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Sadie Gray is a fictional character from the American soap opera One Life to Live, played by Broadway actress and singer Lillian Hayman from 1968 to 1986.[1] Sadie regularly sings at special functions and occasions during her appearance on the serial.

Sadie Gray
Lillian Hayman as Sadie Gray
One Life to Live character
Portrayed by
First appearanceJuly 1968 (July 1968)
Last appearanceDecember 1986 (December 1986)
Created byAgnes Nixon
Introduced by
  • Doris Quinlan
  • Joseph Stuart (1978)
All My Children
ClassificationFormer, regular
Other namesSadie Scott (maiden name)
  • Maid
  • Singer
  • Hospital administrator

Background and castingEdit

One Life to Live creator Agnes Nixon cast Lillian Hayman in the leading role of "Sadie" shortly after the show premiere in July 1968. Nixon named the role on her actual family housekeeper, Sadie Gay, and based the character's founding plotline on the 1959 film Imitation of Life.[2]

Hayman played the character role for 18 years until 1986, when show executive producer Paul Rauch declined to renew her contract with ABC Daytime at a time when she was the longest-tenured actor with the show and after the firing of her onscreen daughter Ellen Holly (Carla Gray).[3][4][5]

Esther Rolle, who would later become recognized for her Golden Globe Award-nominated role as Florida Evans on the CBS prime time sitcom Good Times, temporarily played the role in 1971 when Hayman took a part in the Broadway musical 70, Girls, 70.


Sadie is introduced in July 1968 as former Lord family maid at their manor, Llanfair. She eventually quit her job there to become head of housekeeping at Llanview Hospital. She lives across the hall from her good friend Anna Wolek (Doris Belack). Sadie is a widow and mentions her "lost" and absent daughter Carla Gray.[2][6][7]

A mystery woman named Clara Benari (Ellen Holly) shows up in town in October 1968, introduced as an Italian American woman who becomes secretary to Llanview Hospital chief of staff and doctor Jim Craig (Robert Milli) and dates African American resident physician Price Trainor (Peter DeAnda). Many hospital staffers are shocked at the prospect of a white American woman dating a black man. A few months later, it is revealed that "Clara Benari" is the assumed name of Carla Gray, Sadie's lighter-skinned black daughter passing as white. Sadie is furious that her daughter would deny her heritage, but they eventually reconcile, and Carla embraces her roots and reclaims her surname "Gray."[8][9][10][7]

She takes a job as family housekeeper to Llanview Hospital psychiatrist Will Vernon (Anthony George) in 1977, and moves in with the family in 1978 after Will's daughter Samantha Vernon (Julia Montgomery) is involved in a car accident. Sadie is depressed when daughter Carla and her husband Ed Hall (Al Freeman Jr.) divorce in 1979, and but she sets her feelings aside and sings at the wedding of Carla's new love interest, Jack Scott (Arthur Burghardt), in October.[11][12][13][14]

Hayman's airtime as "Sadie" increases after a period of intermittent appearances in the early 1980s when Carla returns to appear regularly in fictional Llanview in 1983, after a three-year absence. Sadie encourages Carla to rekindle her relationship with Ed, to no avail. Carla accepts a job practicing law in Arizona and disappears from the show in 1985. Sadie's appearances decline after September 1985, and eventually Sadie disappears from the show in 1986. Her former son-in-law and former Llanview police commissioner Ed says during an appearance in 2000 that Sadie dies in the 1990s.[15][16][17]


  1. ^ "Blacks In The Soaps". Ebony. Chicago: Johnson Publishing Company. March 1978. Retrieved September 30, 2016.
  2. ^ a b Nixon, Agnes (21 March 2017). My Life to Live: How I Became the Queen of Soaps When Men Ruled the Airwaves. Crown/Archetype. pp. 156–. ISBN 978-0-451-49825-0.
  3. ^ "Lillian Hayman, 72, Actress and Singer". The New York Times. New York City: The New York Times Company. November 2, 1994. Retrieved September 30, 2016.
  4. ^ Holly, Ellen (1996). One Life: The Autobiography of an African American Actress. Kodansha International. ISBN 978-1-56836-158-1.
  5. ^ "Tipoff". Wilmington Morning Star. Wilmington, North Carolina. October 23, 1985. Retrieved October 1, 2016.
  6. ^ Waggett, Gerry (15 July 2008). The One Life to Live 40th Anniversary Trivia Book. Hyperion Books. pp. 83–. ISBN 978-1-4013-2309-7.
  7. ^ a b Palmer, Colin A. (2006). Encyclopedia of African-American culture and history: the Black experience in the Americas. Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, New York City: Macmillan Publishers. ISBN 978-0-02-865821-6.
  8. ^ Howell, Howard O. (October 1979). "Ellen Holly: 'One Life to Live' Star Will Have Eight-Million Guests At Her TV Wedding". Ebony. Chicago: Johnson Publishing Company. Retrieved September 30, 2016.
  9. ^ James, Cathy Lynette (1991). Soap Opera Mythology & Racial-ethnic Social Change: An Analysis of African American, Asian/Pacific American, & Mexican/Hispanic American Storylines During the 1980s. University of California, San Diego, Department of Sociology.
  10. ^ "Services Held In NY For 'One Life To Live' Actress, 72, Who Died Of Heart Attack". Jet. Chicago: Johnson Publishing Company. January 9, 1995. Retrieved September 30, 2016.
  11. ^ Reed, Jon-Michael (October 19, 1977). "What's Happening On The Soapies". Ocala Star-Banner. Ocala, Florida. Retrieved October 1, 2016.
  12. ^ Cooper, Mary Ann (December 21, 1978). "Speaking Of Soaps". The Times-News. Hendersonville, North Carolina. Retrieved September 30, 2016.
  13. ^ Hirsch, Lynda (June 25, 1979). "Scanning The Soaps". Toledo Blade. Toledo, Ohio. Retrieved October 1, 2016.
  14. ^ "Wedding's One Of 'Soaps' Loveliest". Evening Independent. St. Petersburg, Florida. October 12, 1979. Retrieved October 1, 2016.
  15. ^ "The Soaps". The Gazette. Montreal. May 14, 1984. Retrieved October 1, 2016.
  16. ^ One Life to Live. Season 18. 1986–87. American Broadcasting Company.
  17. ^ One Life to Live. Season 31. April 2000. American Broadcasting Company.