It is immediately after the Summer Olympics of 1984 that a daytime soap-opera of a new kind appears on NBC in the United States. Santa Barbara is officially born on screen on Monday, July 30th 1984.
Created by Bridget and Jerome Dobson, the couple of writers at the origin of the program, the show gets noticed at once by its innovative aspect: a steady rhythm, a light tone, permanent humor… The writing of the scenarios as the dialogues reach a level of requirement still never seen in the soap-operas. The storylines are linked and are ceaselessly renewed, the outdoor shootings are legion, and numerous comedy scenes clash for this type of program.
From 1984, some main characters immediately mark the televiewers: Mason Capwell (Lane Davies), the black sheep of the family, seems as he just came from a Shakespeare’s play; Augusta Lockridge (Louise Sorel) frightens as much as she fascinates; Santana Andrade (Ava Lazar) overwhelms by her fragility and her will to find her son… And especially, a first emblematic couple immediately meets its target: Kelly Capwell (Robin Wright) and Joe Perkins (Dane Witherspoon), the young heiress and the worker’s son unjustly accused of murder.
But, in spite of very strong storylines, the ratings do not follow. In November 1984, an earthquake occurs to question a good number of stories and to review the situation of every character of the show. In the end, few main characters disappear, but the storylines tighten around both Capwell and Lockridge families on the four initially present.
At the beginning of 1985, the storyline of the Carnation Killer leads to the disappearance of two very important characters related to Kelly Capwell: Peter Flint (Stephen Meadows) and especially Joe Perkins, who had already had to suffer from a change of interpreter (from Dane Witherspoon to Mark Arnold).
Gina DeMott (Linda Gibboney) takes off, becoming the queen of machinations and blackmail. 1985 is also the year when the thread-driver storyline from the first year: Channing Capwell Junior’s murder is finally solved. In parallel, a new couple takes over from Kelly and Joe, and this is for the remainder of the show: Eden Capwell and Cruz Castillo (Marcy Walker and A Martinez) from then on become the iconic figures of the program, between passionate love, separations and repeated reunions.
The comedy is always there, but the group of young actors customary of the genre is dissolved: Danny Andrade (Rupert Ravens), Jade Perkins (Melissa Reeves) then Laken Lockridge (Julie Ronnie) disappear one after the other, leaving the young Ted Capwell (Todd Mckee) darker and more grown-up storylines, as the accusation of rape on Christie DuVall (Tricia Cast). Some storylines are sometimes too fast (the Christie DuVall affair, from the rape to the trial, then to the final outcome, spreads out only over two months), and a large number of characters appear then disappear, sometimes too fast (Elizabeth Peale, Jackie Parks). So, at the end of 1985, there is nothing left of the Perkins, and the Andrades are represented by only two of their original members.
Many of the best storylines of the show are gathered in 1986 and delight the fans: the discovery of the real identity of Brick Wallace (Richard Eden), the killing frenzy of Kirk Cranston (Joseph Bottoms), the affair of the videotape acquitting Kelly of Dylan Hartley’s death, Kelly descent into madness that gives Robin Wright a lot of Emmy material… We have the sweet Mary DuVall (Harley Jane Kozak), whose unexpected death leaves the fans as orphans, and Keith Timmons (Justin Deas), the shady and eccentric district attorney.
Sophia (Judith McConnell) and CC (Jed Allan) finally form as a real couple, even if Gina (now played by Robin Mattson) watches to make them separate. The character of Gina continues its ascent, whereas Eden and Cruz, who have just overcome the last obstacles to their reunion (Kirk and Santana), see the arrival of a new schemer named Victoria Lane (Kristen Meadows). On the other side, the show suffers from the departure of Louise Sorel, which sees the Lockridge family reduced to its chieftain, Lionel (Nicolas Coster).
1987 marks the beginning of a new couple which, in spite of ups and downs, is going to pursue its development till the end of the show: Julia Wainwright (Nancy Lee Grahn) and Mason Capwell.
But the big storyline which is going to stand out this year is the one surrounding Elena Nikolas (Sherilyn Wolter), who alternately kidnaps Eden and Mason and makes them pass as dead, attempts to kill Kelly several times, tries to seduce Cruz and commits suicide by accusing him of her death.
Another great couple is born: Kelly (Robin Wright) and Jeffrey Conrad (Ross Kettle). They begin 1987 with a big and funny adventure from Europe to Santa Barbara and finish the year with a luxurious, explosive and action packed wedding.
