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Where the Heart Is is an American soap opera which was telecast on the CBS television network from Monday, September 8, 1969, to Friday, March 23, 1973. Created by Lou Scofield and Margaret DePriest, the program ran for 25 minutes, the remaining five minutes of its timeslot ceded to a CBS news break. Scofield and DePriest were the original headwriters. A year after the soap’s premiere, they were succeeded by Pat Falken Smith. In 1972, Smith was replaced by Claire Labine and Paul Avila Mayer. The series was produced by Tom Donovan and directed by Richard Dunlap.


Set in the fictional town of Northcross, Connecticutmarker, Where the Heart Is focused 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, WTHI’s irreverent, fast-paced stories were certainly an oddity among CBS’s other staid, conservative serials.

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 liberated 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 (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 former girlfriend. Michael was pursued by the amoral Vicky Lucas (Robyn Millan), even though she knew he still carried a torch for Mary. Vicky 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 Daniel.

Julian’s 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). 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.

Kate, Julian and Allison’s sensible sister, married stalwart Steve Prescott (Lawrence Luckinbill and later 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 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 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 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 (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.

Broadcast History

CBS' Daytime division, which produced the serial in-house, made the strategic error of scheduling the show in the 12 Noon/11 a.m. Central timeslot, moving ahead the previous occupant, Love of Life, one half hour. It was the final addition to what would be, for two-and-a-half seasons, a daytime lineup on CBS consisting of 8 soap operas and no game shows. Where the Heart Is had a struggle on two fronts: first, Jeopardy!, one of daytime’s most popular shows, aired on NBC against it, and, second, because of its rather strong prurience and intimations of taboos such as incest, some affiliates, primarily in the Midwest and South, refused to clear the show. Late in its run, other markets (where the show was tape-delayed an hour to run in the 1 p.m./12 Noon access slot) saw Where the Heart Is air against ABC's up-and-coming All My Children. Although the soap achieved fairly healthy ratings, averaging a 6.7 and 26% share for its three-and-a half year run, it was typically the lowest-rated soap on CBS’ daytime schedule. Advertisers weren’t thrilled either, as demographics suggested the serial was attracting a younger, less desirable cult audience. In February 1973, with the network locked in a battle with NBC for daytime ratings supremacy, CBS decided to cancel it, along with another “underachiever,” Love Is a Many Splendored Thing, in a bid to bring up the daypart’s overall rating. As one industry insider revealed about the cancellations, "It was a matter of pride, CBS didn't like being third in the ratings. So, rather than struggle to improve the quality of these shows, it just canceled them."

Surviving Episodes

All 912 episodes of Where the Heart Is were recorded on videotape at the CBS Broadcast Centermarker Studio #44 in New York. Like most soap operas of the late 60’s/early 70’s, it fell victim to the industry practice of wiping tapes for re-use. Although the master tapes for Where the Heart Is were erased, some rare kinescopes of the series remain in the possession of private collectors. Only seven videotapes of the soap are confirmed to exist. These are non-circulating copies stored at the UCLA Television Archives. The archived episodes were telecast: March 8, 16, and 24, 1971, April 1 and 9, 1971, and March 12 and 20, 1973.


Where the Heart Is boasted a superb cast of performers, many of whom later appeared on Ryan’s Hope, which was created by WTHI’s final headwriters Claire Labine and Paul Avila Mayer. These included: Louise Shaffer (Rae Woodard), Diana van der Vlis (Nell Beaulac/Sherry Rowan), Robyn Millan (Delia Reid Ryan Coleridge #2), Roy Poole (Neil MacCurtain), Gregory Abels (Art Thompson), and Keith Charles (Homer Dowd). On the production side, many who worked on Where the Heart Is were later responsible for finally making a major success out of the long-running ABC serial General Hospital. Both Margaret DePriest and Pat Falken Smith were members of GH’s writing staff, as well as those who helmed it, in various periods during its glory years of the late 1970s and 1980s. Claire Labine would later be a GH headwriter during the show's renaissance era in the 1990s. The connection of WTHI to Ryan's Hope continues with the fact that Pat Falken Smith, in between her stints at General Hospital, served as RH's headwriter from 1983 until 1985.

Heart’s most prominent daytime alumnus is James Mitchell, (ex-Julian Hathaway) who in 2008 celebrated twenty-nine years as All My Children’s Palmer Cortlandt. Another famous alumna was Rue McClanahan, (ex-Margaret Jardin) who went on to fame in Maude playing Maude Findlay's friend, Vivian Cavender Harmon; and later reteamed with Bea Arthur on The Golden Girls, where she played the lusty Blanche Devereaux. After the show went off the air, Bibi Osterwald, who played the Hathaways cantakerous housekeeper, Stella, played David Birney's mother, Sophie Steinberg on the short-lived comedy Bridget Loves Bernie.

Main Crew Members

Richard Dunlap, Claire Labine, Bill Glen [83894], Lou Scofield [83895], Margaret DePriest, Paul Avila Mayer, Pat Falken Smith


1. LaGuardia, Robert. The Wonderful World of TV Soap Operas. "The War of the Daytime Networks" (1974).
  1. LaGuardia, Robert. The Wonderful World of TV Soap Operas, "The War of the Daytime Networks" p. 116 (1974)

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