Agnes Nixon


Agnes Nixon

Infobox actress


imagesize = 150px
bgcolour =
name = Agnes Nixon
birthname = Agnes Eckhardt
birthdate = birth date and age|1927|12|27
location = Chicago, Illinois, United States
deathdate =
deathplace =
occupation = Actress, writer, producer
spouse = Robert Nixon (1951 - 1996) 4 children

Agnes Nixon (born Agnes Eckhardt on December 27 1927) is an American writer and producer.

She attended Northwestern University where she was a member of Alpha Chi Omega sorority.

She is best known as the creator of soap operas such as "One Life to Live" and "All My Children". Having a key role in the production of these programs, she was either executive producer or consulting producer for both shows for many years: on "One Life to Live" from 1968 to 1975, and "All My Children" from 1970 to 1981. She continued to write the program with Wisner Washam until 1983, and again with him from 1988 to 1992, continuing on as a consultant in recurring capacities until 2000. From 1970 until 1992, every episode of "All My Children" was written by either Agnes Nixon or her protégé Wisner Washam (her role with "One Life to Live" was more limited once she surrendered the day-to-day aspects of the show in 1975).

Because of her long career and the number of successful shows she has created or been a part of, she is often termed the "Queen" of the modern soap opera.cite web | title=NIXON, AGNES: U.S. Writer-Producer
publisher=museum.tv| accessdate=2007-08-16 | url=http://www.museum.tv/archives/etv/N/htmlN/nixonagnes/nixonagnes.htm
] Her creations and her writing have had the most effect on modern audiences, second only to her mentor Irna Phillips.

Early life

Agnes Nixon was born in Chicago, Illinois. Shortly after her birth, her parents divorced.This "Early Years" addendum contributed by "Miss Eleanor's" daughter.] Nixon's mother returned to Nashville with her. They lived with Nixon's grandmother and invalid aunt. Her grandmother was said to be a difficult woman, and Nixon's mother strived to give Nixon as normal a life as possible. Nixon was gifted and petite. Vivacious and a beautiful blond. These attributes caused her to suffer a great deal of envy and spitefulness from her peers. She attended St. Cecilia Academy of Dominican sisters in Nashville. During that time, she studied privately with Eleanor Dubuission Fossick, who first identified her as gifted, and taught her "expression" and music. Nixon was "Miss Eleanor's" delightful protégé, and she wanted to attend Northwestern University. Her father, who had a company that provided materials for funeral businesses, refused to underwrite this, and instead wanted her to work for him. Nixon was distraught. She disclosed this situation to her teacher. "Miss Eleanor" told her to write to her father as though she had not received his letter refusing Northwestern, and tell him how wonderful he was and how all her friends were jealous that her father was going to pay for this. Shortly after, her father wrote her, saying "he was in a bad mood" when he wrote his letter of denial, and of course he would pay for Northwestern. Nixon had at first thought of acting. She has said she had classmates of the like of Charlton Heston, observed the enormous talent pool there, and opted instead to write. She had been engaged to a young World War II pilot, Hank. Hank went missing in action. This was devastating for young Nixon. She dated again, and once had a semi-long distance relationship with a young Frenchman named Etienne. It was said to be fascinating to hear her prattle in French, long distance, with him. She was also friends with one of Hank's buddies, Robert "Bob" Nixon. "Miss Eleanor" remarked to her that her eyes only sparkled when she spoke of Bob, and not when she spoke of Etienne. In the end, she married Bob Nixon (where she acquired the last name). Together, they had four children. Nixon was loyal to her mentors, and visited "Miss Eleanor" several times during her last illness and attended her funeral. "Miss Eleanor" had directed seven roses be placed on her casket. The first six were for members of her family, and the seventh was for Nixon, symbolizing "All My Children" she had taught throughout the years. Nixon had always said she wanted to write the great American novel. She did this as a collaborative effort, and the book was made into a mini series in the 1980s called "Manions of America". It is believed it was loosely based on her own ancestry.

Writing legacy

Procter and Gamble

Nixon began her career in soaps working for Irna Phillips. Phillips' other protégé around that time was William J. Bell, who also went on to become a noted writer in his own right.

