Remembering General Hospital’s Anna Lee on the Anniversary of Her Passing — Plus, a Photo Gallery That Climbs the Quartermaine Family Tree
The actress’ legacy lives on through memories of her General Hospital character.
When Anna Lee succumbed to pneumonia 18 years ago, on May 14, 2004, she was fondly remembered far and wide — and rightly so — for her work in films such as How Green Was My Valley and The Sound of Music. But the 91-year-old’s passing hit fans of General Hospital especially hard: Since she’d begun playing Quartermaine matriarch Lila in 1978, she’d been the ABC soap’s sweetheart — and, to many a viewer, a beloved grandmother figure.
It was easy to see how she slipped into that role — she was all but born for it. The twinkle in the veteran actress’ eye was as irresistible as it was inimitable. It said without words, “Yes, indeed, I’m up for some mischief.” And even after she was paralyzed from the waist down following a car accident in 1981, she retained a feistiness that allowed her Port Charles alter ego, as emphatically as metaphorically, to stand up to cantankerous husband Edward and their quarrelsome brood of backstabbers.
However, what might have been Lee’s defining characteristic as Lila — and the one that is, to this day, missed the most — was her gentleness. Whether Lila was offering unconditional acceptance to hit-man grandson Jason or squinting to see the good in conniving daughter Tracy, her portrayer radiated a warmth and an openness that were so tangible, they felt like an embrace wide enough to hold the entire audience.
Following Lee’s death, a year after General Hospital had outraged fans by taking her off contract, Lila was said to have passed away in her sleep. Still, her legacy lives on, as do Soaps.com’s memories of her comforting presence in Port Charles. A few of our favorites…
In ’81, skeletons rattled in Lila’s closet when her first — and, it turned out, only legal — husband, Crane Tolliver, showed up on her doorstep with blackmail in mind. Once the scoundrel had been rendered as kaput as his plot to bleed dry the Quartermaines, the accidental bigamist remarried Edward (then David Lewis).
In ’86, Lila’s daughter-in-law, Monica, and her lover-of-the-week Sean Donely got the best of the Qs, making off with both their fortune and their mansion. Luckily, Lila’s motto was, “When life leaves you in a pickle, make relish.” Her recipe — and the company that she built up around it — soon allowed her family to reclaim their seats in the lap of luxury.
Lila always had a particularly soft spot for grandson Jason, even after a car accident left him with brain damage and a new career as muscle for the Mob. So she was delighted to learn in ’96 that when he’d shed the surname Quartermaine, he’d, however accidentally, taken as his new last name her maiden one: Morgan.
What was your favorite Lila moment? Drop your answer in the comments below. And while you’re here, check out a photo gallery that traces the Quartermaine family from its roots to the present-day.