Thursday, May 8, 2008

Beverlee McKinsey


TV Guide called her the best actress in the history of daytime television, and I would agree.

Beverlee McKinsey began her career on the stage. On Broadway, she understudied the leading lady in Neil Simon's Barefoot in the Park, and frequently shared the stage with a young Robert Redford. She created the role of Honey in the original London production of Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, appearing opposite acting guru Uta Hagen.

But she found her lasting fame in daytime television. She spent decades working in soaps, beginning with Love is a Many Splendored Thing, and ending with a short gig on General Hospital, but she is surely best remembered for the creation of two iconic roles: Another World's Iris Carrington and Guiding Light's Alexandra Spaulding.

She made a bit of history in both roles.

Along with Shakespearean actor Douglass Watson, and daytime diva Victoria Wyndham, McKinsey created a fascinating triangle which dominated Another World for nearly a decade. She brought great depth to the role of Iris, the society maven with severe daddy issues.

Her performance became so popular that she was spun off into her own soap, Texas, which holds the distinction of being the first daytime drama to premiere as a one-hour program. More history was made here, as McKinsey was billed in the opening credits, the only soap performer ever to be so honored.

Several years after leaving Texas, McKinsey joined Guiding Light in a role which had been created specifically for her, Alexandra Spaulding. Again she played a high-society sophisticate. Her velvety vocal quality and clear, uncluttered acting style allowed her to move seamlessly from icy coldness to heartrending despair, and she became one of the leading ladies of the soap. She spent almost a decade on Guiding Light, and made history there when, after her repeated complaints about her long hours and sub-standard storylines were ignored by the producers, she exercised an obscure clause in her contract and bolted from the show. She moved into a reclusive semi-retirement, surfacing only for the occasional short-term engagement.

In her later years she underwent a kidney transplant, the long-term complications from which she ultimately died last week. She is survived by her son, Scott, currently on the directing team of General Hospital.

During her years on Another World, McKinsey received four consecutive Emmy nominations, losing all of them. Her work appeared effortless, so more frenzied, eccentric performers such as Judith Light went home with statuettes which were rightfully earned by McKinsey.

Expect some kind of memorial tribute at this year's Daytime Emmy Awards Show June 20.