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Created by Bridget and Jerome Dobson, who were previously head writers for General Hospital, Guiding Light and As the World Turns, Santa Barbara premiered on July 30, 1984 in the 3 o'clock time slot, which was previously held by the now-defunct soap Texas. Sporting an intro of beachfront property, Spanish architecture and bathing suit-clad beauties, SB was only the second daytime drama in history to debut in an hour format. The NBC network invested millions in a studio that was built specifically for the show.

Unlike many soap operas, Santa Barbara took place in a real locale, and was the first drama to feature a Mexican-American family. The original cast included such notable actors as the legendary Dame Judith Anderson (Minx), soap veteran Nicolas Coster (Lionel), stage actress Louise Sorel (Augusta) and former All My Children star Marcy Walker (Eden). The show originally focused on four families, from the wealthy Capwells and Lockridges to the poorer Andrades and Perkinses.

Actor Lloyd Bochner was slated to play the patriarch C.C. Capwell, but a non-fatal heart attack forced him to bow out shortly before SB's premiere. The show had a difficult time finding the right actor to assume the role, and three actors played C.C. within the first year alone!

After four months on the air, it became clear that several storylines were not catching on. Concerned by the serial's low ratings, the Dobsons decided to shake things up by staging an earthquake and getting rid of actors and characters that didn't work.

During SB's early days, Kelly Capwell (Robin Wright) was featured as the show's leading heroine. The creators decided to regroup, however, when they discovered a special chemistry between Marcy Walker and A Martinez, who respectively played rich girl Eden Capwell and Hispanic cop Cruz Castillo. The love relationship between Eden and Cruz was explored and in doing so, SB became the first drama to prominently feature an interracial romance.


More actors and characters were quickly written out via such storylines as The Carnation Killer. The Perkins and Andrade families all but disappeared. Once the smoke cleared, the writers began to find the right balance of humor, action and drama. During this time, SB presented its first on-screen wedding between Kelly Capwell and Joe Perkins (Mark Arnold), who was killed soon after.

The long-running mystery of who shot Channing Capwell came to a shocking conclusion. After Cruz reenacted the murder, it was revealed that Sophia (Judith McConnell) had accidentally shot her own son, and then blocked out the entire incident.

The writers continued to focus on Cruz and Eden as they each married other people, which only intensified their star-crossed romance. Also popular was the heartwarming romance between Mason Capwell (Lane Davies) and ex-nun Mary Duvall (Harley Kozak). Ratings in the U.S. began to rise.


The show continued to feature big-name talent who previously made marks on other daytime dramas, including Robin Mattson (Gina), Jed Allan (C.C.), Lenore Kasdorf (Caroline), Justin Deas (Keith) and Kristen Meadows (Tori). Robin Wright temporarily left the show to film The Princess Bride.

Mason and Mary's romance came to an abrupt end when Harley Kozak was fired. The big letter "C" from the Capwell Hotel fell on top on poor Mary's head and killed her! This particular event proved unpopular with viewers, and the ratings began to decline. Mason later signed a contract with attorney Julia Wainwright (Nancy Grahn) to be the father of her child, and they would ultimately fall in love.


What became one of SB's most popular storylines involved the evil Elena Nikolas (Sherilyn Wolter), who was C.C.'s long-lost daughter and nearly killed Eden just as she was planning to marry Cruz in Utah. The Capwells believed for months that Eden was dead, but she was actually paralyzed and being cared for by Cain (Scott Jaeck). Meanwhile, Elena moved in on Cruz, but Eden soon returned and Elena was killed. Although Cruz was put on trial for her murder, he was eventually cleared.

Other beloved storylines included the fairytale wedding between Kelly and Jeffrey (Ross Kettle), the Mason/Julia/Tori triangle and the outrageous antics of Keith and Gina.

A backstage battle erupted between the Dobsons and New World Television, the company which had purchased SB in 1985 from the Dobsons. Much of the dissension centered on Bridget Dobson's desire to fire head writer Anne Howard Bailey and the casting of the important Pamela Capwell Conrad role. While the Dobsons wanted former Capitol star Marj Dusay to play the part, the writers hired movie queen Samantha Eggar, who quickly got cold feet. She was immediately replaced by fellow British actress Shirley Anne Field, who was fired a few months later. Ironically, she was replaced by first-choice Marj Dusay. The Dobsons were locked out of the studio and a lawsuit between the two parties was pending.


Cruz and Eden finally married in one of daytime's most romantic and lavish ceremonies. Keith and Gina also tied the knot and appeared on TV game show Wheel of Fortune, with special guest spots by Pat Sajak and Vanna White. SB won its first Daytime Emmy Award as outstanding daytime drama.

As the squabble between the Dobsons and New World continued, matters were made worse by a writers' strike within the entire industry. Many storylines were altered, and there were several cast additions and deletions. The show lost two popular cast members when Robin Wright left to pursue her movie career and Justin Deas took off for greener prime-time pastures.

Under the direction of producer Jill Farren Phelps, the show embarked on the hard-hitting rape story involving Eden Capwell Castillo. Unlike other soaps, SB graphically depicted the rape as the violent crime it is, and was informative in dealing with its aftermath. Later, in a nationwide campaign, SB viewers were asked to name Cruz and Eden's baby. They were given choices for boy and girl names, and when Eden had a girl, Adriana won.

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This page was last modified on December 1, 2011.