The 40 years between 1970 and 2011 when 'All My Children' was on the air, the program had gone up against other daytime dramas such as 'The Young and the Restless', 'Days of our Lives' and 'The Bold And The Beautiful'. Normally shown at midday, 'All My Children' at one time was the 2nd most popular soap opera on American television attracting an audience of up to 15 million viewers each day including college students and young males. 

"'My' (in 'All My Children') referred to the Deity – no matter who She is," Agnes Nixon revealed. "The funny thing is when this (the story projections) was turned in to ABC, one of the executives there called me and said, 'What part of the Bible is that from?' He meant the Bible bible. So I said it was the Gospel According to Saint Agnes." 

The popularity of daytime soap operas inspired such prime time dramas as 'Knots Landing' and 'Dynasty'. However Agnes Nixon reasoned, "None of us can take credit for 'discovering' the form. The serial form is very popular and very old. Before television it was on radio. And before that there were Dickens' serials. 'Make them laugh, make them cry, make them wait.' It's always been that simple." 

Harding Lemay of 'Another World' made the point, "Art comes from life. Nothing you can write about is as insane as the real. Look what happened to Princess Diana. Who could have written that? People need to project themselves into somebody else. We cannot contain ourselves in the envelope nature gave us. We try to get into somebody else's consciousness. We do it through fiction, plays, television, talk shows. 

"That is why in a way the whole phenomenon of Princess Di is interesting to me. All these people who are mourning her quite genuinely are not mourning the real Princess Di. They didn't know her. They are mourning some image that she and the press and others created for them as they mourned Elvis, John Lennon or Marilyn Monroe. They become fictional in a way." Harding Lemay believed good drama required that "generational thing. Take Hamlet. If you cut out the generational thing, you don't have a play. You have Hamlet and his buddies." 

In interviews with Associated Press, the 'Boston Globe' and 'Chicago Sun', Agnes Nixon explained, "Just as all entertainment has gotten more liberal and outspoken, so has soap opera. But within the form we can educate; education can be entertainment. 'All My Children' is known for doing contemporary stories of a sociological nature. We try to enlighten the public; we try to remove prejudice. The aim of the show is to make people more aware. A soap opera can deal with these things in a way that isn’t a turn-off.

"The ostriches among the viewers will turn off the American Cancer Society blurb or a documentary because it frightens them. But if (the characters) Bert Bauer or Ruth Martin have something and go to the doctor, they understand it. It’s like their sister or a dear friend." As a patient at the Wilmer Eye Clinic at Johns Hopkins Hospital, Agnes Nixon discovered that the potentially blinding disease diabetic retinopathy which affected diabetics could be cured in roughly 85% of the cases if detected in time.

"That fact sort of cooked in my brain for a while," Agnes recalled. "I knew we wanted to bring in a new story, so I thought, why not give (the character) Nina diabetes and do a retinopathy story? Soaps are detailed, focused studies of people in conflict. Problems arise from people doing the right things for the wrong reasons. This is how everything in life gets mucked up. Soap opera characters are exactly like real people. Both are caught in webs of conflicts. You simply take life's crises and string them out in a story.

"It's the form of entertainment closest to real life. It keeps going on. Sure, we have a mandate to entertain. If we didn't entertain, we wouldn't get good ratings and we wouldn't stay on the air. But within the framework of that, we're able to disseminate information of a public service nature. I know we're helping. We're making people more aware, showing them how to get help and how to cope. I treat a subject in the context of offering a solution. You have to get it across in such a way that a viewer says, 'There but for the grace of God go I.' We try to stay very contemporary." 

Story ideas, Agnes Nixon said, "It just sneaks up on me or people suggest it. For instance, the child-abuse story we did about 5 years ago (around 1977) stemmed from a conversation with our psychiatrist consultant. She said to me some time ago, 'You know, you really should do child abuse.' And I said, 'Oh God, Mary, I just can't deal with that. These people are animals. 

"Then, when I heard myself say that, I thought, hmmm, that's what all those people out there are saying, too. I started doing the research and I found that 98% of child abusers were abused children themselves. I realized this was a vicious circle and there weren’t enough jails to hold them. They didn't need punitive measures, they needed help."

