Ellen Dolan claims stupid and dumb luck landed her cast as Maureen Reardon in Guiding Light
Susan Dansby: What was the process like when you got the role of Maureen? [Reardon] us Guide light? Did you have to audition?
Ellen Dolan: Yes, of course I auditioned for that. That came out of nowhere. I was only in New York for about a year, and had tried out for another role in Another world. And I think I tried something on Ryan’s Hope.
So this came up and I was learning all along: you go, you do it, you drop it at the door.
Susan Dansby: Right.
Ellen Dolan: But you never do. You say that to yourself, but you never do. And I remember it was like the tenth day. They had ten days for people to know. And it was the tenth day. And it was also when they had answering services, where you call every ten minutes and they say, “Nothing else, Ellen.”
So I stopped calling, because it was the last day.
And I got home that night, and the agent had stayed up late at the office, because I lived very, very up, in the highest part of Manhattan, and finally, they called me and they called me and they said, “He booked it.” .
And I started crying, just because, it wasn’t like it was a relief. My next thought was, “Well that was easy. What else do I have to do before I become a movie star?” It was that kind of young thinking.
And then it was just, ‘come and sign the contracts,’ and ‘come and take your measurements,’ and ‘let’s take you shopping.’
Now, of course, he hadn’t even traveled above ground in Manhattan yet. I lived in Inwood [north of Manhattan], and I kept my last five dollars. And this came just in time. In fact, when it started, I had to borrow money from the casting director, Betty Rea.
Susan Dansby: Oh, I loved Betty Rea!
Ellen Dolan: He loved Betty Rea so much. And this is a good transition. You now, were the great ladies.
The other person who helped me a lot when I moved to New York was Shirley Rich. And she just passed away, I think, this past year. She was a casting director who did Kramer vs. Kramer – things like that.
She was an alumnus, alumnus from Iowa. And she used to come back and do workshops with us. And she said, “When you get to New York, that’s how you do it. You read at a desk. And blah, blah, blah, blah, blah.” And so I was a little prepared for all of that. And she said, “And when you get there, call me and I’ll tell you what to do.”
Well, I got to New York; And about 15 minutes after arriving in New York, I got a phone call from the Milwaukee rep asking if I was going to do Katrin in Mother courage. And I said, “Oh, I can’t afford to go back to the Midwest. I just moved here.”
They had to call me back and say, “Okay, you …”
It was so stupid. I’ve had stupid, stupid luck my whole life. I really have. And starting during the day was a big part of that. Great, wonderful, stupid, and dumb luck.
I had prepared myself for it. I wanted to do, not only during the day, but I wanted to do Guide light. And he wanted to be a Reardon.
Susan Dansby: Wow.
Ellen Dolan: Because I thought it would probably be a good place for me and a good training ground. And within a year, I got it.
So when I quit, I quit because I thought, ‘You know, I came here to do theater. So I should stop doing television and start doing theater. ‘