When NBC's "Days of Our Lives" began 25 years ago Thursday, Macdonald Carey was there playing Dr. Tom Horton, a role he still plays.
Carey has received two Emmy Awards as outstanding actor in daytime series and received the Soap Opera Award twice as outstanding actor in a mature role. Besides Carey, two others remain from the original cast: Frances Reid, who plays Dr. Horton's wife, Alice, and John Clarke, who plays their son, Mickey.
A native of Sioux City, Iowa, Carey began his acting career on the Broadway stage and has appeared in more than 50 motion pictures, including, "Shadow of a Doubt," "Dream Girl" and "The Streets of Lardeo." He also is an author and has published three volumes of poetry.
Carey talked about the days of his life with Susan King.
Did you have any inkling the show would last this long?
I always tell the classic story of Ken Corday (the producer) calling me and offering me the part on the show. Originally, the Hortons were the whole thing. It was just me and my family. He called and said, 'You may be stuck with this show for 10 years.' I said, "Oh, I don't care." I couldn't get a movie in those days. So I did it and look, here we are.
I remember (Corday) was marvelous. He said, "I can't pay you for it, but I will also give you the announcing job too." Thank God he did because it kept me in there even when I wasn't in the plot line.
Are you now on the series every day?
They are always coming back to us. The show centers around the Horton family. But there are so many other love stories going on, you wouldn't know it sometimes. But they have to keep us in it a couple of days a week, that's in our contract. I just signed a new three-year contract.
Was the series live when it began 25 years ago?
We were never live. We were a half hour. It was tough work because I was in every scene. I pushed every scene. I did more then than I do now when I have a storyline.
Did you ever have a really bizarre storyline?
I can think of one that Frances had. She went off with Bo and Hope to New Orleans. They were looking for some spy. I had a story this year where I was a closet poet and I went in disguise and read my poetry in a sort of a beat place. It was nice because I had written all the poetry, but they finally resolved that. It was kind of fun, they called me Norm de Plum.
There seems to be a lot of cast changes this year.
You are hot for about five years. That's the limit of the run and then they put somebody else in. Susan Seaforth and Bill Hayes had one of the longest runs and she is back. Bo and Hope had a long run. Deidre Hall had long run. And then we were the first ones to involve a black family and that ran for quite a few years.
Is it difficult to play the same character year after year?
No, I'm an actor. Acting is acting. That's why there is no basic difference acting on a soap or a night-time drama.
It's different with a Broadway show. I have had two hits on Broadway. I was in a show called "Lady in the Dark" with Gertrude Lawrence. I was the leading man in that.
But then I had another show called "Anniversary Waltz," which I did with Kitty Carlisle. We ran for two years. It was me and Kitty and it got to be terrible. You feel as if a ball and chain were on you leg. You are doing the same thing, here (on "Days") at least you are doing something different.
I have the best of two worlds. I am a writer. I wrote originally and I have time to write. I have three books of poetry published.
Did you start writing in college?
I started writing in high school. I wrote plays. The drama school was wonderful at the University of Iowa and I got sidetracked into directing and acting.
I have my autobiography coming out in February. It's called what else?--"The Days of My Life." I am very excited about it.
Do you do poetry readings?
I do as little of that as possible. Charles Bukowski likes my stuff. He wrote a nice introduction for my last book and he has been very kind to me. He said don't get caught up in that business. He said it throttles productivity and your juices as a writer. It's very bad. There are many writers along the way who have said as much. It's like a singer listening to the sound of his own voice. I do as little of that as possible and believe me, it's a great temptation. As an actor, I like to have an audience and people don't read my stuff the way I read it.
You starred with Joseph Cotten and Teresa Wright in Alfred Hitchcock's classic, "Shadow of a Doubt." Was that your first film?
I had been doing starring roles for Paramount. I was about to go off to the Marine Corps and Paramount loaned me to Hitchcock.
It was Hitchcock's favorite. Hitch was the dearest man. Contrary to what they say about him being hard on actors, he was so wonderful to you. I learned an awful lot from him, and other actors have said this. He said, "Don't act when you see this horrible thing, just drain your face of all emotions. Let the camera do it."
He told Jimmy Stewart the same thing. Jimmy and I talked about it one night and Jimmy and I both agree he has got a bad name for the wrong reasons. Not that he should have a bad name at all. Hitch was a great family man and he took you into his family. Hitch was a very smart man, but he didn't let it get in the way of his humanity.
"Days of Our Lives" airs Monday-Friday at noon on NBC.