Soapdom could not be more saddened to report that one of soap opera's greats has left us. Helen Wagner, the woman who holds the world record for playing the same character on television for over 50 years, has passed away.
Wagner, who daytime fans know as the matriarch of Oakdale, Nancy Hughes, passed away on Saturday, May 1, 2010 in New York City. Details of her passing have not yet been released byAs the World Turns or TeleNext Media, the production company that produces the program.
"All of us at 'As the World Turns' are deeply saddened by Helen's passing," executive producer Christopher Goutman said in a statement. "She is loved by generations of fans, and while we will miss her greatly Helen will always remain the heart and soul of 'As the World Turns.'"
Wagner's Nancy Hughes uttered the very first words when the show debuted April 2, 1956 saying "Good morning, dear." She holds the Guinness World Record for playing the same role on television for the longest amount of time -- a total of 54 years!
In 2004, Wagner was awarded a Lifetime Achievement Award from the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences. In 2002, she received a plaque on the Buddy Holly Walk of Fame in Lubbock, Texas.
Born on September 3, 1918 in Lubbuck, Texas, Wagner studied at Monmouth College in Illinois, earning degrees in dramatics and music. While working at her first professional stage job singing with the St. Louis Municipal Opera, Wagner caught the eye of Oscar Hammerstein, who then cast Wagner in the Broadway production of Sunny River.
Wagner's other Broadway credits include Rodgers and Hammerstein's Oklahoma!, The Bad Seed, My Name Is Acquilon and Love of Four Colonels. She toured as Blanche in A Streetcar Named Desire with Lee Marvin, and appeared in regional theater in Illinois as Eleanor in The Lion in Winter and in all of the women's roles in Lovers and Other Strangers.
Before joining As The World Turns in 1956, Wagner appeared on a number of television programs including Studio One, Philco Radio Televisionand The World of Mr. Sweeney.
Wagner was married to Broadway producer Robert Willey from June, 1954 until his death in May, 2009.
Soapdom sends condolences to Wagner's friends and family and to the team at As the World Turns.
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