Many episodes of this show and other daytime TV shows are believed to be lost forever. It was live until the 1960s, and many prior episodes exist as kinescopes (videotape was not invented until 1956). Procter and Gamble Productions did not begin archiving its shows until the late 1970s, believing there was no use for them after their initial airing. The original tapes were re-used.
Guiding Light was the longest-running drama series in history. It began on radio, as "The Guiding Light", on January 25, 1937, and originally revolved around Rev. Dr. John Ruthledge (played by Arthur Peterson) and his congregation. CBS canceled it in 1939, 1941, 1942, 1944, and 1946. Each time, letter-writing campaigns led to the show's return. It was on radio and television from June 30, 1952 to June 30, 1956; the actors had to perform scripts twice a day. Its first color broadcast was September 11, 1967. The first 30 minute broadcast was September 9, 1968. The first hour-long broadcast was June 16, 1975. The final episode aired September 18, 2009.
When long-time cast member Charita Bauer died in 1985, it took a year of persistent audience demands to write an off-screen death for her character Bert, in 1986. When Michael Zaslow left after developing ALS, the audience did not like the actor who was cast as his replacement. Roger Thorpe was written off in 1997, but audience demands persisted for a proper tribute, especially after Zaslow's well-publicized death in 1998. Roger Thorpe was finally killed off in 2005, off-screen. Soap legend Mary Stuart, who joined the show in 1996, died in 2002. In 2006, her character, Meta Bauer, was sent on a vacation to Nova Scotia.
In 1989, Michael Zaslow, who was killed off as Roger Thorpe in 1980, was asked to return to the show and play Alan Spaulding after Christopher Bernau died. Zaslow declined, saying he was too identified with the role of Roger. Producers wanted Zaslow back so badly they brought Roger back from the dead.
From 1937 to 1946, the show was set in Five Points, IL, a fictional suburb of Chicago. From 1947 to 1965, it was set in Selby Flats, CA, a fictional suburb of Los Angeles. The action moved to the fictional Springfield, Illinois in 1966.
After Joan Collins joined the show, she told the press that the show planned to bring back the long-absent Roger Thorpe to do battle with her character Alexandra, Roger's ex-wife. She slyly proclaimed "You won't believe who they hired to play him." Nothing else was ever heard of it.
In the mid-1980s, Springfield dance club Wired For Sound hosted several real-life bands doing guest appearances on the show. One guest band, the B-52s, performed two songs and did offstage cameos with cast members throughout the hour-long episode.
In 2002, Joan Collins had a well-publicized stint as Alexandra Spaulding, the third actress to play the role. She was soon replaced by Marj Dusay, the second actress to play Alex after the first, Beverlee McKinsey, played her for seven years. Collins wanted to schedule her filming around her book promotion tour, but producers wanted Collins full-time. Alexis Carrington, the Dynasty (1981) character that made her famous, was modeled after Iris Carrington, the character that made Beverlee McKinsey famous.
Head writer Doug Marland originally planned to have the character Jackie Marler shot in cold blood by her schizophrenic sister-in-law Carrie Marler. When Jane Elliot was fired, Marland killed Jackie off in a plane crash, and had to scrap a long-term murder trial in which Carrie's split personalities would be revealed on the stand. A few years later, when Marland was writing for As the World Turns (1956), he got to adapt the Carrie story into the saga of Royce Keller, the man with the split personalities who went on trial for killing his sister, Neal.
Guiding Light was the first broadcast show in US history to air on 3 networks. It started on NBC radio on 1937. NBC split in 2 in 1946, and the show was broadcast on NBC Blue, which became ABC, and NBC Red. CBS picked up the show in 1947.
According to the memoir of Agnes Nixon, a long-time head-writer for the series, in the early-1960s, she wrote a story-line featuring the character of Bert Bauer, portrayed by Charita Bauer, surrounding early detection of uterine cancer with a Pap test after she lost a friend to cancer. Executives of the show were outraged, but Nixon stood her ground. She was eventually granted permission to write the story-line, but was forbidden from using the words cancer, uterus or hysterectomy in her scripts. The story, one the first involving cancer on television, resonated with millions of women, who, after watching the show, scheduled Pap tests.