The universally recognized originator of one of television's most enduring, and 
profitable, television genres, Irna Phillips is responsible for the daytime 
drama as we know it today.  Her contributions to one format are unprecedented 
in television history.  Television comedy had many parents, Ernie Kovacs, 
Jackie Gleason; TV drama had early shapers in Paddy Chayefsky, Rod Serling, 
Reginald Rose and others.  But the soap opera had only one mother and she was 
it.  She founded an entire industry based on her techniques, beliefs and the 
ongoing, interlocking stories that she dreamed. 

Born in Chicago in 1901, youngest of ten children, legend has it that Phillips 
endured her poverty-stricken, lonely childhood by reading and concocting 
elaborate lives for her dolls.  When she started college she dreamed of an 
acting career but school administrators doubted that her looks would get her 
far.  So she turned to teaching.  After graduation, she taught in Missouri and 
Ohio for several years before returning to Chicago. 

There she fumbled her way into a job with radio station WGN as a 
voice-over artist and actress.  Soon after, the station asked her to 
concoct a daily program "about a family." Phillips's program Painted 
Dreams premiered on 20 October 1930.  Dreams is usually recognized as the 
radio's first soap opera.  It ran with Phillips both writing and acting in 
it until 1932 when she left WGN over an ownership dispute.  At WGN's 
competition, WMAQ, Phillips created Today's Children which aired for 
seven years.  Other highly successful dramas followed:  The Guiding Light 
in 1937, The Road of Life in 1938, The Right to Happiness in 1939.  By 
this time Phillips had given up acting to devote her time to writing. She 
had also sold the shows to national networks. 

By 1943, just over ten years from her beginning, Phillips had five 
programs on the air. Her yearly income was in excess of $250,000 and her 
writing output was around two million words a year.  It was at this phase 
that she developed the need for assistants to create dialogue for the 
stories she created.  To keep her scripts accurate she also kept a lawyer 
and doctor on retainer. 

Not one to put pen to paper, Phillips created her stories by acting them 
out as a secretary jotted down what she spoke.  Her process of creating by 
assuming the identities of her characters was so successful it was later 
adopted by many of Phillips's protégés, including William Bell who would 
go on to create The Young and the Restless. 

Phillips pioneered in radio many of the devices she would later put to 
successful (eventually cliched) use in television.  She was the first to 
use organ music to blend one scene into the next.  She was the first to 
employ cliff-hanger endings to keep audiences coming back and to develop 
the casual pace of these shows, she wanted the busy house wife to be able 
to run to the kitchen or see to the baby and not miss anything. She was 
the first to address social concerns in her storylines.  She was also the 
first to shift the focus of serials from blue-collar to white-collar 
characters; under Phillips, doctors and lawyers became soap staples. In 
fact, hospital settings and stories about illness were vintage Phillips. 
A hypochondriac who visited doctors daily.  Phillips brought her 
fascination with medicine to her work. 

Other eccentricities influenced and contradicted her work.  Though her 
shows were eventually produced in New York, Phillips refused to leave 
Chicago.  She stayed involved in all aspects of her programs with frequent 
phone calls to the East.  Surprisingly, Phillips, who based her stories on 
nuclear families, never married though late in her life she adopted two 
children.  When Phillips brought her creations to television (somewhat 
reluctantly), she brought all her devices with her.  The Guiding Light 
premiered on TV in 1952.  The Brighter Day and The Road of Life came to 
the small screen in 1954. 

In the early 1950s, Phillips began a long association with Proctor and 
Gamble, longtime sponsors of soap operas. All Phillips shows, and all she 
would create, would be under the umbrella of Proctor and Gamble 

On 2 April 1956, Phillips premiered what was to become her most 
successful (and some say favorite) show, As the World Turns.  Until the 
1980s phenomenon of General Hospital, it was the most successful soap in 
history. At its ratings peak in the 1960s, it was regularly viewed by 50% 
of the daytime audience.  As the World Turns has broken much historical 
ground during its existence.  It was daytime's first half-hour soap 
(previous shows lasted fifteen minutes).  And it was the first to 
introduce a scheming female character:  Lisa Miller, played by Eileen 
Fulton, used feminine wiles to catch unavailable men and generate havoc. 
The show's popularity even inspired a prime time spin-off; Our Private 
World aired for a few months in 1965. 
Irna Phillips 

In 1964, Phillips created daytime's Another World, TV's first hour-long 
soap and the first to broach the subject of abortion.  (Phillips never 
shied away from controversy, when writing for the soap Love is a 
Many-Splendored Thing, she attempted to introduce an interracial romance. 
When the network balked, Phillips quit the show.) 

Also in 1964, Phillips began working as a consultant on the prime time 
soap Peyton Place.  Phillips now had control over shows running on all 
three networks. And in 1965, she created another long-lasting daytime 
drama Days of Our Lives. 

But despite Phillips legendary golden touch and her importance to the 
daytime drama, by the 1970s the times and the genre were leaving her 
behind.  Soaps were important profit centers for networks and they needed 
to become more sensational to keep ratings.  Phillips' simpler stories 
were now out of fashion.  She was fired by Proctor and Gamble in 1973 and 
died in December of that year. 

Today daytime is populated with the programs she created:  As the World 
Turns, Another World, Days of Our Lives, and The Guiding Light.  Guiding 
Light has now set the record as the longest running series in 
broadcasting history.  Many other soaps on the air were created by those 
who began their careers working for Phillips:  Bill Bell and All My 
Children creator Agnes Nixon.  Phillips believed her success was based on 
her focus on character rather than on overly complicated plots and her 
exploration of universal themes:  self-preservation, sex, and family.  She 
said in 1965, "None of us is different, except in degree.  None of us is a 
stranger to success and failure, life and death, the need to be loved, 
the struggle to communicate." -Cary O'Dell 

Born in Chicago, Illinois, U.S.A., 1 July 1901.  Educated at University of 
Illinois, B.S. in education 1923.  Children:  Thomas Dirk and Katherine Louise. 
Began career as junior college speech and drama instructor, Fulton, Missouri, 
1924; teacher, Dayton, Ohio, 1924-29; first writing job with WGN, Chicago radio 
station, hired to write ten-minute family drama, Painted Dreams, 1930; launched 
the soap, Guiding Light, 1937; Guiding Light switched to TV, 1952; consultant, 
Peyton Place, first successful evening serial, 1964; continued writing soaps 
until a year before her death. Died in Chicago, 22 December 1973. 


1952      Guiding Light 
1954      Brighter Day
1954-1955 Road of Life
1956-pres As the World Turns 
1964-1899 Another World 
1964-1969 Peyton Place (consultant) 
1965      Our Private World
1965-pres Days of Our Lives
1967-1973 Love Is a Many-Splendored Thing 


1930-1932 Painted Dreams
1932-1938 Today's Children
1937-1952 Guiding Light
1937      Road of Life
1938      Woman in White
1939      Right to Happiness
1942      Lonely Women, 1943 became Today's Children
1946-1947 Masquerade
1939-1960 Young Doctor Malone
1948-1956 Brighter Day