In 1977, when the actress took over, both the character and she were successful!
It’s difficult to envision anybody other in the role, although Laura had been a fixture in Port Charles for a while when Genies Francis made her General Hospital debut on February 8, 1977. Although the part was created by a young Stacey Baldwin (who is not related to Scotty! ), this early version of Laura really just served to dramatise Lesley Williams’s shock at learning that her daughter, whom she had believed had passed away, actually hadn’t.
Francis’ Laura was an older adolescent who served as both a story device and a plot motivator. Furthermore, as these were her Scotty days, she dove right in with the grownups rather than merely swimming with the teenagers.
One of the early plotlines for the future Emmy winner had the creep David Hamilton seducing Laura. David, a former “friend” of Rick Webber, Laura’s stepfather, had attempted to manipulate Lesley as part of a vengeance plot. He tried her daughter after she flatly rejected him, and he was successful! (In hindsight, poor, heartbroken Scotty should have recognised the signs when his love was so quickly taken from him. Over and time again.)
That first relationship that Laura had didn’t turn so well. Because of her rage at learning that David had just been using her, she shoved him to the ground, where he died from a head injury caused by the soap opera principles of cause and effect. (Fireplaces are risky, dude!)
And there was Francis’ first year as Laura, a wonderful tale of a teenage infatuation with an older guy and a murder. The tragic murder confession she made to Luke Spencer a few years later is shown in the video below. Needless to say, it didn’t take us long to recognise that Francis and her alter ego had a bright future ahead of them. She hasn’t failed us in the last 40 years, either!
From her rough beginning with Luke and his rape of her to her capture and forced marriage to Stavros Cassadine, troubled relationships have been a recurring theme for the character. Theresa Carver, Rick’s mistress, was also inadvertently killed by Laura in the late 1970s, as we discovered a few years ago.
Laura has evolved over the years from a disobedient adolescent and Campus Disco waiter to the frickin’ mayor of Port Charles. She has fought against supervillains and the Mafia and prevailed against mafia boss Frank Smith and mother Helena Cassadine. And having had three children and been rewarded with four grandchildren, she has transformed from a vindictive adolescent to a passionately protective matriarch.
Oh, and the 1981 wedding of Luke and Laura was the “most-watched midday event in history.” That is an accomplishment that has not yet been surpassed and, let’s be honest, probably never will be. (Yes, RSVP; better late than never; see our “wedding album” here.)
Without Francis, it is difficult to envision any of this. That may be the reason the role has never been replaced despite the fact that she has frequently left General Hospital throughout the years. Every time Francis leaves, Laura is a bit smarter, a little more secure, and ready to take on anything Port Charles might throw at her.
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