Christopher Bernau as Alan (CBS)

To paraphrase Alfred Hitchcock, a story is only ever as good as its villain is bad. Whether you love them or simply love to hate them, Guiding Light‘s nastiest characters have always made things more exciting. In it’s long history, GL has had some very impressive villains. While many of its heroes and heroines have been morally dubious, most of its villains have been almost unrelentingly evil. It’s always been a remarkably human evil, however, which has rarely dipped into caricature. This is due in no small part to the nuanced acting displayed by many of the show’s finest villains. Their wonderful capacity to pull so many devilish gems from the writers’ words has been one of the greatest animating features on the show for the past thirty years.

In honor of Halloween, this years 70th anniversary and the return later this month of David Andrew MacDonald, I thought it would be fun to take a look back at Guiding Light‘s greatest villains. After running a little poll on the site about a month ago, I came up with four main contenders. Each week, for the rest of the month, I’ll be posting a little look back on their infamous lives and highlighting a bit of the unique nastiness of each character.

This week we’ll look at the notorious career of the show’s longest-lasting baddie, Alan Spaulding. But he did not come to the show alone. The arrival of the Spauldings brought more than just a few characters to add to the list of residents in Springfield. The family signalled a fundamental change in the fabric of the show itself, introducing corruption, corporate intrigue and violence onto the scene in a way which really hadn’t been present before. They brought the whole scary urban world with them, breaking down the wall of a closed, relatively isolated community. From then on, the show would move all over the map, from New York to Venezuela to San Cristobel, and the Spauldings would make enemies everywhere. While most of his family has tried to compete with him for the power of his position, and who can forget those battles with his sister Alexandra or with his own sons, Alan has always managed to come out on top in the end and serve as the show’s dominant catalyst.

The Actors
With the exceptions of a few brief fill-ins, there have been two actors who will really be remembered for taking on the demanding role of Alan Spaulding, the increasingly menacing tycoon who pushed Guiding Light through the 70’s and 80’s until today. Each of them managed to imbue the character with their own peculiar tones. Christopher Bernau, who played the role from 1977-1984 and then from 1986-1988, was already an accomplished stage actor, renowned for playing Dracula and Shakespearean villains. He was also famous for his part on vampire soap Dark Shadows. The other major actor to take on the role has been Ron Raines, who has played the part since 1994. He joined the cast while already an established Broadway star and has often been acclaimed as one of the most successful recasts in the show’s history. While he displays less of the cracked surface found in Bernau, he gives the character more grim charm and pathos. But both men have always captured that strange mixture of the volatile and, dare one say, the fragile that seems so important to the character. However cold and calculating he tends to be, Alan has always been in a precarious position, verging on madness and self-destruction.

See our bio of Alan here.

The Crimes
Miscellaneous: Illegally adopted Phillip; falsely convinced Elizabeth Spaulding that her baby wasn’t stillborn; Faked a heart attack (twice) and falsified medical records to prove it; faked an illness.

In Business: Took Spaulding Enterprises from his father; sabotaged the Lewis Oil-LTA deal; stole information from secret files at Lewis Oil; used the media to expose the Lewis’ involvement in illegal cloning and suggested they murdered Dolly; hired Brent Lawrence to commit accounting fraud for Spaulding Enterprises; stole Lewis Oil away from Josh and Billy Lewis by underhanded means; plotted the destruction of the San Cristobel Harbor Project.

Evidence tampering and aiding criminal activity: Helped fugitive Roger Thorpe to fake his own death (included stealing a corpse); concealed Roger Thorpe; covered up the Maryanne Caruthers incident; had Phillip’s house to burned down to destroy evidence; hid fugitive Christine Valère; tampered with Marah Shayne paternity records; concealed evidence that would have freed Josh Lewis from prison; concealed fugitive Annie Dutton (twice); doctored photos to frame Josh Lewis for taking kickbacks; withheld evidence that Alexandra was Reva’s stalker; stied on Michelle Bauer; obstructed the police investigation into Carrie Caruther’s murder; concealed Alexandra’s involvement in the Antimonious drug ring; shot his son, Phillip, and faked his death.