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John & Marlena: End of an Era on ‘Days of our Lives’

The End of an Era

The exits of Deidre Hall and Drake Hogestyn as Marlena and John marks the end of an era on Days of our Lives.

Two of Days of Our Lives’ biggest stars vacated their roles on Friday, January 23, 2009 – and not by choice. Due to the budget cuts and the horrible, lousy way executive producer Ken Corday runs the show, Drake Hogestyn (John) and Deidre Hall (Marlena) were both let go.

Not only have these firings caused an uproar in the daytime community, their exit storyline has seemed, by all accounts, to be so hastefully slapped together, it seems as though head writers Dena Higley and Christopher Whitesell wrote their final days while sleep walking.

Deidre joined Days of Our Lives back in 1976, having just enjoyed a short run on ABC’s Saturday morning camp fest Electra Woman & Dyna Girl. Coming to Salem as Dr. Marlena Evans, she quickly established a rapport with Jed Allan, who at that time was playing lawyer Don Craig. The couple fell in love and married in a lavish ceremony, and had a son named D.J. Tragically, the super couple lost their child in a heartbreaking storyline, which led to their divorce. Marlena, having become the heroine of Days, went through rape (having been attacked by one of her patients who mistook her for his late wife), the death of a child, divorce, and the usual ups and downs that go with being a soap heroine.

That was, until she met a certain police officer – Wayne Northrop joined DOOL in 1981, playing the role of superhero cop Roman Brady. A triangle ensued between Marlena, Don & Roman for Marlena’s hand. Eventually, Roman won the heart of the fair maiden (And Don went upstairs after getting the mail, never to be heard from again). After many adventures, which included Roman being charged and having to break out of jail for a series of brutal murders perpetrated by the Salem Strangler, Marlena being presumed dead by said killer (which caused such an uproar at the time at NBC that the story was hastily rewritten to reveal that Marlena’s twin sister Samantha was the real victim), Roman faking his death to seek out the true evil in Salem, one Stefano DiMera (Played by the legendary Joe Mascalo) and other assorted adventures, the couple finally said “I Do” in a huge ceremony (the same ceremony that Stefano tried to have Roman killed). Soon after “tragedy” struck.

Wayne Northrop decided to leave his star turning role of Roman Brady because he did not like the direction the character was going in. In a heartbreaking episode in summer 1984, Roman did battle for the last time against Stefano on a cliff. The two adversaries fought for a gun, a shot rang out and Roman fell to his death. Marlena, the Brady family and all of Salem mourned the loss of their son, husband, father, friend and top cop. Stefano DiMera had finally won. Or so he thought — enter the Pawn.

Drake Hogestyn joined the show as a mysterious amnesiac. His face was bandaged, and he had no memory of who he was. Having been “purchased” by billionaire Victor Kiriakis (Played by the wonderful John Aniston), Victor tried to jog this man’s memory. He, and his henchmen, knew the true identity of this man, but “The Pawn” was still in the dark. Having escaped from Victor, and having been held by one Steve “Patch” Johnson (played by Stephen Nichols), “The Pawn” soon also escaped his grasp and found his way to a mission in Salem. This is where the man saw a war memorial and took the name John Black.

For several months, John worked to find out his true identity. But, with no figure prints, no way to type his blood, and nothing on record, he turned to the one person he felt could help him – Marlena Evans Brady.  The adventure took many twist and turns, leading to Marlena & John going on the run from Victor, Roman’s brother Bo (played by Peter Reckell), his wife Hope (Played by Kristian Alfonso) and the KGB (Don’t ask.).

It was at this point that Marlena, having found a briefcase in the woods where she and John were hiding, found a picture of what John looked like before his plastic surgery. She opened the envelope to reveal the face of her dead husband, Roman Brady.

Marlena & Roman were finally reunited……..but not for long. Before another lavish wedding, Marlena suffered a fall from a window ledge (don’t ask again) and almost died. She came to with Roman at her side, but after their wedding, and deadly enemy from Roman’s past came back into the mix, and achieved his ultimate revenge, by blowing up Roman & Marlena’s home………with her inside. As Roman mourned the death of his beloved “Doc”, she was alive and well on an island. Of course, he found her, and once again, tragically, she was presumed dead after the plane she was on crashed into the side of a mountain.

But, since this is Salem, nobody stays dead for very long.

Some years later, Marlena, having been held captive by Stefano, escaped from his island, and found her way back to her beloved husband. They were still married………But he was NOT Roman Brady. Wayne Northrop, after being asked by Deidre, came back to the show, in his signature role of Roman Brady. And guess what? That meant that the character that Drake was playing was NOT Roman Brady.

Through many different identities (I now assume that John is really President Barack Obama) and deaths and returns from the dead (which also include crazy girlfriends, abusive ex-husbands, John being a priest and Marlena being possessed by the devil) these two star-crossed lovers have somehow, someway, always found their way back to each other. And what is the one thing that can break them up? A hack executive producer who wouldn’t know good financial management if it bit him in that backside of his.

Ken Corday has this usual knack of ruining the current state of Days and then blaming everyone else for it. It’s never his fault. He gets a good HW, he fires them. He gets good storylines, he ends them. And now, the finances of Days are so badly screwed up that licensing fees from NBC have been slashed because of his mismanagement. But of course, everyone else has to suck it up and take one up the ole’ poop shoot because this man can’t tell a financial statement from a menu at Hardy’s.

We all want days and every other soap to continue. We want them to chart new course of great drama and take us along for the ride. But, maybe for that to happen, the old guard needs to be pushed out the door. Ken Corday has shown that when he puts his hands on Days, it is a disaster. It has also been shown that when he has nothing, and I mean, nothing to do with it, Days seems to shine. But, you can’t tell this man that. He comes off the golf course long enough to screw up everything and then head back to the golf course. J.R. Ewing would be proud.

I wish the very best for both Deidre and Drake. What I really wish is that they find other opportunities elsewhere, and tell Ken Corday that they will only return to Days on one condition – that he is as far away from that show as the moon.