Marland Monday: Think of Luke and Laugh, Don’t Cry

Jennifer Kathleen Gibbons
6 min readJan 17, 2022

(FYI: This MM mentions sexual assault)

Happy Martin Luthern King Day! It’s also Monday and we know what that means! One, two, three…

Marland Monday!

Douglas Marland wearing a white dress shirt, black jacket and pants with similarly dressed gentleman at a table. There’s also a woman wearing an evening gown with her hair pinned up.
DM appearing as Gerald Croft in An Inspector Calls, 1965. Apologies for the quality; old newspaper!

Every Monday I look back at the career of Douglas Marland, one of the best writers of the soap opera genre. Last week we looked back when one of his most popular characters died in 1993. Today we look back at another popular character Marland created who also recently died (Or “died” it is a soap) For a while back in 1979–1983, he was probably one of the most popular characters in the soap opera genre. A case could be made he was also incredibly contraversial. But I’m jumping ahead.

Let’s go back to the late seventies,shall we? Ethel Merman had a disco album (if you think I’m making this up, look at the clip below) Jimmy Carter was president, and General Hospital was now incredibly popular, thanks to Marland’s head writing and Gloria Monty whipping the show into shape.

The Merm, ladies and germs!
Luke Spencer has brown hair wearing a blue shirt and a brown jacket.
Our first glimpse of Luke Spencer

Marland had introduced Bobbie Spencer (Jackie Zeman) a new nurse working at-where else? General Hospital. Bobbie tried everything to break up Scotty (Kin Shriner) and Laura (Genie Francis) Yes, this sounds like the Nola/Kelly/Morgan storyline. But Bobbie had an ally. Her brother Luke, who was a bit shady. They had to get someone who could bring layers to the part. But who?

When Anthony Geary met Gloria Monty, he told her “I hate soap operas.” “Honey, so do I,” she responded. “You and I are going to change that.” (Robert LaGuardia, Soap World)

And they did, for better and for worse.

Geary was only supposed to be on GH for thirteen weeks. The plan was he was going to help Bobbie break up Laura and Scotty. He would take the same classes as Laura and set it up from there. But then Luke did a very soap operaish thing: He fell for Laura. He grew tired of Bobbie’s constantly scheming against Laura and Scotty, especially after Laura had a car accident due to Bobbie’s machinations. Marland decided to marry Laura and Scotty then let them have a year of happiness. He wanted to “give Genie Ann (his nickname for Francis) some breathing room.” Francis was only seventeen at the time when she became famous on General Hospital. Odds were it was overwhelming, so Marland’s wanting to give Francis breathing room made sense.

Genie Francis has long blonde hair and looks troubled.
Laura, the object of Luke’s obsession in 1979 played by Genie Francis

Gloria Monty said no, this was a soap opera. Genie Francis was incredibly popular. The show had to take advantage of that.I can see both sides here: On the business side, Monty was right. This was a soap opera. They had to take advantage the show was number one and was hot. Marland was right because he wanted to make sure Francis was overwhelmed by it all. If a compromise could’ve been reached, maybe it would’ve worked out.

But the final straw came when Monty ordered Marland to move to Los Angeles. It didn’t make any sense he was across the country. She needed him in LA. Again, he said no. He had a beautiful house in Connecticut and no way was he going to give it up. Monty then told him (not the exact words) don’t let the door hit you on the way out. They parted ways in July, 1979. Pat Falken Smith (whow as headwriter for General Hospital) lived in LA and boom, she became headwriter. PFS then wrote in a storyline that simply wouldn’t go today.

Luke and Laura-his brown hair is now permed and wearing a beige shirt. She has long blonde wavy hair. They’re in a barn with hay in the background.
Luke and Laura, the It Couple of 1980

At first it seemed innocent: Laura working at the disco where Luke worked. Of course! Disco! They can shake their money makers! Attend aerobics classes taught by Richard Simmons! (Yes, Richard Simmons was on GH. Don’t believe me? Take a look at the clip below)

But then it became even darker. One fall night Luke (who by then had his trademark perm) confessed his love to Laura at the disco. He also told her he was dying. They started dancing to “Rise” by Herb Albert. As they danced, Laura begged him to let her go. He didn’t. They sank to the floor, her saying no. The music played on. The camera then showed the disco lights, the music playing in the background. We next see Luke with an open shirt, trying to help Laura up. Her clothes have been torn. She backed away from him. When the phone rang, Laura took off while Luke answered it. He then realizes what he did and is horrified. We see Laura in a park, crying.

I’m not going to show the clip of what happened. You can find it on YouTube under “Luke Laura campus disco.” But I’ll just admit it: I never got the fact that months later, they became a supercouple while they were on the run from a mobster. You’re not supposed to fall in love with the guy who raped you. You’re supposed to be repulsed, angered by him. He hurt you beyond belief. Geary was smart in how he played Luke though. He showed how the character tried to atone for what he did. Spencer was quoted in The Encyclopedia of Daytime Television saying this about the rape: “…from that point on, we played [Luke’s] regret and his total devastation. That’s a story nobody wants to tell — that the rapist’s life is as devastated as the person he rapes. His great love and regret and guilt are what caught the audience so off guard.” It was decided that Luke was the antihero. He wasn’t a man with the white hat, but a hat of gray.

After overcoming problems like the mobster and stopping Mikkos Cassidine evil plot to take over the world with his ice machine (don’t ask. Just don’t ask) They decided to get married. The wedding was big. Huge. Fifteen million people watched the wedding both days. People threw parties and served wedding cake. Mikkos’ widow crashed the wedding. Who played her? Elizabeth Taylor. She cursed their marriage. Sure enough, Laura disappeared into the Port Charles fog (Again, don’t ask) when Francis left the show in 1982.

Now if I had been at the wedding, I would’ve stood up and said “He raped her. Doesn’t anyone have a problem with this? Is it just me? My God, what’s the mater with you people?” They would’ve escorted me away like they did when Scotty crashed the wedding. To be fair, the show addressed what happened in 1998, when their son Lucky (Jonathan Jackson) found out and confronted them both. Oh yeah, Laura didn’t die, but we knew that. They were on and off the show for years. I’m not even going to begin discussing Luke and Laura’s breakup. All I could say is: “It’s about time!” He then married Tracy Quatermaine as a business arrangement but then they fell in love.

Anthony Geary retired from the show in 2015. The actor always maintained he never condoned Luke’s actions. He clearly showed that Luke was damaged. The last months he was there showed how damaged he was when it was revealed he accidentally caused his mother’s death (Laura Wright playing Lena Spencer in flashback) then killed his father. He went to Europe. His ex wife Tracy ran into him in Amsterdam. It was Tracy who came to Laura on New Year’s Day and told her Luke was gone. Is he gone or “gone?” Who knows?

We do know this: Marland went on to write for Guiding Light, GH’s competition. When he left in 1982, guess who took his place? Pat Falken Smith. I’m not making this up. It was still clear he harbored ill feelings towards Monty when he told columnist Gary Deeb: “I knew Pat had suffered through many of the same things I did at the hands of Gloria Monty — and I wish you’d quote me on that.”

Ouch. Yet when Marland and Monty were working together, they (and Geary) helped create a character that forty-three years later, we’re still discussing. Not bad since two of them hated soap operas.

Tune in next week…