1987 is also the year when the Capwell family takes control of the storylines. Lockridges and Andrades disappear from the show.
Behind the scenes, things begin to change. Gradually, the Dobsons are pushed towards an exit by New World Productions which takes control of the show alone. At the head of the production and the scripts at the end of year is Jill Farren Phelps, who is going to lead Santa Barbara towards a more classic road.
In 1988, the show suffers from the strike of the American writers, preventing the new characters from delivering all their potential. It is in particular Pamela Conrad (Marj Dusay) who pays the price for it.
The first big storyline of the year, an affair of espionage leading Eden and Cruz in Mexico, is short of credibility and seems too ambitious for a soap-opera. Others that almost fail follow: the manhunt after Cruz by a mad scientist, Gina indoctrinated by a sect…
But the writers put things right when, on April 1st, they offer to the televiewers the scene they were waiting for three years: the wedding of Eden and Cruz. If new faces arrive (Andrea played by Ally Walker, the Donnelly family, Celeste by Signy Coleman), Santa Barbara loses this year one underrated and very likeable character, Hayley (Stacy Edwards), Gina’s niece.
The show launches a shocking storyline: the rape of its heroine, Eden Capwell Castillo. The direction is so realistic and the act is shown in such raw violence that the fans share their emotion to the direction of NBC. Furthermore, the discovery that the rapist turns out to be Eden’s gynecologist, Zack Kelton (Leigh McCloskey), is only increasing the malaise among the televiewers.
At the Daytime Emmy awards, Santa Barbara is crowned for the first time the best drama of the year. But on the other side of the coin is the departure of Justin Deas and especially of Robin Wright, replaced in her role by Kimberly McArthur a former playmate who is considered one of the worst recasts of Santa Barbara (Eileen Davidson as Kelly number 4 in 1991 is another huge failure).
After Robin Wright, 1989 sees the departure of two other symbolic actors: Lane Davies (Mason) and Todd McKee (Ted). One is replaced in his role, the other is not. To boost the always sluggish ratings, numerous new characters make their entrance within a few weeks: the DiNapoli sisters, the couple Laura and Ethan Asher, Megan Richardson and her son Greg… But little are going to survive beyond the year. At the ceremony of the Daytime Emmy awards, Santa Barbara is again named drama of the year.
In 1990, because of decreasing ratings, Jill Farren Phelps is dismissed and replaced by John Conboy, who worked among others on the soaps The Young and the Restless and Capitol. His first decision is to re-form the Lockridge clan which had completely disappeared years after years since 1985. Here are thus again Augusta, Lionel and new Laken (Shell Danielson) and Minx (Janis Paige). Other founding acts to leave his print: he rebuilds the set of the imposing and emblematic Capwell villa. New characters are integrated (Stephen Slade, Derek Griffin, Amado Gonzalez, the Richards family), but none succeed in really making an impact.
At the Daytime Emmy, Santa Barbara goes out still victorious of the ceremony as the best show.
After a long two years trial with New World Productions, the Dobson couple is reinstated at the beginning of 1991 as writers. Marcy Walker leaves definitively in July.
Paul Rauch is named the new executive producer in June and gradually takes the Dobsons’ place. He launches into a complete reorganization of the show. Carrington Garland, who was finally a solid replacement of Robin Wright, is dismissed and replaced by Eileen Davidson in the role of Kelly. The televiewers, who have just lost Eden, have the feeling of having also lost Kelly. Many new faces come to embody characters who had disappeared over the years (Ted, Warren, Santana, Lily Blake…). A new set, a restaurant The Oasis, occupies most of the scenes, which get lost in endless dialogues to the detriment of the progress of the action.
In 1992, the Dobsons are once more fired from the team and the end of the show is announced for July. At the last moment, six months of the last chance are given to Pam K. Long, head writer, to try to save the show. That is her who creates the characters of the Walker family and centers the story around the new Warren Lockridge, at the expense of the Capwells.
In front of the desolation caused by the love-story between his character of Cruz and his sister-in-law Kelly, A Martinez prefers to leave the ship in July, before the unavoidable catastrophe.
And that is how Santa Barbara definitively stops on Friday January 15, 1993, after 2137 episodes.
ROBIN WRIGHT AS KELLY CAPWELL (1984-1988)
Santa Barbara is an American soap opera which ran on NBC for 2137 episodes from July 30, 1984 to January 15, 1993.
