William Bell

Soap Opera Creator / Writer


The Academy of Television Arts & Sciences Foundation Presents

02:26

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About
About this interview

In his three-and-a-half-hour Archive interview, William Bell (1927-2005) fondly recalls his first soap opera writing job at Guiding Light. He discusses his working relationship with creator and friend Irna Phillips, and with fellow Phillips protege, Agnes Nixon. He talks of co-creating As The World Turns and Another World with Irna Phillips, as well as becoming head writer for Days of Our Lives in 1965. Bell proudly speaks about his creative relationship with wife/writing partner Lee Phillip Bell, with whom he created two successful daytime soap operas, The Young and the Restless  and The Bold and the Beautiful. He discusses his sons' and daughter's involvement with his shows, and speaks of the then-current state of soap operas. Alan Carter conducted the interview on July 15, 1998 in Beverly Hills, CA.

"Characters you can relate to and identify with and the stories that impact you -- it's much more than looking as an observer. You are getting emotionally involved with these characters, and that is so important."

Highlights
William Bell on how the title of The Young and the Restless came about
00:55
William Bell on casting his daughter, Lauralee Bell, on The Young and the Restless
01:31
William Bell on the social responsibility of television and educational summer storylines about young people on The Young and the Restless
01:32
William Bell on Walter Cronkite interrupting As the World Turns to announce President Kennedy had been killed
02:12
William Bell on co-creating Another World with Irna Phillips
01:35
Full Interview

Chapter 1

On his early years and influences; on listening to radio serials when he was young
On getting hired at BBM radio and McCann-Erickson advertising
On how he left a high-paying advertising job to pursue writing; on growing up during the Depression; on first starting to write for radio

Chapter 2

On being an advertising copywriter
On writing for Guiding Light on television; on meeting Irna Phillips, creator of Guiding Light
On his early memories of television; on the first Guiding Light script he wrote for Irna Phillips and working with her
On leaving Guiding Light

Chapter 3

On writing Guiding Light in Chicago while production was in New York; on interactions with sponsors
On co-creating Another World with Irna Phillips; on the popularity of As the World Turns
On Walter Cronkite interrupting As the World Turns to announce President Kennedy had been killed; on soap operas becoming topical
On how writing for soaps has changed over the years; on his writing style, the popularity of soap characters, and his credits

Chapter 4

On expanding the format of soaps from half-hour to an hour-long; on a typical workday with Irna Phillips on As the World Turns; on decisions to kill off major characters
On creating characters and casting for Another World; on the term "soap opera"
On how he came to take over as writer on Days of Our Lives from Ted Corday; on changes he brought to the show; on never having an agent

Chapter 5

On production on Days of Our Lives; on the show's success and surpassing As the World Turns; on the writing on Days of Our Lives
On a memorable storyline involving "Laura Horton" on Days of Our Lives; on NBC executives trusting his judgment
On incorporating events of the Vietnam War into the storylines of Days of Our Lives; on famous feuds on the show; on not attending cast parties
On the show transitioning from half-hour to an hour (after he left); on leaving Days of Our Lives to create The Young and the Restless

Chapter 6

On creating The Young and the Restless with his wife
On the beginnings of The Young and the Restless and the show's emphasis on youth and romance in the Midwest (Genoa City, Wisconsin); on creating characters
On the process of collaborating with his wife to create The Young and the Restless; on casting the show (and casting his daughter, Lauralee Bell); on educational summer storylines about young people

Chapter 7

On the adult nature of The Young and the Restless; on winning an Emmy for The Young and the Restless; on expanding the show to an hour-long format
On creating The Bold and the Beautiful; on celebrity cameos and major storylines on the show
On the then-current state of soap operas; on crediting his wife, Lee Philip Bell, with his success; on the highlight of his career
On his thoughts on people with whom he's worked, including family members
Shows

Another World

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William Bell on co-creating Another World with Irna Phillips
01:35
William Bell on not always getting credit for co-creating Another World with Irna Phillips
01:01
William Bell on creating characters and casting for Another World
01:16
William Bell on the co-creation of Another World and leaving the show to Agnes Nixon to run
03:35

As the World Turns

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William Bell on the popularity of As the World Turns  
01:57
William Bell on Walter Cronkite interrupting As the World Turns to announce President Kennedy had been killed
02:12
William Bell on the popularity of "Lisa Grimaldi" and the characters on As the World Turns
01:57
William Bell on the challenges of making As the World Turns an hour-long show from the initial half-hour
02:12
William Bell on the distribution of duties with Irna Phillips on As the World Turns
00:58
William Bell on working with Ted Corday on As the World Turns
00:44
William Bell on a typical workday with Irna Phillips on As the World Turns
01:30
William Bell on discussions with Irna Phillips over Mark Rydell's character ("Jeff") on As the World Turns
03:24

