Anna Lee's other family - the Quartermaines. (ABC)

I spent the good part of August curled up on my porch swing visiting an old friend. Okay, so I never met the lovely Anna Lee, but I’ve certainly spent a fair share of time enjoying Lila Quartermaine during my 25+ years as a General Hospital fan. And, technically, I wasn’t really visiting with her, but reading her memoir, Anna Lee; Memoir of a Career on General Hospital and in Film, by Barbara Roisman Cooper, certainly felt like a visit with a dear, old friend. Why did it take me nearly a month to read a book, you ask? Because it was that good. As an ardent GH fan, I know that Anna Lee passed away in 2004 (as did Lila Quartermaine), so I pretty much knew how the book would end. What had me savoring the pages where the glorious details of her life in the 65 years prior to landing on my collegiate TV screen (that should have been turned OFF so I could study!). The book did not disappoint. She was born in a different country, with a different name and enjoyed more thrilling experiences (personal as well as professional) than I can go into here. She starred in movies, as well as on the stage and worked with Hollywood legends such as John Ford, Marlene Dietrich, Bette Davis, Joan Crawford and John Wayne. In addition to all of this, she was a U.S.O. volunteer and traveled the globe during WWII to entertain the troops. Her compassion for the troops didn’t go unnoticed. General Patton himself asked her to visit field hospitals and gave her an honorary title as “Morale Builder” for the 7th Army. Although all GH fans would enjoy learning more about Ms. Lee’s life, fans of early Hollywood, England and even World War II will find the book well worth their time. Her love of the English countryside, men in uniform and her family oozes from every page and you’ll end up seeing even more when you are lucky enough to find footage of those wise and sparkling eyes of hers.

What I was really interested in learning about (and passing on to readers) was what Barbara Roisman Cooper’s experience was like working with Anna Lee. She graciously answered my questions recently – at length! – and I will be passing her stories on to you in three weekly installments. So without any further ado, get yourself some tea & scones and enjoy Part I:

SOAPS.COM: Barbara, first of all, I loved your book. I had a hard time remembering that Anna Lee has passed away, in fact – it was so alive! Tell me, how did this project come to you?

BARBARA ROISMAN COOPER: I was working with cinematographer/producer/director Ronald Neame (The Poseidon Adventure, Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, etc.) on his autobiography. We had decided to interview as many of his colleagues as possible and include their comments in his book. One of the actresses whom he photographed while he lived in England was Anna Lee, who then lived very close by his Beverly Hills home. I made an appointment with Anna and drove to her lovely “cottage” on Doheny Drive. From the rose garden in the front drive to the Union Jack swaying in the breeze, there was no doubt that a lady of British extraction lived there. Our first interview began at 3 p.m. She greeted me in the living room of her home seated in her electric wheelchair, scrapbooks stacked high on her lap; her beloved Great Dane Hugo loped over to inspect me. After I asked questions and looked at her photos and clippings, her caregiver Zoraida came in with a proper English tea: scones, sandwiches, cakes, all the trimmings.

SOAPS.COM: Did you know who Anna Lee was before working on this book? Are you (or have you ever been) a soap watcher? If so, which soaps?

BRC: Yes, I knew who Anna was before I met her as her name had been an important one when discussing Ronald Neame’s career. I was, however, not a daytime drama watcher. But I did know about GH.

SOAPS.COM: The book read so much as if Anna Lee was speaking, tell me, what was your “process” like? For example, did she simply start at the beginning of her life and talk to you, or did she provide you with pages of text, etc.

BRC: Since Anna was working, our time was scheduled around her calls at the studio. When she wasn’t working, we worked about three days a week for an hour or so. On occasion, she would have typed up some notes which we would use as the day’s topic. Other times, we just talked. We also watched her films together, which was fun. She always had a cogent comment to make about her co-stars, her costumes, the director.