The Real Story Behind Nola's Fabulous Fantasies!

June 1982
By Linda Susman
Afternoon TV Magazine

Amidst the troubled waters of unrequited love, murder, jealousy, marital discord, and the machinations of big business, there’s a fantasy island on Guiding Light. No hocus-pocus, just head writer Doug Marland as the magical genie who lets Nola Reardon’s fertile imagination run wild, so she can compare the things that happen in her life with the plots of movies she’s seen.

And voila! When her dippy confidante, Gracie Middleton, told her she had to make a choice between pursuing her mysterious employer, Quint McCord, or long-time love, Kelly Nelson, Nola dreamed she was on the airstrip in Casablanca, a la Ingrid Bergman, where she had to choose between the two men who both wanted her; Quint, who could give her the world, and Kelly, who had to return to the United States immediately, because he was the only doctor who could save the President’s life.

It took only a hint of romance from Quint during a San Francisco holiday for Nola to fancy herself as Bette Davis’s repressed, unhappy spinster in Now, Voyager, transformed by a masterly psychiatrist and finally captured by an aristocratic, worldly hero. Another time, she just happened to be reading Wuthering Heights, when Quint brought her some heather, and, you guess it: next time Nola dropped off to sleep, Quint became Heathcliffe, in a wonderful, romantic encounter from that well-known Gothic novel.

Fear, rather than wishful-thinking, sparked Nola’s nightmarish foray into the occult. First off, she was convinced that Quint and his housekeeper/confidante, spooky Mrs. Renfield, had something terrible in store for her baby. When Gracie saw Nola drink the strange green tonic Mrs. Renfield concocted for her, she gasped: it looked like the tonic Mia Farrow drank in Rosemary’s Baby! That was all Nola had to hear. She’d been feeling increasingly uncomfortable in the McCord household, so she persuaded (actually dragged) Gracie into Quint’s locked, definitely-off-limits laboratory, where they unearthed (literally) a gold and jewel encrusted cradle, hidden inside a huge crate and covered with dirt. Before the perplexed duo could discover more, they were discovered by Quint, who flew into a horrible rage and banished them to Nola’s room. So it’s not surprising that a terrified and exhausted Nola should fall into an uneasy sleep, where she imagined herself helpless among those in Springfield who she feared would do her, and her baby, Kelly Louise, harm. There were Quint and Renfield, she in sinister witches’ garb, conducting a shrill, other-worldly rite over the ancient cradle in which the baby slept. And the witches’ chorus, composed of Nola’s current enemies, Morgan Nelson, Hillary Bauer and Lesley Ann Monroe, was obviously enjoying her torment!

"All the fantasies come out of situations that are happening to Nola, that are sparked by her," says Doug Marland. "She’s been set up for it since the first day she came on the show." Viewers have always seen Nola living her life by the movies, old black-and-whites, she grew up watching far into the night, to escape the depressing reality of life in her mother’s boarding house on Springfield’s shabby Seventh Street.

"She has an incredible imagination, she’s very curious, and she’s always relating what is happening in her life with the plots of movies she’s seen," he adds. For Doug, the fantasy sequences give him the opportunity to incorporate his own love of movies ("My mother says she can’t believe all those old movies I’ve spent my life watching are finally being put to use.") and to "try to do something new in daytime. People are really responding to what we’re doing in all areas of the show, people are excited by doing something different’lighting people, set designers, cameramen, as well as the cast, If it’s having a positive effect on the people involved, it has to have a positive effect on our audience."

Though Doug has expanded the fantasies to include several cast members, the concept maintains its validity through Lisa Brown’s spectacular energy and versatility as the multi-faceted Nola. "The fantasies are a lot of fun," Lisa says, "and a lot of hard work, too, as far as production goes, because the work is so fast that there isn’t a whole lot of time to do research." Lisa says she and John Shipp (Kelly) and Michael Tylo (Quint) watched all of Casablanca the night before they did it, and got to see the particular scenes from Now, Voyager that they were mirroring. Lisa’s particularly proud of her work in that sequence.

"Elvera Roussel (Hope Spaulding) wrote to Bette Davis, to invite her to visit the studio. She wrote back and told her she’d love to watch us filming, and would try to make some time when she comes to New York. And then, she added, ‘Tell Nola she has it." I’m sure she’s talking about the Now, Voyager fantasy, because I really feel felt like I got some of her nuances down, just a hint." Though the fantasies are not intended to duplicate or mimic the performances of the actors who created the movie roles, Lisa says if she could choose the movies for Nola’s fantasies, "I guess I’d pick more of Bette Davis’s because she played so many different characters in her career." She says it’s not difficult to avoid being Lisa Brown playing Bette Davis or Ingrid Bergman, because it is Nola who is being swept up with the fantasy. "Sure, she is a part of me, because you rely on so much of yourself, and there are parts of me that are in her, but I think the reason the character’s so popular is that there’s something of Nola in everybody. A lot of people relate to her, male or female, young or old’this character is enthusiastic, funny, and dramatic." Lisa says a letter about Nola from a male viewer really makes sense to her. "He said the General Hospital sci-fi stuff was hard to grasp and believe because it was sci-fi, but that Nola’s fantasies come out of a girl’s imagination, so they’re based on reality. That’s why I think they do go over well. They’re not out of the realm of daytime drama, because we’re still dealing with people, joys, problems, life."

"You learn your lines, plant your feet, look Lisa Brown straight in the eyes, tell the truth, and it will work." That’s Michael Tylo’s approach to the fantasies, and his marvelous mysterious Quint has been equally compelling and believable as Dracula, Heathcliffe, Captain Blood, et al. "I enjoy the fantasy sequences because they have a beginning, middle, and end, and relate to a lot of old movies that are favorites of mine, that I now have a chance to do. I don’t try to do Bogart, or copy the films, though. In each of them, I’m Quint as Nola fantasizes. It’s sometimes difficult, like anything else in acting, going for the honesty of that particular scene, but the fact that the sequence has a definite beginning, middle and end makes it easier." Michael sees himself as "a combination’a bit of a romantic," and would choose to be "all the swashbucklers’Scaramouche, Robinhood, Captain Blood," if he could select the movies for Nola’s fantasies. "I enjoy the Dumas books. I’ve always wished I could live in those times, When I came on the show, they asked me what else I could do and I told them I fence. I’ve particularly enjoyed the scenes when Quint has fenced, and I’ll be doing more of that. It’s become a trademark of the character."

Though writing an award-winning daytime drama might, in itself, be a dream come true, we wondered what movie Doug Marland would choose for his own fantasy sequence. "I’m a great romantic’Waterloo Bride, he says. Though it’s unlikely viewers will ever get a chance to see that fantasy become reality, Nola’s fantasies "will go on and on because she always relates. She’s wonderful to write for, because she can be the meanest bitch in the world one minute, and the next minute, have you rolling on the floor, she’s so funny. As long as there’s a Nola, she’ll have her fantasies."

That may sound like a line from some old, three handkerchief tear-jerker, but frankly Doug, it’s a damn good idea!

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