Classic General Hospital

General Hospital

John Sammon
John Sammon
John Sammon in a vintage General Hospital episode. | Photo: | John Sammon, Actor, General Hospital, Vintage,

I was in a scene from this classic soap opera.

I think 1981 was the year both Elizabeth Taylor and myself appeared on the daytime soap opera General Hospital, not on the same day, but in different episodes. She of course had a meatier role than I. I was used as set dressing, playing a menacing bad guy, and a portion of that scene I include here.

You can see me in the background in the light tan suit. I was mostly a silent film actor in that I seldom was given dialog to recite, but instead usually appeared in the background anytime directors needed a hulking policeman or criminal. This of course gave full range of my talents because I didn't have the luxury Liz (Taylor) did. With no lines to speak, I had to find a way to express myself and make something out of a mostly one-dimensional thankless role.

There's an art to that. It can be done.

General Hospital is considered an entertainment classic, one of the most successful television shows in history watched by millions of devoted fans. One of them was Elizabeth Taylor. She loved the show so much she wanted to be on it.

In this particular scene, I and another thug led by our leader Victor Cassadine, played by Australian actor Thaao Penghlis, threaten Tony Cassadine played by Dutch actor Andre Landzaat on the Cassadine family yacht. We were in search of a treasure called "The Ice Princess."

Since I never watched the show, I'm still not sure to this day what The Ice Princess was. A giant diamond maybe. We didn't find it on my episode of the show.

Watching additional scenes filmed in which I did not take part, I developed an admiration for the actors who had featured parts on the show. Because soaps are shown every day, it means memorizing scripts each night, pages and pages of dialog. You would think it would be impossible to perform a new 60-page script with hundreds of lines every day.

In fact it is.

The actors memorized some of the words, but used teleprompters for the rest. They read the lines as a guy holding a device that looked like a player piano roll knelt before them out of camera range. They probably have a more computerized device today.

Newscasters use teleprompters too. But it's one thing to read the news with a deadpan expression, and another to perform an emotional scene. Try doing it while holding an actress in your arms and playing a love scene, reading the words off a prompter and making it sound like you're spontaneous and not reading the lines. If you think that's easy, it's not.

This particular episode of the show was Penghlis's first appearance on American national TV, and he was nervous. The director of the show, I think it was Marlene Laird, had to come down from the control booth to give direction and calm Penghlis down. After that, he did fine, and went on to further fame in television.

Click on the link below under "Classic GH ' Laura Finds Duvall" to see a portion of the scene I was in in General Hospital. Thanks to the magic of Youtube, I'm instantly able to see what I looked like 30 years ago.

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Updated Aug 12, 2017 12:08 PM EDT | More details


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