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From Pine Valley to Colonial Beach: Longtime "All My Children" star Mary Fickett recalls her exciting television career
Fickett, 80, recalls her acting days with smiles and laughter.
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Date published: 7/19/2008
By then, Fickett was married to actor James R.W. Congdon. They adopted two children, daughter Bronwyn and son Kenyon. She and Congdon divorced in 1970. "It was one of my many mistakes," Fickett said.
She had two more husbands. In 1977, she married Jay Leonard Scheer, a sporting-goods merchant. She divorced him two years later. In 1979, she married Allen Fristoe, a soap-opera director. Fristoe died this year in Massachusetts.
Anti-war story line
"All My Children" premiered in 1970 with Fickett in the role of nurse Ruth Parker Brent, the wife of alcoholic car salesman Ted Brent. Agnes Nixon, the show's creator, killed off Brent in a 1971 car crash. Ruth then married Dr. Joe Martin, a widower who worked with her at the hospital in the fictional community of Pine Valley, Pa.
Nixon intended "All My Children" to portray contemporary issues. As a result, the good-looking denizens of Pine Valley have confronted abortion, drug addiction, homosexuality, AIDS, domestic violence and many other struggles of modern life.
In 1971, the Vietnam War was the country's biggest problem. By the end of that year, more than 56,000 Americans had died in the war. Sixty percent of the people in a Gallup poll said they had had enough of it. A half million people demonstrated against the war in Washington and 12,000 protesters were arrested.
Agnes Nixon decided that the time had come for "All My Children" to join the anti-war movement.
"Aggie wrote the story line for me," Fickett said. "I felt very strongly about doing it. I stood up and said, 'I want to do this.' She said, 'Let's go with it.' She wanted only me to do it."
In the story that aired in the 1972-73 season, Ruth's son Phil Brent had been drafted. Ruth delivered a touching monologue expressing her doubts about the war and her fears for her son. Ruth's speech resonated with millions of people across America with the same doubts and fears. It also won Fickett an Emmy in 1973 and helped lift the show's ratings.