Santa Barbara's co-creator and award-winning writer Bridget Dobson passes away at 85

Posted Tuesday, January 09, 2024 6:38:57 PM
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Award-winning writer Bridget Dobson, daughter of legendary Frank and Doris Hursley and co-creator of Santa Barbara has passed away at the age of 85.

Daytime Emmy award-winning Bridget Dobson, who along with her husband Jerome Dobson created, executive produced, and wrote the NBC soap opera Santa Barbara, passed away on January 3 at the age of 85. The sad news was shared on Facebook by family friend Pierpaolo Dongiovanni on January 6. In the post, which featured a photo of Dobson and her husband embracing, Dongiovanni wrote in part, "She gave me friendship, love, fun, hope and was pure inspiration to me, even when I was sick a couple of years ago."

Dobson was born Bridget Hursley on August 31, 1938, to the legendary creators of General Hospital, Frank and Doris Hursley. In an interview with Soap Opera Weekly in 2000, Dobson shared that after graduating from Stanford University, she started her career in daytime by begging her famous parents for an opportunity to join the ABC soap's writing team. Despite their reservations because they believed Bridget to be a "party girl," they agreed to let her write one scene. Luckily, that quickly led to a full-time job at GH.

Dobson met her husband, Jerome Dobson, during her freshman year in college, and he eventually became her writing partner. Both Dobsons served as GH's head writers from 1973 to 1975, during which time they wrote the infamous whodunit mystery of Phil Brewer's (Roy Thinnes) murder. The killer was revealed to be Phil's mistress, who had killed him with a deadly swing of a paperweight. However, their biggest claim to fame was the creation of Laura Collins née Webber (Genie Francis).

In 1975, the Dobsons left GH to helm Guiding Light, where they penned the groundbreaking ripped-from-the-headlines story of Roger Thorpe's (Michael Zaslow) rape of his wife, and they introduced the Spaulding family, who would remain prominent until the end of the soap's run in 2009. After leaving GL, the Dobsons headed to As the World Turns in 1980 and ushered in Larry Bryggman's John Dixon. While at ATWT, they also created one of daytime's most infamous villains -- James Stenbeck (Anthony Herrera) -- and wrote the love story of supercouple Tom Hughes and Margo Montgomery Hughes.

After leaving ATWT, the Dobsons had every intention of retiring, but NBC had other plans. They persuaded the writing duo to tackle new soap -- Santa Barbara. The soap premiered on July 30, 1984, with Bridget and Jerome as co-creators. The show quickly gained a large following, in part because of their huge budget (even by soap standards) and the witty writing. The soap became a smashing success abroad, as well, airing in over 40 countries.

Unfortunately, the famed soap was plagued by a years-long, behind-the-scenes legal battle between the Dobsons and the show's production company, New World Television. With the show's ratings barely hovering above a 3.0 in its final year, NBC decided to cancel the soap and aired its final episode on January 15, 1993. In 2000, Bridget told Soap Opera Weekly that Santa Barbara "led the way in terms of humor and understanding dysfunctionality and touching on intellectual concepts, and I think it was riveting for a while."

Nancy Lee Grahn (ex-Julia Wainwright, SB; Alexis Davis, GH) paid tribute to Bridget on Instagram with a photo of the smiling soap scribe and the caption, "Bridget Dobson and her husband Jerry hired me to play the most curious, absorbing, complex, inspiring character of my career. Realizing the role of Julia Wainwright, having the privilege of feeling my way through this beautifully constructed character's relationship with herself and others was life-altering for me. It advanced me as an actress and a woman." Concluding, "The effect just one person can have on your life is quite extraordinary. Rest in greatness, Bridget, and thank you."

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Celebrated soap writer Michele Val Jean, who began her daytime career at Santa Barbara, also remembered her dear friend, posting on X, formerly Twitter, "I'm devastated to hear we lost Bridget Dobson. I loved her. She was instrumental in my career and a great friend. A soap icon and a wonderful effervescent person. I don't have words. My heart is [broken]. Bridget, I will always be your Princess. Rest well."

A Martinez, who won the 1990 Daytime Emmy for Outstanding Lead Actor for his work on SB, wrote on Facebook, "As is always the case with great writers who will not be denied, their obsession to build their own world -- and share it -- delivered emotional medicine for years to millions of people around the world, and the power of that medicine lingers to this day. Thank you, Bridget. May a warm wind carry you always."

Lane Davies (ex-Mason Capwell, SB) remembered Bridget on Instagram, writing, "Bridget was possessed of an indomitable spirit, irrepressible creativity, and a truly wicked sense of humor. Together with her husband of 60-plus years, Jerry, she gave us some of the most memorable moments and characters in the history of Daytime Television."

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Rounding out some of the tributes was John Wesley Shipp (ex-Kelly Nelson, GL; ex-Douglas Cummings, ATWT; ex-Eddie Ford, One Life to Live) who posted on Facebook, "My condolences, Jerry, during this time of deep loss and recovery. Thank you both for #MartinEllis #SantaBarbara - you certainly made your mark and have helped many others make ours. Thinking of you with gratitude and appreciation."

Over the course of her impressive career, Bridget won two Writers Guild Awards (one for GL and one for SB), was nominated for three Daytime Emmy Awards for writing (one for GH, two for GL), and won the 1988 Daytime Emmy for Outstanding Drama Series for SB.

Dobson is survived by her husband and their daughter, Mary.

Were you a fan of Santa Barbara, Guiding Light, or As the World Turns? Do you wish to share condolences? We want to hear from you -- so drop your comments in the Comments section below, tweet about it on Twitter, share it on Facebook, or chat about it on our Message Boards.

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