ABOVE: Betty and Ted Corday, circa 1944. This photo is son Ken Corday's favorite photo of his parents, and the only photograph publicly available of Ted Corday. BELOW: Ted Corday's signature from a 1941 document at Ancestry.com.

Lawyer...Army Captain...Actor...Broadway Stage Manager....Radio
 Director...Producer...Television Executive..."Days of Our Lives" Creator

     May 8, 2008 marks the 100th anniversary of Ted Corday's birth. Following is a tribute to the show's co-creator and original executive producer.
     Theodore Corday was born in Winnipeg, Canada on May 8, 1908. He graduated from the University of Alberta and began practicing law. In 1934, he moved to the United States, and settled down in New York, getting involved behind the scenes in Broadway theater productions, first as a cable puller, then a stage manager and finally as a director, directing over 15 Broadway productions, including "Porgy and Bess" and "Cabin in the Sky." Corday even appeared on stage as an actor in two Broadway productions: 1937's "Marching Song" and 1939's "I Must Love Someone."
     In 1941, Ted Corday married Elizabeth Shay. He then enlisted in the Army Signal Corps in May 1942, became a Captain, and stayed in the Army for over three years through World War II's end in 1945. Upon returning to civilian life, Corday switched over to radio and produced many dramas, including "Tortilla Flat", "Tobacco Road", "Gangbusters" and "Counterspy." In 1948, the Cordays had their first son, Christopher, followed by a second son, Kenneth, in 1950.
     In the late 1940's, Corday began directing the radio version of "The Guiding Light." When CBS decided to make it into a television series in 1952, Corday simultaneously directed both the radio and television episodes in the same day (both used the same daily scripts). This was Corday's first foray into television. He later would direct and produce another daytime drama, "As the World Turns." Both of those series, the longest-running daytime dramas in television history, were created by Irna Phillips, whom Corday would co-create another series with in the 1960's.
     On November 1, 1961, Ted Corday, Irna Phillips and Allan Chase entered into an ownership agreement for an idea they had for a new series. After working on their idea for almost three years, they came up with a proposal for a new series, and in September, 1964, signed a contract with Screen Gems. In his initial presentation to NBC in early 1965, Corday stated that: "Days of Our Lives was created by Irna Phillips, Allan Chase and me and was designed to bring to the audience a new and vital set of characters, at once identifiable and set on the broadest possible family base. From our years of experience in the daytime serial field, we think we know what will capture the daytime audience...strong emotional stories that spring from interesting people...The story elements of Days of Our Lives are many, our characters varied and abundant, and our canvas large: to make a most exciting picture of life in America today." [quote from Maureen Russell's "Days of Our Lives: A Complete History of the Long-Running Soap Opera", page 9]
     During the creation process of "Days of Our Lives", Ted Corday was also hired by NBC to create and produce two other serials, "Morning Star" and "Paradise Bay." Both shows premiered on September 27, 1965 and would last only nine months on the air, both being cancelled on July 1, 1966. His third series for NBC would fare far better and last much longer, but it didn't seem so at first. The pilot of "Days of Our Lives" was shot in Burbank, California on July 13, 1965, with Macdonald Carey and Mary Jackson as Tom and Alice Horton. When the pilot was picked up and "Days" became a series, Frances Reid replaced Jackson in the role of Alice Horton when the the first episode was shot on October 29, 1965 and aired on November 8, 1965.
     As the summer of 1966 approached, NBC cancelled Corday's "Morning Star" and "Paradise Bay", and was close to cancelling "Days" as well, but decided to stick with the show. Bill Bell was hired as the head writer to help keep the show on the air, with his first script airing on July 5, 1966. The "Days" staff was told by NBC that if the show's ratings did not begin to improve within 13 weeks, the series would be cancelled. Ratings began to rise slowly, but sadly, Ted Corday was not around to see the show's success. He became ill with cancer and died on July 23, 1966 at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles. Mr. Corday died less than nine months after "Days of Our Lives" went on the air, never realizing that his creation would still be on the air 42 years later. His wife, Betty, took charge of the show upon his death, and their son, Ken, took over upon her passing in 1987. In 1995, Ted and Betty Corday were posthumously awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award at the Daytime Emmy Awards.
     As Betty Corday remarked in a 1969 article: "Ted always said that you must constantly behave as though every week is the first week of the show, in order to have a running success. You can't just sit back once the show has made it." The Corday family certainly did not "sit back" as "Days of Our Lives" has become the longest-running scripted series in NBC's history and will become the fourth scripted series in television history to air its 11,000th episode, in February, 2009. As I'm sure many "Days" fans, both past and present, would like to say: Thanks, Mr. Corday, for helping create such an enduring legacy!
New York Times obituary, 7/25/66.


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