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Gloria Monty will forever by remembered as the legendary and innovative producer who changed the face of soap operas forever by infusing ABC's ailing "General Hospital" (1963-) in 1978 with faster-paced storytelling, and innovative production values. She is also the creative genius who helped dictate the scandalous adventures that introduced the world to Luke and Laura, the legendary daytime couple du jour who still remain the benchmark by which all other soap couplings are measured.
Born Aug. 12, 1921 in Allenhurst, NJ to her father Joseph Montemuro, a builder, and her mother, Concetta, Monty developed an interest in the performing arts at a very young age. When Monty was 2 years old, she and her sister, Norma, began studying ballet. Ironically, at the same time she was on point, Monty entertained the thought of pursuing a career in medicine. Instead, she left home at age 18 to study drama and speech at a variety of schools, including the University of Iowa, New York University and Columbia University.
In the 1950s, Monty taught improvisational acting and speech workshops in New York, instructing students as varied as Bea Arthur, Tony Curtis and Marlon Brando. Like most women of that time, she found time in 1952 to wed Robert O'Byrne, an editor for Sports and Field magazine. The childless couple remained married until his death in 1991.
In the 1960s, CBS hired Monty to direct the pilot of the daytime drama "The Secret Storm" (1954-74). Finding a home on daytime television, Monty would go on to direct the 1968 scenes in which the aged Joan Crawford infamously stepped in for her ill and twenty-something daughter Christina.
Although fast coming a daytime TV veteran, Monty branched out to primetime occasionally, directing the TV movies "Screaming Skull" (1973) and "Sorority Kill" (1974) for ABC.
In a now legendary move, ABC hired Monty to salvage the low-rated "General Hospital" in 1978. Together with head writer Douglas Marland and, later, top scribe Pat Falken Smith, Monty - who was influenced by directors Alfred Hitchcock and Frank Capra - performed emergency surgery on the ratings-plagued soap, quickly sending it to the top of the Nielsen heap. Monty's quickened pace and young love storylines - to say nothing of overseas James Bond-esque adventures - were soon being copied by other soaps operas. But none did it as well as "GH."
In an unheard of move at that time, People and Newsweek magazines devoted cover stories to "General Hospital" and its sexy stars, Luke Spencer (Anthony Geary) and Laura Baldwin (Genie Francis). A controversial storyline occurred under Monty's reign when the anti-hero Luke raped Laura on the floor of a disco in 1979. The topic was so hotly disputed through the years, that Monty would decades later be forced to defend the relationship which arouse post-rape, by arguing to Us magazine in 1987 that the rape was actually a "seduction." Regardless of the status of the scene in question, about 30 million viewers tuned in to watch the wedding of the legendary super-couple in November, 1981 - a much heralded TV event which was attended by guest star (and major "GH" fan) Elizabeth Taylor, who appeared as the villainess Helena Cassadine for a handful of episodes.
Monty won two Daytime Emmys for producing "GH" - one in 1981; the other in 1984. She left the show in 1987, but returned to helm the series - "her baby" - in 1990. Alas, Monty's second tenure was not as successful. She left the show in 1992 before "GH" enjoyed yet another resurgence as the most popular daytime drama on television in the mid-'90s - following such characters as Sonny Corinthos, Brenda Barrett and Jasper Jax.
Next, Monty produced a series of television movies, including Lifetime TV's "Remember Me" (1995.) She and her sister Norma, a former head writer of "GH," retired to Rumson, CA, where they donated their expertise to Monmouth University's communications program.
Monty passed away from cancer at her home in Rancho Mirage, California on March 29, 2006. Several past and current cast members from "General Hospital" attended Monty's memorial service. Fellow director Susan Flannery of "The Bold and the Beautiful" paid tribute to the late Monty at the 2006 Creative Arts Daytime Emmys ceremonies in Hollywood in May of 2006.
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