Remembering One of Days of Our Lives’ (and Daytime’s) Most Beloved Leading Ladies 12 Years After Her Passing — Plus, Photos From Frances Reid’s Legendary Run as Alice Horton
When we lost Frances Reid, we all lost a mother, a grandmother and a dear friend.
When Frances Reid passed away on February 3, 2010, it truly was the end of an era. Neither the Horton family nor Days of Our Lives would have been the same without having from the very start Alice and her beloved Tom at their beating heart.
From Stage to Screen
Soaps, unsurprisingly, weren’t on Reid’s radar when she graduated from the Pasadena Community Playhouse. Broadway, though, most definitely was. The young actress from Wichita Falls, Texas, made her debut in 1939, and spent the next couple of decades on stage. Her early TV roles were mostly in theatrical anthology series, so as she began the move to soap operas, the journey was a bit… rocky.
Reid took her first stab at daytime in 1954 with the title role in Portia Faces Life. As she recalled in a 2003 interview with the Archive of American Television, “I found it very stressful.”
In fact, she found it so stressful, she quit after only a few months! Next came the role of As the World Turns’ Grace Baker, who was, in Reid’s own words, “unpleasant.” And of The Edge of Night’s Rose Pollock, the actress just laughed. “[The soap roles] came and went so fast, I don’t remember them.”
Days of Our Lives, she assumed, would be the same.
“I took the role thinking it would be all right for a year,” said Reid in the soap’s 30th-anniversary book, Days of Our Lives: The Complete Family Album. Three decades later, “most of my professional life has been as Alice Horton, and I have no regrets.”
A Lasting Legacy
Reid was perfectly happy as one of the “old folk” of Salem — Alice was already a grandmother in the pilot episode — though she was delighted that as Alice aged, she got more involved in the Salem community. It seemed nothing could keep her down, not even Tom’s death (portrayer Macdonald Carey passed away from lung cancer in 1994), or her own “murder” at the hands of the Salem Stalker.
We last saw Alice and her gentle smile at the Horton Christmas-ornament ceremony on December 26, 2007. Even if we didn’t realize it at the time, it was a beautiful way to say goodbye. Alice had started the tradition decades earlier, and to this day, it wouldn’t feel like Christmas without the heartwarming gathering.
Reid had been living in an assisted-living facility when she died a little over two years later at the age of 95. Alice, meanwhile, passed away peacefully in her sleep in June of 2010, at the age of 99. Her passing left a hole in our hearts that Reid, sadly, never quite anticipated.
“I don’t think I will be remembered,” she mused of her legacy during the Archive of American Television interview. “I think most people are not remembered. Maybe some people that I had an effect on, some people I worked with. That’s the way I’ll be remembered. Not much.”
This is probably the only time we’re happy to prove Reid wrong. It’s been a dozen years since we lost her, and we can promise she’ll be remembered for many, many more years to come. In fact, to mark this melancholy occasion, we’ve put together the below photo album featuring highlights of her storied run as Alice.
<p>Broadway veteran Frances Reid made her soap debut in 1954 when she accepted the title role in CBS’ television adaptation of the radio drama <em>Portia Faces Life</em>. From there, she hit the mother lode, going from playing Penny Baker’s mother-in-law on <em>As the World Turns</em> to Nancy Karr’s mother on <em>The Edge of Night</em>. Finally, in 1965, the actress landed the part with which she’ll always be most closely associated.</p>
<p>When NBC premiered <em>Days of Our Lives</em>, Reid was front and center as yet another mom, Alice Horton, the embodiment of a warm embrace. But the family’s matriarch wound up spending as much time wringing her hands as throwing her arms around her loved ones, as her children with doctor husband Tom seemed to have made it their mission in life to leave frying pans <em>only</em> when there was a fire into which they could leap.</p>
<p>To choose the most troubling of Alice’s kids is a tall order. But, for our money, it was Bill, the doctor who returned to Salem with a pal who turned out to be his “late” brother Tommy and reacted to ex-fiancée Laura Spencer’s marriage to sibling rival Mickey by raping her and then blacking out the whole horrifying incident. “More toast, son?”</p>
<p>Though Alice was all about home and hearth, she was also about kicking ass and taking names. So when Roman Brady (then Wayne Northrop) was thrown behind bars as the Salem Slasher — as if! — she took action as only she could. First, she baked him a drug-laced batch of her legendary doughnuts, then she got herself arrested helping his brother Bo ensure that he’d go free before he could be handcuffed to a hospital bed.</p>
<p>The late 1980s were tough on Alice. First, old flame Simon Hopkins came to Salem hoping to win her back or take her hostage — either one. Then, she discovered that Tom wasn’t cheating on her, he was doing something far worse — reading poetry aloud at Calliope Jones’ Beat Bar. Finally, Alice found out that her marriage to Tom had never been legal in the first place — <em>and</em> her better half had known about it all those years!</p>
<p>After Alice discovered that the murderous Salem Stalker was none other than her dear friend Marlena Evans, the supposed killer did away with her by weaponizing her doughnuts. Thankfully, it turned out that Marlena was no more a homicidal maniac than Alice was dead. The soul-shattering shenanigans were all part of a plot hatched by Andre DiMera. Who was posing as half brother Tony. Because the whole mess wasn’t dizzy-making enough!</p>
<p>You know that one aunt that everybody has who loves the holidays so much that when trick-or-treaters ring her doorbell, they’re bathed in the glow of Christmas lights already hung? Alice loved the Yuletide season that much, too. Although she generally showed more restraint when it came to putting up wreaths and getting a tree before Thanksgiving, at least.</p>
<p>After hanging the treasured Horton family ornaments on Bo and Hope’s Christmas tree in 2009, Alice was devastated to learn of the passing of her son, Mickey (seen here years earlier). She loved all of her children, of course, but she and Mickey… they shared a special bond. So his loss was one from which she would never recover, not completely.</p>
<p>Perhaps it’s fitting, in a poignant sorta way, that the last photo that we could find of Reid on the<em> Days of Our Lives</em> set was taken during the taping of Christmas episodes in 2007 with longtime castmates Suzanne Rogers, who plays Alice’s daughter-in-law Maggie, and Susan Seaforth Hayes, who plays her granddaughter Julie. Following the soap legend’s passing in 2010, Alice’s health was said to have declined swiftly, her heart having been broken by Mickey’s death. On screen, Salem — and we — were said to have lost Alice on June 23, 2010.</p>
<p>When Alice was laid to rest, her friends and family gathered to pay their respects. But how could any of them sum up a person who was so sweet and spirited, so strong and so gentle? As Hope laid a yellow rose on her grandmother’s casket, she said simply, “I love you, Gran,” and asked her to do exactly what she’d always done. “You look out for us,” said Hope, “for the rest of the days of our lives.”</p>
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