William J. Bell

William Joseph Bell (March 6, 1927 – April 29, 2005) was an American screenwriter and television producer, best known as the creator of the soap operas Another World, The Young and the Restless and The Bold and the Beautiful.

William J. Bell
Bill Bell 2003.jpeg
William Joseph Bell

(1927-03-06)March 6, 1927
DiedApril 29, 2005(2005-04-29) (aged 78)
Alma materUniversity of Michigan
Occupationwriter, producer
Years active1956–1998 (as a writer)
1973–2005 (as a producer)
(m. 1954)
ChildrenWilliam James Bell
Bradley Phillip Bell
Lauralee Bell Martin

Early lifeEdit

Bell was born and raised in Chicago as an only child. His father was an accountant for the Link-Belt Company. His mother was primarily a homemaker, with a part-time job with Mrs. Steven's Candies. (In later years, his parents adopted a daughter.)[1] Bell grew up listening to radio soap operas when he came home from school for lunch[2] and late at night, including Life Can Be Beautiful, The Romance of Helen Trent and Our Gal Sunday.[1] He noted while listening to The Guiding Light that after the title the announcer would say 'created by Irna Phillips'.[3] As a depression-era child, he would work at various odd jobs on weekends to help the family. In high school, he participated in the ROTC. After serving in the Navy as a corpsman, he attended the University of Michigan.[1]


Chicago radio writerEdit

At the age of 21, Bell had a relatively short stint at WJJD radio as a writer for two shows, with the focus being teen problems. His work there was the catalyst for soliciting a job at WBBM radio as a comedy writer; specifically, character-oriented comedy, rather than jokes. He worked there for about three years.[1]

Advertising industryEdit

Bell received an offer to work at McCann Erickson, the second-largest advertising agency worldwide (at that time). He wrote radio and television commercials for Standard Oil of Indiana, the agency's biggest account; he was subsequently promoted to account executive, responsible for five small accounts. He worked there for three years. Bell was then offered an account executive position with Cunningham & Walsh.[1]

Procter and Gamble ProductionsEdit

During his time as a comedy writer at WBBM radio in Chicago, he made a call to Irna Phillips' secretary Rose Cooperman asking her if Phillips had an opening for a writer, as she was a well-known soap opera creator and Bell had become aware that Phillips also resided in Chicago. Cooperman said Phillips did have an opening. While Bell was composing a sample script, he was informed that the writer who was supposedly leaving had decided to stay, so the writing job was not available. Later, during the time that Bell was in the advertising business, he ran into Phillips' niece. She mentioned him to her aunt and Phillips remembered who he was; she also knew his wife, who was a well-known celebrity due to her work on local television.[1]

He started his writing career on The Guiding Light and then moved over to As the World Turns, working under Phillips; Phillips' other protegee at the time was Agnes Nixon. Bell co-created Another World with Phillips in 1964. In 1965, he co-created the primetime As the World Turns spinoff Our Private World.[4]

Days of our LivesEdit

In 1966, he was hired as head writer of the then-struggling soap Days of Our Lives. Bell was credited with the show's initial surge of popularity. Bell changed the dynamics of soaps when he began focusing on sexuality. Formerly, soap operas did not delve into the sexual side of their romances. He intended to leave the show around 1972 when he began creating his own show The Young and the Restless, but the show sued him and he agreed to write long-term story projections for them. He remained as head writer until 1975.

The Young and the RestlessEdit

In 1972, CBS executives wanted a new daytime serial that was youth oriented. William along with his wife Lee Phillip Bell created The Young and the Restless for the network under the working title, The Innocent Years. However, before the show went into production, he had to rename the series as Bell mentioned..."We were confronted with the very disturbing reality that young America had lost much of its innocence,". "Innocence as we had known and lived it all our lives had, in so many respects, ceased to exist." They renamed the series to The Young and the Restless because they felt it "reflected the youth and mood of the early seventies." He spent between ten and sixteen hours a day writing stories.

