gloria-monty-mashup-abc-ec

ABC/Courtesy of the Everett Collection (5)

They don’t come any more fearless than the woman who got the soap off life support.

You can guess what Gloria Monty’s New Year’s resolution was in 1978: to keep ABC from swinging the axe. When the longtime Secret Storm director took over as executive producer of a struggling General Hospital that fateful January 1, she knew that she had to act fast — and that, she did.

More: General Hospital’s greatest characters, ranked [PHOTOS]

According to Christopher Schemering’s The Soap Opera Encyclopedia, Monty immediately chucked a week’s worth of already-taped episodes, then set about improving… well, pretty much everything about the show, from its lighting to its pacing. And with the late, great Douglas Marland as headwriter, she managed to get General Hospital off the critical list.

It wasn’t easy, though, and neither, legend has it, was Monty. She was said to demand the absolute best from her company — and damn well got it, too. As Pat Falken Smith, headwriter during what is widely considered to be the soap’s 1980s Golden Age, put it: “Gloria’s a genus — who runs a gestapo operation.”

Never did Monty shy away from taking a risk, whether it was having Luke Spencer rape Laura Baldwin, daring to later pair them romantically (we all know how that worked out!) or turning General Hospital into something that resembled science fiction as much as soap opera. When it worked, it worked preposterously well. (See also: Luke and Laura’s wedding, the most-watched episode in daytime history.)

And when it didn’t work… well, you got Anthony Geary as Luke’s cousin, not Luke, and Monty’s sister as headwriter. But just because she didn’t leave Port Charles with a bang doesn’t mean that she didn’t leave it changed for the better. And on the anniversary of her passing on March 30, 2006, it bears mentioning — and repeating as necessary — that to this day her fingerprints are all over General Hospital, in every energetic scene we watch, every plot twist at which we gasp.

Same goes at all the soaps.

As General Hospital rose in popularity, other shows took cues from what Monty was doing so successfully and launched their own revolutions, the results of which continue to color and shape the soaps we love. In honor of her achievements, and that incomparable legacy, join us, won’t you, in perusing the  below photo gallery, a collection of rare images and hot shots from the show’s distant past and intense present.