Robin Wright played the role of Kelly Capwell from 30 July 1984 (Episode 1) to 23 June 1988 (Episode 982).
EPISODES 001-186 (July 30, 1984 to April 18, 1985)
Of an assertive but fragile personality, Kelly Capwell (Robin Wright) was for a long time for the televiewer the little Capwell girl for whom he could only be moved. Undecided and doubtless too much spoiled, she will have only constantly repeated the same pattern in her love relations: a love of reason, followed by a passion for another man, which always lead her to a double break and to a double disappointment.
When Santa Barbara begins in 30 July 1984, Kelly celebrates her engagement with Peter Flint (Stephen Meadows), older of a few years, a professor appreciated by her family and in particular by her father, CC Capwell (Peter Mark Richman, Paul Burke and Charles Bateman). But it is another man who occupies her thoughts: Joe Perkins (Dane Witherspoon and Mark Arnold), her big youth love, imprisoned for five years for the murder of her brother, Channing Capwell Junior (Robert Brian Wilson).
Kelly will need a few weeks after his release of prison so that she decides to admit her love for Joe and to agree to help him to prove his innocence, in spite of the formal bans on her father. Helped of a mysterious informer named Dominic (Rosemary Forsyth and Judith McConnell), Kelly allows Joe to identify new suspects and to get back to certain respectability. Finally, she can live radiant her passionate love for this man whom she had never forgotten.
Kelly Capwell leaves Peter Flint to marry Joe Perkins, finally accepted against its will by her family. But Kelly’s infidelity drives Peter, who suffers from a cerebral aneurysm, to lose reason. He gets transformed into a redoubtable serial-killer (The Carnation Killer) who murders fair young women looking just like Kelly, leaving for only signature a white carnation which he dedicates her.
The adventure finishes in a blood bath: Peter is killed by the police after having murdered Joe. But Kelly has for consolation the surprise then the happiness of having discovered that Dominic, the informer who helped Joe, turns to be her mother, Sophia, whom everybody considered dead for years. Shocked by this revelation and by Joe’s death, she is psychologically helped by Dr. Marcello Armonti (Wolf Muser), psychiatrist and Sophia’s stepson. Then Kelly leaves town for a few weeks.
Note: From episode 164 (March 19, 1985) to episode 186 (April 18, 1985), Kelly Capwell only appears one episode because Robin Wright was filming ‘Hollywood Vice Squad’ her acting debut in cinemas.
EPISODES 187-305 (April 19, 1985 to October 4, 1985)
Once she has more or less recovered, Kelly comes back from Bermuda and meets Nick Hartley (David Haskell), a photographer, with whom she falls in love. Again, as with Peter, she chooses a man older than her, serious and moderately fancy, close to a father figure. She participates with him in an investigation around Jack Lee (Joel Crothers), Amy Perkins’ boss, whom doubtful behavior leads her to discover that he is not the one that he says to be.
Kidnapped by the men of the false Jack Lee, she undergoes a brainwashing and forgets who she is. Nick saves her and takes refuge with her in a ghost town remembering the Wild West. There, they live a passion fed by innocence, until Kelly finds her memory again and thus forgets these moments of happiness with Nick. However, Kelly eventually falls in love again with him and even moves into his apartment.
EPISODES 306-460 (October 7, 1985 to May 19, 1986)
The arrival of Dylan Hartley (Page Mosely), Nick’s brother, turns then this beautiful relation upside down. Attracted by the Dylan’s adventurer and nonconformist side, Kelly finds herself mixed up in a treasure hunt in which he is involved. She steals the photos of a treasure map under the nose of gangsters and flees to hide in the ghost town which had sheltered her love with Nick. Dylan follows her and saves in his turn Kelly from the hands of Carlo Alvarez (Joseph Mascolo) and his henchmen. Kelly gets then closer to Dylan and, one evening when they find themselves stuck aboard a private jet during a business trip, they make love without thinking of the next day.
Full of guilt, Kelly eventually admits the truth to Nick, on the eve of their wedding. Their couple is finished, and Kelly gets back to her independence. But even so she does not get rid of Dylan, who every day pursues her and harasses her with his declarations of love.
