Remember Them? From Soaps to Stars

PHOTO Julianne Moore, Meg Ryan, Demi Moore, and Brad Pitt are shown in publicity stills from their soap opera work.

Following on the heels of "Guiding Light," "As the World Turns" is the latest soap opera to get the axe.

CBS announced Tuesday that "World" will stop spinning next September after 54 years. The show is the last remaining daytime drama made by Procter & Gamble, which coined the term "soap opera" because it used the shows to hawk products like Ivory soap.

Earlier this year, another Procter & Gamble-produced show, "Guiding Light," ended its 72-year run -- first on radio and then television -- after CBS cancelled the longest-running soap opera in history.

Twilight of "Guiding Light"

"For many of us, it was the first show we ever watched," Lynn Leahey, editorial director of Soap Opera Digest, said about "Guiding Light." Unlike prime time shows that came and went, it was a constant in people's lives. "It really is heartbreaking to see something like this go away."

Soap operas have been hemorrhaging viewers for some time. There are only seven soaps left on the air, down from a high of 16. ABC appears to remain committed to the genre, moving "All My Children" to a new studio in California and investing in high-definition broadcast technology.

That's good news for the remaining fans who are deeply devoted to their shows. They have seen stars come and go, including many now famous faces who got their start on the soaps. Here's a sampling of some of the A-list stars who used soaps like "As the World Turns" and others as a launching pad for their careers.

Meg Ryan

Before she became America's sweetheart through films like "When Harry Met Sally," "Sleepless in Seattle" and "You've Got Mail," Meg Ryan played Betsy Stewart on "As the World Turns" from 1982 to 1984.

Her pairing with Frank Runyeon's character Steve made them one of the most popular couples on television in the 80s. Their "wedding" on May 30, 1984, attracted 20 million viewers, making it the second highest-rated hour in American soap opera history.

Ryan left the show for smaller TV and film roles, including the wife of "Goose" in "Top Gun." Her first real hit didn't come until the end of the 80s when she starred opposite Billy Crystal in "When Harry Met Sally." She earned a Golden Globe nomination for that role which included the memorable fake orgasm scene in a Manhattan deli.

Julianne Moore

Julianne Moore also got her big acting break on "As the World Turns," when she played half-sisters Frannie and Sabrina Hughes from 1985 to 1988. Moore took home a daytime Emmy in 1988 for outstanding ingenue in a drama series, exhibiting early the talent that would later be discovered in films such as "Boogie Nights," "The Hours" and "Far From Heaven.

True "World" fans will recall that Steven Weber, who later went on to star in the sitcom "Wings," played Moore's ill-tempered and ill-fated boyfriend.

Marisa Tomei

Like Ryan and Moore, Tomei cut her acting teeth on the set of "World."Tomei left Boston University to return to her native New York to star as teenager Marcy Thompson on the daytime drama from 1983 to 1985. In one memorable episode, comedian Phyllis Diller guest starred as Tomei's fairy godmother.

After leaving daytime, Tomei garnered new fans when she landed a role as the roommate to Lisa Bonet's character on "The Cosby Show" spinoff "A Different World."

But her real breakthrough performance came in "My Cousin Vinny," when she starred as Joe Pesci's heavily Brooklyn-accented girlfriend. The role gained her the attention of critics and won an Academy Award for best supporting actress.

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