the 100 most memorable moments in soap history
ATWT owes a great deal of its early success to the fascination the tortured romance of Penny and Jeff (Rosemary Prinz & Mark Rydell) held for viewers in the late 1950s and early 1960s. Viewers were mesmerized to watch this couple go through several trials and tribulations, including Jeff being falsely implicated and arrested in the first murder on the show in 1958, Jeff becoming an alcoholic, Jeff's interfering mother, Jeff leaving town and assuming another name and reviving his interest in becoming a concert pianist, and Jeff and Penny reuniting and then getting married. But when Rydell wanted to leave the show and move behind the camera, the ATWT scribes made a bold move. In the fall of 1962, Jeff Baker was killed in a car crash. Fans were beside themselves. The CBS studios were flooded with grief-stricken telegrams, phone calls and letters. TV Guide called the incident, "the car accident that shook the nation." The message boards and e-mails may not have been around yet, but this shocking moment proves that even in the early days of soaps, fans were extremely devoted to the extended families they followed every day on soaps.