Agnes Nixon recounted, "My parents were divorced. They were separated when I was 3 months old. My father lives in Chicago. My mother, who always told me she wanted me to have all the things she didn't have, was pre-Women's Lib. She was a bookkeeper in an insurance company, one of 12 children. She was a very good Catholic. Very devout. 

"She never had a date from the day she turned 30, the day she separated from my father. That was the end of her love life. I have difficulty talking about my mother. She loved me a lot. She encouraged me a lot. She always wanted me to have all the things she didn’t have. But my mother couldn't be mother and father to me. He sent me to college. I never saw much of him. After he died, I learned that my father had not matured emotionally and was a very jealous man. 

"He suffered a great, great deal because of this. He had great, great personal problems. Emotional insecurity, great emotional insecurity was the crux of his problem. His parents were divorced. And he grew up believing that the people closest to him didn't love him, couldn't possibly love him. I learned that tragedy about him early on. And I never really could help him. We never talked about this together. My keenest disappointment? It was not having a better relationship with my father.

"I wanted to be an actress and went to Northwestern University but among my classmates were Charlton Heston, Cloris Leachman, Patricia Neal, Martha Hyer and Jean Hagen. I decided I'd better be a writer and took scriptwriting courses." In 1947, three days after graduated from Northwestern's school of speech, Agnes Nixon was offered a radio writing job. At the time, Agnes' father wanted her to go worked with him. He ran a manufacturing burial garments business. 

"The job offer blew my father's mind," Agnes Nixon continued. "He couldn't believe it either. I couldn't believe it either. But it became a crisis situation. Then and there I had a lot of difficulty having faith in myself. My father was telling me I didn't have writing ability. He told me that I had better come into his business with him. He told me it was for my own good. I considered the alternative to writing. Yes, I did. Carefully. 

"Well, the alternative was like being cast into darkness! Also, I knew I'd be under my father's didactic thumb. He was part-Irish, part-German – and his German sense of militaristic discipline took over strongly. I had a lot of drive but I had fears, too. Terrible fears. I had to succeed as a writer. I was totally irrational. I told myself that I had to make it, had to, because if I didn't I'd have to manufacture burial garments." 

In 1951, Agnes met Robert Nixon who ran a car-leasing firm in Bryn Mawr Pennsylvania. "I told him I never wanted to stop working. He said he realized that writing was an intrinsic part of me. I said I would not relinquish it. He said he'd support and help me, and he wasn't talking just about money. I said it would be hard work, hard work for both of us. He said he was up to it. 

"As it turned out, he did everything but birth and nurse the children. Family means a lot to him. His mother died when he was 7. His father died when he was 14. He wanted to be part of a real family, to get vicarious pleasure out of seeing our children have the closeness, the security, the presence that he didn’t have. When I was in school, I excelled. I felt I had to excel. I didn't want just to take up space. I felt it was wasteful. I had to use my potential to the maximum. I wanted my mother to be proud."

It was understood the character Palmer Cortlandt was inspired by Agnes Nixon's father. "For shorthand purposes, he is 'Citizen Kane', a man who is very unable to give of himself. His great insecurity deep inside (makes him) afraid to take his chances in the open marketplace where emotions are concerned. He is able to function fabulously as a businessman, but has never matured emotionally. 

"James Mitchell was Palmer Cortlandt – as soon as we saw him. He is so superb in what he does that many nuances come through that we weren't aware of in the beginning. It opened up new vistas. It's almost a mystical thing because many of the cast – in their interpretation of the part – suggest new ideas almost subliminally to us and the rest of the writers.

"But more often than not, (an actor) isn't exactly what one had in mind. So then, the character can change or one can change his mind and say this is something better." Of the character Erica Kane, Agnes Nixon outlined, "She is a very, very tragic young woman who was deserted by her father at a very vulnerable age and therefore has a very low self-esteem. Despite the havoc she wreaks in the lives of others, she actually suffers more herself than any of her victims. I think the audience understands that."

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