| The Secret Storm
title card from 1960.
The Secret Storm was a soap opera which aired on CBS from February 1, 1954 to February 8, 1974. In a controversial move, CBS brass ended the serial just one week after its twentieth anniversary. 5195 episodes of the show were aired. The Secret Storm was created by Roy Winsor, the man responsible for the long-running soaps Search for Tomorrow and Love of Life. Gloria Monty of General Hospital fame was a longtime director of the series.
At the soap's center was the Ames family, a prominent clan in the fictional Northeastern town of Woodbridge. The Ames family consisted of Peter, his wife Ellen, and their three children: Susan, Jerry and Amy. The mother Ellen was killed off in the first episode and subsequent stories focused on the widower Peter raising his three children.
Thirty years after the show's cancellation, the show is most famous for, arguably, the most preposterous case of stunt casting in soap history. When Christina Crawford suddenly fell ill with an ovarian cyst, her adoptive mother, Joan Crawford, filled in for her, even though she was thirty years older than the character. She was a major embarrassment to Christina as it was evident that she was drunk on the live episode transmission. Christina's character was written out soon after. Christina's illness, her tenure on the soap and her battles with her mother are well chronicled in her book Mommie Dearest, a tell all book of her life with her famous mother. While Christina does not draw an explicit parallel, she implies that her character, a bitchy persona named Joan, is somewhat based on the stories she told of her mother.
The show, originally fifteen minutes in length, expanded to thirty minutes an episode in 1962. The main reason for the show's demise was CBS's choice to buy the show from the original sponsor/producer, American Home Products, in 1969.The show suffered with numerous changes in Head Writers and Producers that added to the eventual cancellation.
The series had three distinctive opening visuals. The first was a shot of a tree with windblown branches. The second was a shortlived shot of a town with shots of people walking about similar to Peyton Place. The third, perhaps the most remembered one, had shots of the surf at high tide, crashing against the rocks in the opening titles similar to that of Dark Shadows.
An interesting fact to note is the character of Amy was allowed to age in real time and not to be subjected to rapid aging as most soaps do. Jada Rowland played the character, minus a few breaks, for the length of the show's run.
When the show was canceled abruptly in 1974, CBS executives replaced the show in its timeslot with Tattletales, a game show hosted by Bert Convy. It would prove to be lucrative for the network and it ran for many years.
The Secret Storm fan site (http://www.angelfire.com/80s/cultsoaps/secretma.htm)