General Hospital · Commentary

How Genie Francis Inspired My Life’s Work

Originally posted January 21, 2018.

If you know me in real life, the first thing you usually learn about me is I am obsessed with history. I study it in graduate school, I’m pursuing it as my teaching certification, and historical fiction and nonfiction are my favorite genres.

I can actually pinpoint the moment that I fell in love with history. It was July or August 1992, and I had just turned eight years old. I was at my grandmother’s house, and my uncle popped in a VHS of North and South. Not the amazing BBC production, but the fantastic 1980s miniseries with Patrick Swayze, James Read, Robert Mitchum…and Genie Francis.

I was captivated almost immediately by the story of Orry Main and George Hazard becoming friends at West Point in the early 1840s — Orry was the son of a slave-owning cotton producer from South Carolina, and George was the son of a steel mill owner from Pennsylvania. They became friends, fought in the Mexican War, and struggled to maintain their bonds as the section divide in the country grew throughout the 1850s.

But Brett Maine, Orry’s little sister, was my favorite character. Played to perfection by the effervescent Genie Francis, fresh from stardom as Laura Spencer on General Hospital (N&S aired in 1984 originally with sequels in 1985 and a very bad one in 1994). I did not know Genie as Laura. I was born in 1984, and she and Luke had already left the show.

Brett fell in love with George’s brother, Billy, and their love story was my first OTP. My first obsession. I started to write stories about them at the age of eight because my VHS collection was incomplete and I didn’t know how their story ended until my grandfather finally unearthed the endings. I started writing because of Genie Francis. I fell in love with history because of Genie Francis.

I used to wrap blankets around my waist and swan around the room like I was living in that time period. I was only eight, but reading far above my grade level, so I badgered my parents until they started buying me John Jakes novels. I tore through all the historical fiction he had to offer — the North & South trilogy, the Kent Family Chronicles, and any thing else he pretty much wrote until around 2001.

When Luke and Laura came back to General Hospital in 1994, my mother was excited — she’d grown up watching them fall in love and get married. I was excited, because oh my God, Brett Maine was going to be on my screen every single day. I loved Laura Spencer. And through her, I fell in love with Lucky Spencer. And then Elizabeth Webber came along. General Hospital had already been in my life because of my mother watching, but it wasn’t until the Spencers came home that I paid more attention. Not every day — I was only ten and I still had school. My memories of the show before 1994 are scattershot–I have so many more memories between 1994-97 before I started watching on my own and seeking it out.

I can’t be the only one with a Genie Francis story, or a Laura Spencer story. She’s been in our lives too long. It breaks my heart that her talent and her loyalty to the show that she put on the map, that she made relevant doesn’t treasure her. The brass at ABC obviously thought Anthony Geary was the true draw of the couple, but after Laura left in 2002, I never liked Luke as much. He was elevated by being in the same room as Genie, and Luke’s most redeemable quality was his love and devotion to Laura.  Without Laura, Luke had no heart.

And dumping daytime royalty to recurring, blindsiding the actress and the fans in the middle of an amazing front-burner storyline that used a lot of characters and history, this proves that without Genie and Laura, General Hospital also has no heart.

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