Marland Monday: Your Honor, Ross Marler is here…

Jennifer Kathleen Gibbons
5 min readMay 3, 2022

I know I posted my MM for today, but I just found out a treasured actor in the Guiding Light cohort died. He was a man who you wanted in your corner, although it didn’t start out that way. Marland helped the character become more two-dimensional. As the years went on, he became the candle on the water, the lighthouse that was always there on the show.

Ross Marler has brown hair, wearing a suit and tie, standing against an orange background.
Ross when he first appeared on the show, 1979

When Ross Marler came to Springfield, no parades awaited him. He was aiding an enemy. He was Roger Thorpe’s lawyer, defending Roger on charges of marital rape. Let’s get this straight: Roger did it. He raped his wife Holly. Holly stood up straight, then decided to charge him with rape. Enter Ross Marler. He had family ties-his brother Justin(Thomas O’Rourke) was a doctor at Cedars. He wanted a career in politics and would stop at nothing to get it.

When Marland came in 1980, he gave Marler an ex. Vanessa Chamberlain (Maeve Kinkead) looked like a cat who drank the finest cream. The two dated when they were very young. Soon they were at it again, when Vanessa came to his place wearing a mink coat and that was it. They were off and on, but he also had feelings for Amanda (Kathleen Cullen) and Evie (Janet Grey)

Vanessa is definitely up to something.

But his true love was the law. He could make a witness confess or help them state their case. He was ruthless. But that changed in 1981 when Carrie Todd (Jane Elliot) came to town. Carrie loved to jog, gardened, and was interested in living a healthy lifestyle. She wasn’t Vanessa in the fur coat. But she brought out the best in Ross. Even when it turned out she had a big past (time in a mental institution, giving up a baby for adoption, and oh, killing two people by accident) he still loved her, and they married on Valentine’s Day, 1982.

Carrie and Ross

Marland was setting it up for a big story: Carrie had multiple personalities. I don’t want to write much here about it- am planning on writing about the storyline this summer. Why? The storyline’s abrupt ending, and Jane Elliot’s firing, was when Marland brushed himself off, said “nice knowing you” and left Guiding Light.

But Ross stayed. He dated Trish Lewis (Rebecca Hollen) and was district attorney, then president of Spaulding Enterprises. But in 1984, he was asked to prosecute Bradley Raines (James Rehborn) Beth Raines’ stepfather who had raped her four months before. The defense lawyer (AC Weary) even looked like Ross when he first came on the show with glasses. While Bradley was testifying, he admitted he wanted to protect Beth from Phillip Spaulding (Grant Aleksander) because his own mother fell in love with a rich man and the rich man dumped her. Ross looked at Bradley. You could hear his mind turning.

When Ross started to cross-examine Bradley, he started slowly. What a great thing it was, Ross told him, to marry a Vietnam war widow (Lillian, Beth’s mom) who had a toddler. He then asked why he and Lillian didn’t have children of their own. Bradley said Beth was enough. Then Ross went further. Where did Bradley grow up? A small town near Springfield. What did his father do for a living? A Sheriff. What happened to his mother? She fell in love with a rich man, but when he dumped her she tried to get her children back. They refused. So he admired his father, that’s why he became a security guard? Yes. Everyone in town respected his father. This went on and on until Bradley admitted every night, that his father took his belt and hit Bradley with a belt, even if he didn’t deserve it. The sheriff did the same with Bradley’s siblings as well. It went on until Bradley was eighteen and left home. Finally, Bradley went into a fugue-like state, sobbing.

Ross then gently said: “You raped Beth, didn’t you?”

Bradley looked at him. “I didn’t mean to, Daddy! Honest, I didn’t!”

“But Bradley, you did it.”

That was when Bradley looked up, then said “Yes.”

The whole scene was so well written, and the acting. It was as if the two men were two champion fighters sparring slowly but surely. Ross is waiting to give the big punch, waiting to blindside Bradley. I wish I could find it online but no luck.

For years, Ross was a supporting character. Until 1992, when he received a juicy storyline: He was in a love triangle. With Holly (they had a brief relationship in 1990) then he fell in love with Blake (Sherry Stringfield, then Liz Keifer) What made it especially ironic was it blossomed in 1992 when Woody Allen declared the heart wants what the heart wants, and declared his love for Soon-Yi Previn, his girlfriend Mia Farrow’s daughter. Talk about life intimating art. On Election Day 1992, Ross was waiting to hear if he was going to be District Attorney again. But he had a dream. Below is one of my favorite episodes of the show.

VerDorn became the father figure, the guiding in Guiding Light. Every Christmas, the cast and their families would come together around a big Christmas tree. He would smile at the camera then say “From our family to yours, happy holidays from Guiding Light!”

In 2005, due to a terrible decision by a producer, VerDorn was let go. Ross was presumed dead in a plane crash. It was such a stupid stupid decision. But One Life to Live needed a new Clint Buchanan, so VerDorn went over there. Both shows were canceled years later. He always showed up to fan events.

So when I heard he died Monday, I thought really? I was still feeling emotional because of Naomi Judd. That’s the thing about getting older: the people you loved on big screens, little screens, die. You are left with YouTube clips and the fact that for years, the character the performer played felt like family.

From all of to Mr. VerDorn: Thank you for being part of Guiding Light’s family.

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