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Guiding Light (1937–49)

Show developmentEdit

The series was created by Irna Phillips, who based it on personal experiences. After giving birth to a still-born baby at age 19, she found spiritual comfort listening to sermons by a preacher of a church centered on the brotherhood of man. It was these sermons that formed the nucleus of the creation of The Guiding Light, which began as a radio show. From 1937 to 1946, the show was broadcast from Chicago on the NBC radio network.

Cast of the show in December 1940. Front row from left: Ruth Bailey (Rose Kransky), Gladys Heene (Torchy Reynolds), Dr. John Ruthledge, Mignon Schreiber (Mrs. Kransky), Muriel Bremner (Fredericka Lang), Betty Arnold (Iris Marsh), Back row from left: Bill Bouchey (Charles Cunningham), Paul Barnes (Jack Felzer), Phil Dakin (Ellis Smith), Seymour Young (Jacob Kransky)

The show was cancelled by NBC twice, once in 1939 and once in 1946. The first time on October 13, 1939, it was brought back by popular demand of the listening audience and began again only four months later in January 22, 1940. (Although some of the characters, Rose Kransky and part of her family, briefly transitioned to another Phillips' creation, The Right to Happiness, with Phillips bringing back the characters to The Guiding Light when NBC restarted the show.) The November 29, 1946 NBC cancellation coincided with the Federal Communications Commission forcing a split of NBC and the creation of the ABC network. CBS would pick up the show seven months later on June 2, 1947. CBS would be where the show would stay until its cancellation on television in September 2009.

Procter & Gamble was the original sponsor of The Guiding Light until March 16, 1942, when General Mills started sponsorship. Procter & Gamble would again sponsor the show when CBS picked up the show on June 2, 1947.

The show started in the locale of Five Points, a fictional enclave neighborhood of Chicago, but in 1947 when CBS brought back the show the locale transitioned to the fictional suburb of Los Angeles, Selby Flats.

From 1943 to 1946, The Guiding Light and two other Phillips-created soaps (Woman in White and Today's Children) were aired as a programming block known collectively as The General Mills Hour, with Guiding Light cast member Ed Prentiss acting as master of ceremonies. Major characters made crossover appearances between the three shows, and at one point during this period, Phillips considered the experiment of running the individual program segments longer or shorter than the then-traditional quarter-hour. However, the Hour was disbanded before Phillips could proceed further with the idea.[2]

From 1947 to 1949, the show was broadcast from Hollywood, but in the fall of 1949 the show moved to New York City where it remained or was based until the show was canceled in September 2009.[3]

Major charactersEdit

The Ruthledges/Holdens[3]

The Bauers/Roberts/Whites[3]

Other characters[3]

Plot developmentEdit

The radio show's original storyline centered on a preacher named Rev. John Ruthledge and all the people of a fictional suburb in Chicago called Five Points. The townspeople's lives had revolved around him. The show's title refers to a lamp in his study that family and residents could see as a sign for them to find help when needed. Early ongoing storylines contrasted Ellis Smith (nicknamed Mr Nobody from Nowhere) with Rev. Ruthledge, the former's cynicism often acting as a foil to the optimism of the latter. Rev. Ruthledge's daughter Mary also embarked on a secret romance with her foster brother Ned Holden. Ned and Mary would eventually marry in a 1941 episode of the soap with Rev Ruthledge's blessing, but not before a series of complications arose, such as the return of Ned's parents, Frances and Paul Holden (a storyline which resulted in Frances shooting Paul dead when he made his plans to extort money from Ned known) and Ned's marriage to and subsequent divorce from lounge singer Torchy Reynolds (who later ended up in a relationship with Ellis Smith). Storylines in this era also touched on topics rarely discussed up to that point — for example, the character of Rose Kransky had radio's first out-of-wedlock baby.

During the radio years, succeeding preachers carried on the work Rev. Ruthledge had started, thus becoming keepers of the "guiding light." The show's setting moved to another fictional suburb in 1947, Selby Flats, in the Los Angeles, California area. The Bauers became central to the storyline in 1948.

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ About the show "Guiding Light" at CBS.Com
  2. ^ Dunning, John (1998). On The Air: The Encyclopedia of Old-Time Radio. New York: Oxford University Press. pp. 299–302. ISBN 0-19-507678-8. 
  3. ^ a b c d Lackman, Ron. "The Guiding Light". The Encyclopedia of American Radio. New York: Checkmate Books. p. 123. ISBN 0-8160-4137-7. 

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