Bold and the Beautiful, The

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William Bell on co-creating (again with his wife, Lee) The Bold and the Beautiful
02:40
William Bell on celebrity cameos and powerful storylines on The Bold and the Beautiful
01:12
William Bell on his then-current responsibilities on The Young and the Restless and The Bold and the Beautiful
02:13

Days of Our Lives

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William Bell on taking over Days of Our Lives from Ted Corday and changes he brought to the show
12:42
William Bell on production on Days of Our Lives
03:27
William Bell on writing scripts and hiring writers for Days of Our Lives
04:24
William Bell on a memorable storyline involving "Laura Horton" on Days of Our Lives
03:32
William Bell on incorporating events of the Vietnam War into the storylines of Days of Our Lives
05:05
William Bell on famous feuds on Days of Our Lives
00:39
William Bell on not attending cast parties for Days of Our Lives
02:23
William Bell on Days of Our Lives transitioning from half-hour to an hour-long show (after he left); on leaving the show to start The Young and the Restless
05:15

Edge of Night, The

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William Bell on The Edge of Night
00:40

Emmy Awards, The (Primetime and Daytime)

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William Bell on winning an Emmy for The Young and the Restless
01:06

Guiding Light

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William Bell on a potential opening to write for Guiding Light
03:17
William Bell on how his wife, Lee Philip Bell, was the key to getting hired by Irna Phillips to write for Guiding Ligh t
04:41
William Bell on the first Guiding Light scripts he wrote for Irna Phillips
03:30
William Bell on Guiding Light storylines he worked on with Irna Phillips
00:56
William Bell on leaving Guiding Light
01:25
William Bell on writing Guiding Light in Chicago while production was in New York; on interactions with sponsors
05:53

Our Private World

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William Bell on the creation of the primetime series Our Private World
00:30

Young and the Restless, The

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William Bell on how the title of The Young and the Restless came about
01:10
William Bell on how The Young and the Restless came to be
10:36
William Bell on the beginnings of The Young and the Restless and the show's emphasis on youth and romance in the Midwest (Genoa City, Wisconsin)
04:42
William Bell on the excitement of creating new characters on The Young and the Restless
03:36
William Bell on the success of The Young and the Restless
00:30
William Bell on casting The Young and the Restless
02:30
William Bell on casting his daughter, Lauralee Bell, on The Young and the Restless
01:31
William Bell on the social responsibility of television and educational summer storylines about young people on The Young and the Restless
01:32
William Bell on the adult nature of The Young and the Restless
01:17
William Bell on expanding The Young and the Restless to one hour
02:56
William Bell on the popularity of The Young and the Restless
01:00
William Bell on his then-current responsibilities on The Young and the Restless and The Bold and the Beautiful
02:13
Topics

Censorship / Standards & Practices

View Topic
William Bell on NBC executives trusting him with storylines on Days of Our Lives
02:39

Emmy Awards

View Topic
William Bell on winning an Emmy for The Young and the Restless
01:06

Historic Events and Social Change

View Topic
William Bell on Walter Cronkite interrupting As the World Turns to announce President Kennedy had been killed
02:12
William Bell on incorporating events of the Vietnam War into the storylines of Days of Our Lives
05:05

JFK Assassination and Funeral

View Topic
William Bell on Walter Cronkite interrupting As the World Turns to announce President Kennedy had been killed
02:12

John F. Kennedy

View Topic
William Bell on Walter Cronkite interrupting As the World Turns to announce President Kennedy had been killed
02:12

Television Industry

View Topic
William Bell on NBC executives trusting him with storylines on Days of Our Lives
02:39

Television and the Presidency

View Topic
William Bell on Walter Cronkite interrupting As the World Turns to announce President Kennedy had been killed
02:12

Vietnam War

View Topic
William Bell on incorporating events of the Vietnam War into the storylines of Days of Our Lives
05:05

War

View Topic
William Bell on incorporating events of the Vietnam War into the storylines of Days of Our Lives
05:05
Professions

Writers

View Profession
William Bell on the challenges of writing for live soap operas
02:18
William Bell on changes in writing for soap operas over the years
02:27
William Bell on not being a proponent of ad-libbing in daytime
00:40
William Bell on his writing style
01:46
William Bell on his writing process for Days of Our Lives
01:23
Genres

