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A NEW ROLE A quiet life in Colonial Beach replaces dramaof 'All My Children' career for Mary Fickett MARY FICKETT ROLES page 4
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

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By 1978, "All My Children" was the top-rated daytime drama on TV. Ruth and Joe Martin were its "tent-pole" characters, said MacDonnell, "the central moral figures" around which Susan Lucci as Erica Kane and the rest of the show's misbehaving, misbegotten, misunderstood or just plain unlucky characters revolved.

Throughout their many years of TV married life, MacDonnell said, Fickett "never really acted. She just was a wonderful human being and a delight to work with. She was very bright and always cheerful, and inspired natural emotions in me and her fellow actors."

Opulent lifestyle

Off-camera, Fickett and her family lived luxuriously in a New York apartment complete with quarters for a succession of housekeepers and nannies. Fickett was famous for her lavish parties.

Her children attended exclusive private schools. Her daughter remembers her mother's walk-in closet. Its left side was devoted to her mother's fur coats. Congdon loved their softness and their scent of her mother's favorite perfume, Chanel No. 5.

In summers the family would take off to Cape Cod, where Fickett's grandmother and other relatives lived. Fickett and husband Allen Fristoe eventually retired there.

Fickett left "All My Children" in 1996, hoping that she could return on a recurring basis. But the show's producers gave the role to Lee Meriwether, who played Ruth Martin until 1999. Fickett then returned briefly to play her old role. She retired for good in December 2000.

Soap operas and "All My Children" have declined in recent years. Nineteen soaps were on TV when "All My Children" began. Now there are eight. "All My Children" is next to last in the ratings.

lIFE AT THE bEACH

In Colonial Beach, Fickett spends most of her days bundled up in bed or in a reclining chair in her room. She shares the little rented house on Ninth Street with Congdon and her husband, four of their kids and three dogs.

"Mom never had this much chaos and noise before in her life," said Congdon.

Fickett's favorite TV shows are now reruns of "Seinfeld," "Reba" and "Golden Girls" with Beatrice Arthur. Fickett and Arthur worked together in a 1953 TV drama. A month or two ago, Fickett happened to see an episode of "All My Children."

Erica Kane, the ageless TV character played by Fickett's former colleague Susan Lucci, was incarcerated. "She looks good in everything, even an orange jumpsuit when she's in jail," Fickett said, laughing.

Fickett doesn't remember the last time she saw Lucci.

"It's a big world. It's hard to keep up with people. You lose track," she said.

Frank Delano is a staff writer with The Free Lance-Star. Contact him at 804/333-3834 or
Email: fpdelano@gmail.com.


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1949: "I Know My Love," Broadway comedy with Alfred Lunt and Lynn Fontanne 1952: "The Hungry Heart" with John Forsythe 1953: "Armstrong Circle Theatre: Sunday Storm"; "Kraft Television Theatre: Zone Four" with Beatrice Arthur; "The United States Steel Hour: P.O.W." with Michael Dreyfuss and Brian Keith, the premiere episode of the 10-year-long series. 1954: "Kraft Television Theatre: A Hat for Winter" 1955: Theatre World Award for "Tea and Sympathy" with Anthony Perkins and Joan Fontaine; "Hallmark Hall of Fame: Dream Girl"; "Kraft Television Theatre: Woman of Principle" 1956: "The Edge of Night" (occasional roles until 1968); "General Electric Theater: The Easter Gift"; "Pontiac Playwrights '56: Nick and Letty," with Robert Culp; "Robert Montgomery Presents: Maybe Tomorrow"; "Armstrong Circle Theatre: Ward Three: Four P.M. to Midnight"; "Kraft Television Theatre: The Lost Weekend" 1957: "Studio One: A Child is Waiting"; "Kraft Television Theatre: The Glass Wall," with Jack Klugman; "Man on Fire," film with Bing Crosby 1958: Nominated for Tony Award as Best Supporting Dramatic Actress for "Sunrise at Campobello," with Ralph Bellamy; "Kathy O," film with Dan Duryea; "Young Dr. Malone" 1961: "The Untouchables: Power Play," with Albert Salmi; "Naked City: The Fault in Our Stars"; "The United States Steel Hour: Trial Without Jury"; "Have Gun, Will Travel: The Vigil" 1961-63: "Calendar," with co-host Harry Reasoner 1964: "The Nurses"; "The DuPont Show of the Week: Don't Go Upstairs" 1968: "N.Y.P.D.: Nothing Is Real but the Dead," with Ossie Davis; "Lancer: The Last Train for Charlie Poe" 1969: "Bonanza: Erin"; "Daniel Boone: Hannah Comes Home" 1970 "The F.B.I.: The Impostor" 1970-96: "All My Children" 1973: Wins Primetime Emmy Award; "Pueblo," TV movie with Hal Holbrook.