Nixon, Agnes E(ckhardt)
NIXON, Agnes E(ckhardt)
Born 10 December 1927, Chicago, Illinois
Daughter of Harry J. and Agnes Dalton Eckhardt; married Robert Nixon, 1951; children: four
Agnes E. Nixon was raised in a devout Catholic household. As a child, she was an avid reader of comic strips, and she created stories about the characters whose pictures she cut from the funny papers. Nixon attended St. Mary's College in South Bend, Indiana, and Northwestern University, where she earned a B.A. in drama. She has four children.
Nixon entered radio to avoid a career in her father's funeral-garment business. She began writing dialogue for Women in White (1938-1942), Irna Phillips' popular daytime serial. Also under Phillips, Nixon began writing for the television serial Guiding Light (1952-). As a freelance teleplay writer, Nixon has written scripts for Studio One, Robert Montgomery Presents, Somerset Maugham Theater, Philco Theater, and Hallmark Hall of Fame. She later rescued the soap oprea Another World (1964-99) from flagging audience ratings by updating its characters and themes, until its demise in the late 1990s.
As a result of her success with Another World, ABC asked Nixon to create her own daytime serial. One Life to Live (1968-) was the first truly interracial television serial, using black characters in more than token roles. Miscegenation was a central theme until the supposedly white Carla Benari proved to be of the same race as black physician Price Trainor.
In 1970 Nixon introduced the "fact-in-fiction" format as a way of dealing convincingly with drug abuse. A fictional character, Cathy Craig, aged 17, was introduced to a drug therapy session involving actual residents of New York's Odyssey House. The residents were taped on location while they tried to persuade Cathy to give up drugs. This realistic, responsible approach to social issues became Nixon's hallmark.
Current social problems, particularly those confronting the generations, also have been central to Nixon's most successful creation, All My Children (1970-). The program stresses the need for a sense of family and home in the face of such contemporary trials as abortion, male sterility, child abuse, uterine cancer, and STDs. Other contemporary themes include ecology, mental health, the danger of carbon monoxide poisoning in the home, readjustment problems, and drug abuse.
All My Children 's stock soap opera characters are interesting because they are modern, likeable, and often funny. Female characters provide most of the dramatic interest. One villain especially, the irrepressible Erica Kane, is often humorously overdrawn yet beloved by fans. Nixon consciously exploits the opportunity provided by the serial format to create sympathetic heavies by allowing viewers to see them in their complexity. In addition to realism and humor, All My Children is distinguished by a fast-moving plot, an optimistic outlook, and a contemporary appearance.
With characteristic originality, excellence, and willingness to experiment, Nixon has been writing one or more daily serials (even ABC's venerable General Hospital) without interruption for some 40 years. As "Queen of the Soapers" Irna Phillips' successor, Nixon has been called the "Crown Princess of the Soaps" and "First Lady of Soap Opera."
Edmondson, M., and D. Rounds, From Mary Noble to Mary Hartman: The Complete Soap Opera Book (1976). Soares, M., The Soap Opera Book (1978). Stedman, R., The Serials: Suspense and Drama by Installment (1977). Wakefield, D., All Her Children (1976).
Journal of the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences (Winter 1972). Los Angeles Times (7 May 1978). McCall's (May 1970). NYT (7 July 1968, 11 Dec. 1969, 20 Oct. 1975). Television Quarterly (Fall 1970). TV Guide (3 May 1975).
—CAREN J. DEMING