Daytime/Primetime Serials

View Genre
William Bell on writing for Guiding Ligh t on television; on meeting and working with Irna Phillips, creator of Guiding Ligh t
19:52
William Bell on the popularity of, characters on, and writing for As the World Turns  
11:44
William Bell on writing Guiding Light in Chicago while production was in New York; on interactions with sponsors
05:53
William Bell on Walter Cronkite interrupting As the World Turns to announce President Kennedy had been killed
02:12
William Bell on taking over Days of Our Lives from Ted Corday and changes he brought to the show
12:42
William Bell on a typical workday with Irna Phillips on As the World Turns
04:54
William Bell on writing for, production of, and major storylines on Days of Our Lives
28:26
William Bell on creating the show The Young and the Restless and how the title came about
11:49
Wiliam Bell on the excitement of creating new characters on The Young and the Restless
03:36
William Bell on co-creating (again with his wife, Lee) The Bold and the Beautiful
03:52
William Bell on the format changes, adult nature, and popularity of The Young and the Restless
06:19
People

Kay Alden

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William Bell on his thoughts on people with whom he's worked - Kay Alden
02:05

Lauralee Bell

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William Bell on casting his daughter, Lauralee Bell, on The Young and the Restless
01:31
William Bell on his thoughts on people with whom he's worked - his daughter, Lauralee Bell
00:44

Lee Phillip Bell

View Person Page
William Bell on how his wife, Lee Philip Bell, was the key to getting hired by Irna Phillips to write for Guiding Ligh t
00:53
William Bell on how The Young and the Restless came to be
10:36
William Bell on collaborating with his wife to create The Young and the Restless
00:47
William Bell on crediting his wife, Lee Philip Bell, with his success
01:18
William Bell on his thoughts on people with whom he's worked - his wife, Lee Philip Bel
00:27

Bradley Bell

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William Bell on his thoughts on people with whom he's worked - his son, Bradley Bell
00:42

William J. Bell, Jr.

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William Bell on his thoughts on people with whom he's worked - his son, William Jr. Bell
00:37

Jeanne Cooper

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William Bell on Jeanne Cooper's interpretation of his feelings about The Young and the Restless
00:54

Ted Corday

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William Bell on working with Ted Corday on As the World Turns
00:44
William Bell on taking over Days of Our Lives from Ted Corday, at Corday's request, not knowing that Corday was dying
08:09
William Bell on his thoughts on people with whom he's worked - Ted Corday
00:33

Ken Corday

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William Bell on his thoughts on people with whom he's worked - Ken Corday
00:08

Susan Flannery

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William Bell on a memorable storyline involving "Laura Horton" on Days of Our Lives
03:32

Eileen Fulton

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William Bell on the popularity of "Lisa Grimaldi" and the characters on As the World Turns
01:57

Bud Grant

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William Bell on his thoughts on people with whom he's worked - Bud Grant
00:16

Deidre Hall

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William Bell on his thoughts on people with whom he's worked - Deidre Hall
00:40

David Hasselhoff

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William Bell on his thoughts on people with whom he's worked - David Hasselhoff
00:59

Don Hastings

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William Bell on his thoughts on people with whom he's worked - Don Hastings
00:24

Susan Seaforth Hayes

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William Bell on his thoughts on people with whom he's worked - Susan Seaforth Hayes
00:24

H. Wesley Kenney

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William Bell on his thoughts on people with whom he's worked - H. Wesley Kenney
00:39

John Mitchell

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William Bell on how The Young and the Restless came to be
10:36

Agnes Nixon

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William Bell on soap opera creators Agnes Nixon and Irna Phillips
01:27
William Bell on his thoughts on people with whom he's worked - Agnes Nixon
00:11

Irna Phillips

View Person Page
William Bell on a potential opening to write for Guiding Light
03:17
William Bell on how his wife, Lee Philip Bell, was the key to getting hired by Irna Phillips to write for Guiding Ligh t
00:53
William Bell on meeting Irna Phillips, creator of Guiding Ligh t
01:50
William Bell on the first Guiding Light scripts he wrote for Irna Phillips
03:30
William Bell on what he learned about soap opera writing from Guiding Light creator Irna Phillips
03:14
William Bell on Guiding Light storylines he worked on with Irna Phillips
00:56
William Bell on soap opera creators Agnes Nixon and Irna Phillips
01:27
William Bell on co-creating Another World with Irna Phillips
01:35
William Bell on the distribution of duties with Irna Phillips on As the World Turns
00:58
William Bell on a typical workday with Irna Phillips on As the World Turns
04:54
William Bell on Irna Phillips' reaction to Bell leaving Guiding Light to do Days of Our Lives
00:35
William Bell on Irna Phillips not talking to him when Days of Our Lives surpassed As the World Turns
01:43
William Bell on his thoughts on people with whom he's worked - Irna Phillips
00:09

Mark Rydell

View Person Page
William Bell on discussions with Irna Phillips over Mark Rydell's character ("Jeff") on As the World Turns
03:24

Larry White

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William Bell on NBC executives trusting him with storylines on Days of Our Lives
02:39

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