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Brian Lowe/JPI, Paul Skipper/JPI, Columbia TriStar Television/Courtesy of the Everett Collection

On June 21, 1976, a new character knocked on the hearts of the NBC soap’s viewers. As radiantly as she smiled, they couldn’t help but respond, “Come on in.”

All those years ago, Deidre Hall would’ve been the last person on earth to think that she was the right person to play Days of Our Lives’ Marlena Evans, much less that she’d still inhabit the role decades later. In fact, when the NBC soap offered her the part, she took a pass.

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“I thought there had been a mistake,” she said in Days of Our Lives: The Complete Family Album. “So I turned it down. A few months later, it was offered to me again.

“Now,” she continued, “I was certain something really must be wrong if they couldn’t find anyone to accept the role. Then they made it clear there was no one else who they wanted and were very surprised by what I had thought. So I came on board.”

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And aside from a break here and there, most notably when she left to focus on primetime’s Our House with Wilford Brimley in the late 1980s, Hall’s never gotten off board. At this point, it’s impossible to think of Days of Our Lives without two things: the hourglass and this particular leading lady, whose warmth and charisma shine as brightly today as ever.

The show keeps finding new and interesting ways to challenge Hall, too — miraculous when you consider the range of storylines that she’s played over the years. Actually, let us help you consider that range. All you have to do is click here or on the photo gallery below, and you’ll be ushered into a photo album of Marlena’s most memorable moments, from her “Roman holiday” to the period when had, erm, “a devil of a time.”