Watch Days’ Bill Hayes’ life story the subject of a documentary
The ups and downs of Bill Hayes’ life.
Soaps.com has learned that a new documentary “World By the Tail” by Dave Samuel and Lee Levin has just been released which tells the life story of “Days of our Lives” Bill Hayes (Doug Williams). The documentary is narrated by Hayes, and many of Hayes’ friends and co-stars over the years appear to give commentary. This includes comedians and writers Carl Reiner (“Your Show of Shows”) and Mel Brooks (“The Producers”), co-stars Shirley Maclaine (“Terms of Endearment”) and Florence Henderson (“The Brady Bunch”), and cast members from “Days” including James Reynolds (Abe Carver), Deidre Hall (Marlena Evans), Drake Hogestyn (John Black) and his wife Susan Seaforth-Hayes (Julie Williams).
Hayes’ big break into show business wasn’t actually supposed to be his. His brother Phil Hayes had an audition for Roger and Hammerstein’s “Carousel,” but came down with strep throat, so Bill Hayes went in his place. He landed the role, which lasted about four months. Hayes realized he needed more vocal training and entered Northwestern University. He met his first wife Mary Hobbs and the couple had five children. Hayes eventually got his first taste of TV as the lead crooner on “Your Show of Shows,” a very popular variety program starring Sid Caesar and Imogene Coca.
Hayes professional life, which also included nightclub gigs, put a strain on his marriage and ultimately he and his first wife divorced in the late sixties. The actor moved his children out to Hollywood to look for a new career. Because his focus had to be his children, he decided to give up nightclubs and traveling shows. As luck would have it his agents told him about the part of Doug Williams on “Days” that was being auditioned. Hayes’ initial response was, “A soap actor is a bad actor, soap writing is bad writing, soap everything was bad.” He quickly admits, “I had something to learn about that.” Hayes ultimately took the job which became a new defining role of his career. “It took me two minutes to learn the soaps were wonderful,” Hayes says.
In an interesting turn of fate, Hayes was only supposed to share a single scene with Susan Seaforth. However William Bell, the then headwriter of the show, saw something between the two of them and embraced it. As Doug and Julie’s romance bloomed, Hayes says, “The scripts go so exciting that I couldn’t wait to open the next script to see what happened.” When “Days” moved to an hour long show in 1975 the writers worried they wouldn’t be able to fill the time, so decided to utilize Hayes’ singing talents and write numbers into the show for him to perform. Eventually the character opened his own night club called Doug’s Place. Music remained a huge part of days through the 80s with stars like Gloria Loring (Liz Chandler) and Charlotte Ross (Eve Donovan).
While Doug and Julie were becoming a huge thing on screen, off screen their romance was blossoming as well. The couple married in real life in 1974, and fans clamored for them to marry on screen, which they did in 1976. “School age kids cut school to stay home and watch their marriage,” Hayes says about the event. Co-star Matt Ashford (Jack Deveraux) notes, “They had one of those first full on romances that was viewed day by day by millions of people across the country.” Doug and Julie were so popular that they made the cover of TIME Magazine, which did a story on soaps in 1976.
Doug and Julie hit rocky times with the soaps in the 1980s, ultimately being written off. However they have remained a fixture on the soap and come and go from Salem. Ashford points out that, “The audience loves intergenerational storytelling, and if you don’t have people like Bill and Susan there, you’ve lost that connection.” Commenting on her husband and her own success, Seaforth-Hayes admits she’s been an actress her entire life but never found success until Bill came along. “It never would have happened to Susan, unless she had met Bill.”
You can watch the entire documentary on Bill Hayes’ life at Bill Hayes Movie.
Photo credit: Nikki Nelson/WENN.com
– Dustin Cushman