Under Phillips' tutelage, she was a writer on "As the World Turns", and was head writer for "Search for Tomorrow", "Guiding Light" and, notably, on "Another World", where she created the character of Rachel, an early prototype of one of her more lasting creations, Erica Kane.

During her time on "Guiding Light", Nixon is believed to have written the first medical-related storyline on a soap opera. A friend of Nixon's had died from cervical cancer, and Nixon wanted to do something to educate women about getting a Pap smear. She wrote it into "Guiding Light" by having the lead character, Bert Bauer, encounter a cancer scare. This storyline aired in 1962; Nixon had to work around some difficulties of getting this storyline to air, as she could not make use of the words “cancer,” “uterus,” and “Pap test”. However, after this storyline the number of women who took a Pap smear surged dramatically . In 2002 she received a special Sentinel for Health "pioneer award" for her work on "Guiding Light".

When she left "Another World", she left the tutelage of Phillips (and the restrictions of sponsor Procter & Gamble) to create her own shows.

"One Life to Live"

By the mid 1960s, Nixon had created the bible for what would become "All My Children". ABC executives passed on the program, but asked her to create a show that would reflect a more "contemporary" tone; that creation was "One Life to Live". Nixon, "tired of the restraints imposed by the WASPy, non-controversial nature of daytime drama, presented the network with a startingly original premise and cast of characters. Although the show was built along the classic soap formula of a rich family and a poor family, "One Life to Live" emphasized the ethnic and socioeconomic diversity of the people of Llanview, Pennsylvania, a suburb of Philadelphia." [Schemering, Christopher. "The Soap Opera Encyclopedia", September 1985, pg. 158-159, ISBN 0-345-32459-5 (1st edition)]

Premiering in 1968, "One Life to Live" initially reflected changing social structures and attitudes. The first few years of the show were rich in issue stories and characters including Jewish characters, Polish-American families, and the first African-American leads, Carla Gray (Ellen Holly), and Ed Hall (Al Freeman, Jr.). Gray's story, for example, had her develop from a character who was passing as white to one who embodied black pride, with white and black loves along the way, to antagonize racists. "One Life to Live" has been called "the most peculiarly American of soap operas: the first serial to present a vast array of ethnic types, broad comic situations, a constant emphasis on social issues, and strong male characters." ["The Soap Opera Encyclopedia", pg. 158.]

On July 21 2008, Nixon appeared on "One Life to Live" for its 40th anniversary.

"All My Children"

With the success of "One Life to Live", Nixon was given the greenlight for "All My Children", which began as a half-hour soap opera in 1970.

The show was successful from its beginning, combining its study of social clashes with acting talent including Ruth Warrick and Rosemary Prinz. Nixon helmed the writing team for over a decade, until 1983.

It is on "All My Children" that Nixon had the most impact; her long tenure as writer helped shaped the show and its characters. She again introduced many social issues into storylines, including the anti-war movement, homosexuality, the AIDS epidemic, and daytime's first abortion by a major character, in this case Erica Kane. (In a controversial move, the storyline was undone in 2006 and Erica's fetus was revealed to have lived and implanted into a surrogate, a procedure that is medically impossible.)

"All My Children" was a half-hour show for the first seven years of its run, and virtually none of those episodes exist. ABC erased the tapes of those early episodes so the tapes could be reused. When ABC went to Nixon and said that they wanted her to expand the show to an hour, one of her conditions was that the tapes of the show would be archived and preserved by the network. Episodes began to be saved in 1976, while "All My Children" expanded to an hour on April 25 1977.

AMC Credits- Executive Producer (1970-1981)- Head Writer (1970-1985; 1988-1992) - Co-Head Writer (1993-1997; 1999-2000; 2002) - Senior Story Consultant (1985-1988; 2001-2002)

"Loving/The City"

The other program to her credit is "Loving", which she co-created with Douglas Marland. The half-hour program ran from 1983 to 1995, but despite the involvement of Nixon and Marland, never really gained a solid footing. So in 1995 the show was retooled and became "The City". While Nixon herself did not create "The City" she remained a creative consultant for the show until it's cancellation in 1997.

