The Brighter Day

The Brighter Day
Created by Irna Phillips
Written by Sam Hall
Starring Mike Barton
Walter Brooke
Mona Bruns
Country of origin United States
Executive producer(s) Irna Phillips
Running time 25 minutes
Original network NBC Radio (19481956)
CBSTV (1954-1962)
Original release 1948 (Radio)/January 4, 1954 (1954-01-04) (TV) – September 28, 1962 (1962-09-28)

The Brighter Day is an American daytime soap opera which aired on CBS from January 4, 1954 to September 28, 1962. Originally created for NBC radio by Irna Phillips in 1948, the radio and television versions ran simultaneously from 19541956. Set in New Hope, Wisconsin, the series revolved around Reverend Richard Dennis and his four children, Althea, Patsy, Babby and Grayling.[1]

The Brighter Day was the first soap opera to air on network television with an explicitly religious theme. Another soap opera created by Phillips, The Guiding Light, initially had a religious theme as a radio show but dropped it by the time the series moved to television.


Three of the Dennis children, 1954. From left: Babby (Mary Linn Beller), Grayling (Hal Holbrook), and Patsy (Lois Nettleton).

The Brighter Day had its roots in the radio soap opera Joyce Jordan, M.D.. Jim Cox, in his book The Great Radio Soap Operas, wrote: "The Brighter Day premiered on the NBC network on October 11, 1948. But it was actually rolled out on another drama some time before that."[2] Dr. Jordan lived near the Dennis family's hometown of Three Rivers, and listeners of the Jordan program became acquainted with the Dennises in 1948. In a seamless transition, Cox wrote, "By the time Dr. Jordan said 'good-by' on her final broadcast on Friday, October 8, 1948, the fans were already acquainted with the family that would replace her. The following Monday listeners could easily connect with the new series growing out of the show they had been hearing for so long."[2] Smoothing the transition even more, The Brighter Day's announcer, sponsor, network and time slot were the same as those of Joyce Jordan, M.D..[2]

The original radio version took place in the town of Three Rivers, but in late 1953 the Dennis family was forced to move to New Hope as a result of a flood washing out Three Rivers. Later in the run, the Dennis family moved to Columbus, established as a college town. There were five children in the radio version, but the oldest daughter, Liz (played from 19491954 by actress Margaret Draper), married and left the family as the show began on television. Also living with Reverend Dennis was his widowed sister, Emily Potter.

The Brighter Day had mid-range Nielsen ratings for most of its run. During the 1950s, it was in the middle of the pack typically landing between 5th and 7th place over all and in the middle of all the CBS soaps. The show's best season was 19551956, when it did not have any competition from ABC and weak offerings from NBC.

With the premiere of American Bandstand in 1957 and Bandstand's surge in popularity a year later, the CBS strip of The Verdict is Yours at 3:30, The Brighter Day at 4:00, The Secret Storm at 4:15 and The Edge of Night at 4:30 all took a hit of about one rating point. Though Storm and Edge rebounded, The Brighter Day and its lead-in The Verdict Is Yours did not. By the 196061 season, both shows were holding their own, but had still taken a ratings hit.

In Summer 1961, Procter & Gamble gave up production of the show to CBS and moved production of the series from New York City to Los Angeles in an effort to save money. Key characters and stories were dropped when their actors did not wish to relocate. In the Summer of 1962, with The Secret Storm and The Edge of Night proving formidable against American Bandstand, CBS decided to expand The Secret Storm, creating a powerful hour-long soap block to counterprogram against American Bandstand. This decision had both The Brighter Day and The Verdict is Yours moving from their mid/late afternoon slots to mid/late morning. The timeslot change was the final nail in the coffin, as both series lost almost half their audience, with The Brighter Day falling from a 6.9 to 3.7. Mid-late morning had never been successful for serials, and this instance was no different.

In August 1962, the show made history by creating the first daytime television contract role for an African American. The actor, Rex Ingram, appeared as an ordained minister named Victor Graham beginning on September 17, but had no time to make much of an impact, as the show was cancelled two weeks later on September 28.[3]

The network announced that the show would be cancelled with less than two weeks before the final episode aired. In the final episode, actor Paul Langton addressed the viewers in character as Uncle Walter, wrapping up the storylines and explaining how the characters would resolve their problems. Langton ended the show with a final farewell: "The microphone can't pick up their voices and soon the picture will fade. If on occasion you think of us, we hope your memory will be a pleasant one."[4]

Among the actors who appeared on the series, the most famous alumni are Hal Holbrook (Grayling Dennis), Lois Nettleton (Patsy Dennis Hamilton), and Patty Duke (Ellen Williams Dennis).

See also


  1. The Brighter Day (PDF). TV-Radio Mirror. August 1954. pp. 38–39. Retrieved 30 January 2012. (PDF)
  2. 1 2 3 Cox, Jim (1999). The Great Radio Soap Operas. McFarland. p. 40. ISBN 9780786438655. Retrieved 19 September 2016.
  4. Copeland, Mary Ann (1991). Soap Opera History. Lincolnwood, Illinois: Publications International, Ltd. p. 48. ISBN 0-88176-933-9.
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