL BERSELL -- Peter Jardin
- ALICE DRUMMOND -- Loretta Jardin
- TRACY BROOKS SWOPE -- Liz Harris Rainey Hathaway
- PRISCILLA POINTER -- Dr. Adrienne Harris
- PETER MacLEAN -- John Rainey