The Young and the Restless debuted on March 26, 1973. Although slow to rise in the ratings (he got very frustrated and asked head of CBS Daytime Bud Grant to cancel the serial), CBS had faith in the show and gave it a chance. Y&R was credited for breathing new life into the daytime serial, with its brightness, humor and cutting-edge storylines.[citation needed] As he did on Days of our Lives, Bell saw to sexuality also playing a major role in the stories. Bell guided Y&R as head writer from 1973 until stepping down in 1998, the longest tenure of any head writer in soap opera history. Y&R has been the highest-rated soap on the air since 1988 in households, and 1989 among viewers.


Brenda Dickson, an original cast member of The Young and The Restless, claims that Bell blacklisted her after 15 years on the show after they partook in a secret love affair. He then went on to wreak havoc on her personal and professional life by hiring "Mafia cartel judges and attorneys" to "ruin" her life.[5] As a result, she ended up "broke and homeless" and has been blocked from working ever since.[6]

The Bold and the BeautifulEdit

In 1986, he began working on creating another soap for CBS Daytime, but plans were halted until the end of the year when the network decided to cancel the soap Capitol and needed a replacement. He created The Bold and the Beautiful, which debuted on March 23, 1987. B&B is known for its glamorous look as it is set in the fashion industry. It followed Y&R and has been a ratings success as well.[citation needed]

Personal lifeEdit

William J. Bell's grave

Bell was married to former talk show host Lee Phillip Bell, who co-created The Young and the Restless and The Bold and the Beautiful with him. Their three children, William James Bell, Bradley Phillip Bell, Lauralee Bell Martin,[7] and daughter-in-law Maria Arena Bell are all involved in their parents' soaps in some capacity.

On April 29, 2005, Bell died at age 78 from complications of Alzheimer's disease.[8] He is buried at Westwood Village Memorial Park Cemetery in Los Angeles.

Awards and recognitionEdit

Producing and writing creditsEdit

Another World

  • Co-Creator (with Irna Phillips)
  • Co-Head Writer: May 1964 – March 1965

As the World Turns

  • Co-Head Writer: 1965–1966
  • Writer: 1950s–1960s

The Bold and the Beautiful

Days of Our Lives

  • Head Writer: 1966–1975

Guiding Light

  • Writer: 1950s

Our Private World

The Young and the Restless


Bell currently[when?]holds the distinction of having created the largest number of soap opera characters that are still appearing on the air, with 29 characters on either The Young and the Restless, The Bold and the Beautiful, or Days of Our Lives:


  1. ^ a b c d e f "William Bell: Soap Opera Creator / Writer". Academy of Television Arts & Sciences. Retrieved March 7, 2020.
  2. ^ Thurber, Jon (May 2, 2005). "William J. Bell, 78; Co-Created Two Top Daytime Soap Operas". Los Angeles Times. Los Angeles: Los Angeles Times Communications LLC (Nant Capital). Retrieved March 5, 2020.
  3. ^ "William J. Bell:Biography". IMDb. Retrieved March 5, 2020.
  4. ^ Our Private World (Episode 22, aired July 16, 1965) on YouTube
  5. ^ Dickson, Brenda (2013). "My True Hidden Hollywood Story", My Memoir of Sexual Harassment, Blacklisting, and Love Affairs with some of the most Powerful Men in Hollywood. Blue Boulevard Publications. ASIN B00C8T6Z7I.
  6. ^ Marcus, Stephanie (April 22, 2013). "'Young And The Restless' Star Claims She's Broke & Homeless". Huffington Post.
  7. ^ Rico, Klaritza (February 26, 2020). "Chicago native Lee Phillip Bell, co-creator of 'The Young and the Restless' and 'The Bold and The Beautiful,' dies at 91". Variety. United States: Penske Media Corporation. Retrieved February 27, 2020.
  8. ^ The Times Staff (May 9, 2005). "William J. Bell". The Times. London: News UK. Archived from the original on February 27, 2020. Retrieved February 27, 2020.(Subscription required.)
  9. ^ Demirjian, Eva; Bell, Bradley P. (2014). Bold and the Beautiful: In Celebration of 20 Years on Television. Momentum. ISBN 9781760080723.

External linksEdit