Continuing story

In 1992, ABC executives decided that "All My Children" needed new blood, and promoted Nixon's protégé, Megan McTavish, to the position of head writer (Nixon continued to be involved with the show, but wanted to take a step back from the grueling day-to-day task of being a head writer). McTavish made some important changes by re-writing major storylines. Most notably, when the show debuted in 1970, the father of Erica Kane (Susan Lucci) had simply abandoned his wife, Mona (Frances Heflin), to be with another woman. McTavish changed history so that Erica had been raped by a friend of her father and had a child, Kendall Hart (Sarah Michelle Gellar, now portrayed by Alicia Minshew). McTavish left and returned as writer several times.

In 1999, McTavish was dismissed and Nixon was again asked to take over the headwriting reins at "All My Children". Nixon was well aware that this would probably be her last major stint as head writer in daytime television, and wanted to leave one final legacy. As it had always been Nixon's intention that her soaps would deal with important social issues, Nixon decided to forever change the landscape of the show by having a major character "come out" (although the show had gay characters in the past, they had always been supporting players). In 2000, Erica's daughter, Bianca Montgomery (Eden Riegel), returned to Pine Valley with a secret, and for months the audience witnessed the character trying to keep that secret (her sexuality) from everyone around her. The character was eventually revealed to be a lesbian. Although this was at first met with criticism, it renewed interest in the show and Eden Riegel gained a huge fan base.cite news |url=http://www.afterelton.com/archive/elton/TV/2006/3/soaps3.html |title=Soaps Come Clean About Gay Teens (page 3) |publisher=AfterElton.com, Publisher Karman Kregloe, 2006-03-23 |accessdate=2007-08-09] This storyline led to "All My Children" winning a casting Arios award, a GLAAD Media Awardcite news |url=http://www.soapcentral.com/amc/news/2001/0302-gayawards.php|title=AMC's Bianca Storyline Applauded|publisher=soapcentral.com|accessdate=2007-10-04] and to being nominated for a Daytime Emmy for Best Drama Series.

In 2005, Nixon appeared onscreen to celebrate the 35th anniversary of "All My Children" on January 5th. She played "Agnes Eckhardt" (Nixon's maiden name). The character was introduced as a longstanding board member of Pine Valley Hospital. The episode included several in-jokes about the behind the scenes running of the show. For example, while Agnes was speaking, Opal Cortlandt (Jill Larson) said "The way she's talking you would think she built the town with her own bare hands." Verla Grubbs (Carol Burnett) spoke a line of dialogue to Bianca Montgomery where she confirmed, "I've been following your story since the beginning!" (Carol Burnett admits to having been a fan of the show since it debuted in 1970). This episode was also very significant as it was the last screen appearance of original cast member Ruth Warrick before her death ten days later; Nixon appeared at an onscreen memorial service for Warrick's character Phoebe in May 2005.

In 2003, she appeared in an episode of A&E Biography about "All My Children".

Nixon appeared on "One Life to Live" on July 21 and July 22 2008 for the series' 40th anniversary, portraying observer "Agnes" in a storyline in which longrunning character Viki Davidson visits Heaven. [http://www.soaps.com/onelifetolive/news/2004/One_Life_to_Live_Big_Returns_and_Plots_For_40th_An "One Life to Live: Big Returns and Plots For 40th Anniversary!" Soaps.com] 10 June 2008.] [http://abc.go.com/daytime/onelifetolive/episodes/2008/20080721.html "One Life to Live" recap (7/21/08) - ABC.com] ] [http://abc.go.com/daytime/onelifetolive/episodes/2008/20080722.html "One Life to Live" recap (7/22/08) - ABC.com] ]

Awards and recognition

* She was inducted into the Soap Opera Hall of Fame at a Planet Hollywood restaurant in 1994.
* She received the Trustees Award for Continued Excellence from the National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences in 1981.
* At one point, Nixon raised eyebrows and caused a great deal of upset in the writers' circle by her adamant refusal to join the Writers Guild of America. As the executive producers of her shows she feared that a writers' strike would force her to stop her writing activities, but still be required to produce the show. In spite of this, she has won five Writers Guild of America Awards for Best Written Daytime Serial.
*Primetime Emmy: Outstanding Program Achievement in Daytime Drama - One Life to Live- shared with Doris Quinlan.

References

External links

*
* [http://www.museum.tv/archives/etv/N/htmlN/nixonagnes/nixonagnes.htm Museum of TV article about Nixon]


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