Twenty Years After the Death of a General Hospital Legend, a Tribute to the Original Edward Quartermaine: ‘The Only Thing I Loved More Than Money’ in the Role Was…
ABC/Courtesy of the Everett Collection
The ABC soap managed to recast the Qs’ patriarch — and successfully. But a part of our hearts was never reclaimed from his first portrayer.
Some actors grow into their roles. They figure them out as they go along and ultimately something magically clicks. David Lewis didn’t have to do that when he was cast by General Hospital as the formidable Edward Quartermaine in 1978. In an instant, viewers knew, “Oh yeah, that’s Edward,” the blowhard who headed up the affluent new family in Port Charles. They knew his temper — and how no one wanted to get on the wrong side of it — and they knew his sweet side; the gleam in Lewis’ eye made it impossible to write off the crankypants millionaire as just a nasty old coot.
Edward’s Saving Grace
In General Hospital: The Complete Scrapbook, the actor, a veteran of Love of Life and Bright Promise, said that “as Edward, the only thing I loved more than money was my dear, sweet wife, Lila.
“I loved our more tender scenes together,” he added.
So did viewers. Edward and Lila’s interaction revealed a depth and complexity to the patriarch that we might have otherwise missed. Lila’s portrayer, the late Anna Lee, “always said there’s no reason on earth why people our age shouldn’t have a romantic relationship,” Lewis recalled for the book. “And I agree.”
A Chip Off the Old Block
None of that is to suggest that Edward was in any way, shape or form a pushover. On the contrary, he was such a toughie that he tested daughter Tracy’s loyalty by faking a heart attack. Instead of hand over the medication that would save his life, she bargained for a rewritten will, one that wouldn’t disinherit her.
Needless to say, the mercenary minx flunked the test. (You can watch the dysfunctional family dynamic in action below.)
Every Day Is Dirty Laundry Day
In the 1980s, General Hospital shone a spotlight on Lewis in one storyline after another. (Youthquake? What youthquake?) If Edward wasn’t chasing after the Ice Princess with his Cassadine pals, he was “welcoming” to the family illegitimate son Jimmy Lee Holt or reeling from the shock of being bankrupted by estranged daughter-in-law Monica, who went so far as to kick her former family out of their mansion.
In 1989, health issues forced Lewis to step away from his by-then-iconic role. But even after Edward was “killed” in a plane crash, the intrepid actor still voiced his character so that “widow” Lila could communicate with him.
In 1991, the Daytime Emmy winner reprised his role but only for a couple of years; his declining health would once again force Lewis off the show, setting the stage for him to be replaced by John Ingle, whose innate zest was so irresistible, viewers couldn’t help but embrace him as Edward.
Gone But Not Forgotten
Lewis died on December 11, 2000, leaving behind countless hours of memorable General Hospital episodes and a hole in the hearts of his castmates that could never be filled. As Leslie Charleson (Monica) told Soap Opera Digest in 2006, he “would do anything and everything he could to crack me up. He had that rubbery face that could look so stern — until you looked at his eyes. Then you saw that twinkle.
“I remember doing a scene where Uncle Herbert had died,” she continued. “David and Anna had to exit the bedroom, leaving Stuart [Damon, ex-Alan] and me to have a very serious conversation. As David passed us, he said, ‘I’m taking Mommy to wee-wee,’ so [just] Stuart and I could hear it as we were taping.”
Good luck keeping a straight face after that! “We had to do the rest of the scene in character,” Charleson said. “We locked eyes and thought, ‘Once this scene is over, we’re going to kill him.’ Afterward… we said lots of unprintable words.”
We have a hunch that mischievous Lewis wouldn’t have wanted it any other way. On this somber occasion, let’s do what he’d probably advise us to and perk the hell up. How? Perhaps by perusing the below photo gallery, which reveals which soap stars are the longest-serving in daytime history.
Video: YouTube/General Hospital