Credit: CBS/Courtesy of the Everett Collection, ABC, George DeSota/JPI

Daytime lost one of its greats when Marj Dusay died at age 83 on January 28, 2020.

If you never got to spend any time with Marj Dusay, you really missed out. As amazing as she was on screen, a runaway roller coaster careening wildly from conniving to conflicted to cowed, she was even more memorable off screen.

A native of Russell, Kansas, the actress was a broad in the awesomest sense of the word. When she laughed, it wasn’t half-assed, she went all in. And when she entered a room, the room changed. On. A. Dime.

Part of that was Dusay’s beauty; she was a knockout whose appeal only increased with the number of candles on her birthday cakes. But beyond that, well beyond that, she radiated an energy that rippled around her like a force field. You couldn’t help but be captivated, to want her to like you…

Hell, just to notice you!

STAR TREK, from left: Marj Dusay, Leonard Nimoy, 'Spock's Brain', season 3, ep. 1, aired 9/20/1968, 1966-69. ph: Bruce V. McBroom/TV Guide/Courtesy Everett Collection

She Had ‘It’

I interviewed the soap-hopper a few times during her long run as Alexandra Spaulding on Guiding Light, and every time was a delight. I don’t say that about everybody, either. She was forthright and funny, and so well-versed in the slings and arrows of showbiz, she could recite the rulebook from memory.

And man, was Dusay present. She didn’t walk through the world, it seemed to me. The world revolved around her — and happily so. Dining with her in Manhattan was one of the few occasions I didn’t look around to see what celebrities might be getting their chow on; there couldn’t have been anyone there more captivating than my own dinner companion.

Lathering Up, Up and Away

Needless to say, Dusay’s career extended well beyond daytime. In the 1960s, the rising star appeared in Clambake with Elvis Presley, TV Westerns like Bonanza and The Wild Wild West and a particularly memorable episode of Star Trek. (See above.) She continued down the guest-star route in the 1970s and ’80s, adding everything from Mannix to The Facts of Life to her resumé.

But once Dusay made her daytime debut, replacing the late Carolyn “Morticia Addams” Jones as Capitol scheme queen Myrna Clegg, she was, for all intents and purposes, home. Soapdom embraced her like an old friend, and teed up one glorious role after another.

After before-its-time DC-set sudser Capitol was cancelled, Dusay slayed as Mason Capwell’s crazy-like-a-fox mother Pamela Capwell on Santa Barbara, did the impossible and succeeded the estimable Beverlee McKinsey as Alexandra on Guiding Light, and gave a stylish flare to insanity as Josh Duhamel’s All My Children Mommie Dearest, Vanessa Bennett.

Watch her in fantastically off-kilter action below, opposite Santa Barbara son Gordon Thomson.

One of a Kind

Vincent Irizarry played Dusay’s offspring on not one but two soaps; on Guiding Light, he was Nick McHenry to her Alex, and on All My Children, he was David Hayward to her Vanessa. In his estimation, “she was a force of nature as an actress, courageously pulling out all the stops in whatever role she was gracing us with…

“I reached out to her a couple months back, having heard that she was having a difficult time with some physical challenges as of late,” he added after learning that we had lost her. “I’m grateful to have heard her voice one last time, to have heard her infectious laughter one last time. RIP, darling Marj. Your gift was our blessing.”

And how. On this somber occasion, cheer yourself up with the below photo gallery that updates you on other Guiding Light alumni with then-and-now images that suggest no one’s getting older, just better.

Video: YouTube/Santa Barbara Soap