Kelly begins to go nuts, and undergoes flashes where Peter Flint takes Dylan’s place, reliving through this adventure her previous love story. While she was going to become reconciled with Nick, Kelly undergoes one evening Dylan’s coming in the presidential suite of the Capwell Hotel which she had reserved. While he threatens her with a gun, Kelly pushes him through the plate-glass window in state of self-defense, and Dylan has a mortal fall.
EPISODES 461-522 (May 20, 1986 to August 18, 1986)
It is Gina DeMott (Robin Mattson) who finds Kelly in a state of shock, and recovers Dylan’s weapon, as well as a videotape which recorded all the scene behind a two-way mirror. But Gina chooses to hide the tape, proof of Kelly’s innocence, to make of it an object of blackmail against the Capwell.
Kelly Capwell does not succeed in recovering from this drama, and finds herself interned in a mental home. No luck for her: the asylum is managed by Dr. Rawlings (Ben Piazza), a false psychiatrist, who gives drugs to her and holds her without any medical reason.
Kelly owes her life only to her friend Pearl Bradford (Robert Thaler) who helps her to escape, as well as other patients. But the police is always after Kelly, accused of Dylan’s murder. To escape the vindication of district attorney Keith Timmons (Justin Deas), Kelly is secretly sent to Switzerland for about 4 months.
Note: Robin Wright does not appear on the show from episode 523 to episode 613. That’s because she was filming ‘The Princess Bride’ in England.
EPISODES 614-802 (December 26, 1986 to October 9, 1987)
While Pearl has to join Kelly to help her to come back, it is another man, Jeffrey Conrad (Ross Kettle), who by a combination of circumstances joins her and helps her to escape the police. They get back together to Santa Barbara after many adventures, in the course of which they learn to know and to appreciate each other.
Kelly is finally acquitted of Dylan’s murder when Gina gives the videotape to the authorities, and can live finally in broad daylight her rising love for Jeffrey. She is nevertheless surprised when she discovers that this latter is in reality the son of Pamela, her father’s first wife. When she announces to her parents her wedding project with Jeffrey, she incurs CC’s wrath, who looks in Jeffrey’s past to compromise him.
So, the dark circumstances of the death of Jeffrey’s first wife lead her to suspect him for a while of being a murderer, before giving him back all her trust. From then on, Kelly and Jeffrey do not leave any more, move together and even share the same office at their new employer, Delta pharmaceuticals.
EPISODES 803-982 (October 13, 1987 to June 23, 1988)
Pamela Capwell (Shirley Anne Field and Marj Dusay) reappearance, whom everybody thought she was dead, creates some tensions in their couple, this latter showing herself particularly possessive to her son.
Kelly and Jeffrey get finally married on November 20 1987, during a luxurious ceremony which also serves as diversion to allow her brother-in-law Cruz Castillo (A Martinez), wrongly accused of murder, to escape the police.
Note: Kelly Capwell does not appear from episode 867 (January 13, 1988) to episode 885 (February 9, 1988) because Robin Wright was filming the movie ‘Denial’.
Kelly gets pregnant, but miscarries while she is in a business trip with her mother’s lover, TJ Daniels (Chip Mayer). Jeffrey is incapable to comfort her, showing himself just as overprotective than jealous. This crisis situation, amplified by Pamela’s manipulations on her couple, leads then Kelly to get closer to TJ. She sees in him the one who is going to help her to get out of her malaise and the routine in which her couple fell, as Dylan had previously personified it when she was dating Nick. But she undergoes then Pamela’s attacks which, become crazy, tries to poison her, and she falls into a coma.
After Robin Wright left ‘Santa Barbara’, Kelly Capwell was played by Kimberly McArthur, Carrington Garland and Eileen Davidson.
ROBIN WRIGHT AS KELLY CAPWELL AWARDS AND NOMINATIONS
- Daytime Emmy Awards 1988 | Outstanding Ingenue in a Drama Series | Nominated
- Daytime Emmy Awards 1987 | Outstanding Ingenue in a Drama Series | Nominated
- Daytime Emmy Awards 1986 | Outstanding Ingenue in a Drama Series | Nominated
- Soap Opera Digest Awards 1988 | Outstanding Heroine: Daytime | Winner
- Soap Opera Digest Awards 1986 | Outstanding Young Leading Actress on a Daytime Serial | Nominated
Thanks to Santa Barbara: Le Site Francais for these summaries. I have only added a few details. I recommend you to visit the site because it has a lot of information, pictures and more about ‘Santa Barbara’.
Check out the full Robin Wright Filmography