Ah, the montage: pulling the most emotional resonance from the least amount of dialog — and the perfect way to end a good Friday episode.
Montages are a soap staple for sure, and one that General Hospital has always had a knack for pulling off well. Since a picture (not to mention a good song) is worth a thousand words, pull up a chair, crank up the volume and enjoy some of our favorites:
Both Sides Now
Tenillypo: Genie Francis’ 2006 return in honor of Luke and Laura’s 25th wedding anniversary was, in essence, a badly done, character assassinating retcon of the badly done, character assassinating retcon which had sent her into a coma in the first place, several years before. But there were a few moments which managed to transcend the suck, and this was one of them.
Unfortunately, due to copyright restrictions, I wasn’t able to find a copy of this clip with the original music, Joni Mitchell’s gorgeous 2000 version of “Both Sides Now.” To get the full effect, mute the video above and put this one on in the background (or better yet, buy yourself a copy of the non-live version). Trust me, it’s much better that way.
At it’s heart, this montage is all about love in all its many forms and faces. Romantic, platonic, familial. Love remembered, and love lost. The love of friends. The love of parents and children. There’s a sense of bittersweet regret and wisdom hard won through adversity and experience in the lyrics and in Joni Mitchell’s smokey voice which perfectly compliments all of these scenes and never fails to make me sniffle a little. But mainly it’s the shot of Luke and Laura on the porch, no words needed between them, while their children grieve inside the house, which puts this entire sequence over the top, in my estimation. Good stuff.
Incandescentflower: Now, I’ve said before that my memory pretty much sucks. And I have to admit that I did not recall this specific montage. But it isn’t surprising to me that as I looked at clips on YouTube, many people claimed this was one of their favorite montages from GH.
Remember when the mob threatened the people Sonny loved and it was interesting? Remember when you cared what happened to Sonny? If you put yourself back there and watch this clip, it is obvious that this scene was the starting point for significant plot developments. Brenda, in a vulnerable position, is shot at in the shower and narrowly escapes with cuts from the broken glass. This incident ultimately led to the separation of Sonny and Brenda because of the fact that Sonny continued to hide information about his business from her. Robin and Stone are shot at and while Stone’s panic over bleeding on Robin leads to the revelation that he has AIDs. All the while, Laura is singing a lullaby to her daughter that is sweet and haunting, while mob hitmen are on their way to her home to threaten both their lives. All aspects of this montage are engaging and compelling. Classic GH at its best.
Tenillypo: Lulu’s post-abortion angst was so overplayed and obnoxious in the following months that it’s easy to forget the actual story was pretty decent in a lot of places. Seeing her lying on the table, scared and alone, still tugs at my heart strings a little.
Here we have little, every day moments — Sonny visiting Kristina, Carly and Jax enjoying family time with the boys — juxtaposed against the quiet and understated sadness of Lulu’s friends and family and the violence and out of control energy of Liz and Lucky’s fight. And weaving all of it together, the ticking clocks emphasize how quickly life changing events can occur.
(Montage begins approx. 4:20 into video)
Incandescentflower: I like Greg Vaughn, but seeing these clips, Jonathan Jackson will always be Lucky in my heart. Despite the reveal that Lucky was really alive — one of GH’s greatest, soapiest moments — his death still resonates with me because Jonathan Jackson is no longer on the show.
(Although he has been popping up on one of my favorite shows lately, which is utilizing his acting skills much more than GH would these days.)
This montage also is a reminder that character-wise, there was a time when the writers valued Lucky and his relationship with his family. Oh, those were the days.
Tenillypo: Years had passed and they’d both moved on with their lives and married other people, but when Sonny and Brenda laid eyes on each other for the first time after her return from the dead, it still felt like coming home. Jax and Brenda’s later reunion was anti-climactic in comparison. As an old school Sonny/Brenda fan, I couldn’t have asked for more.
(Once again, overzealous copyright enforcement mars a perfect YouTube experience. If you can find a copy of this montage with the original music — Judy Collins’ version of “Amazing Grace” — consider yourself lucky. The effect just isn’t the same with stock GH instrumentation in the background.)
Everything about the Amazing Grace montage worked: music, acting, direction. The writers wisely chose to invoke one of the most memorable moments in S&B history by staging their reunion at the church where Sonny had left Brenda at the altar. Once again, Sonny waited in the rain while Brenda flung open the doors, this time, in joy rather than despair. But more than that, the writers took the religious imagery and ran with it in the counterpoint scenes of Carly lighting candles and drinking wine.
Most of all, the reverent lyrics and tone fit the moment perfectly, as do the looks on both Sonny and Brenda’s faces — she, exuberantly happy, while he stares, as completely stunned and awestruck as if he’d come upon an actual angel. I once was lost, but now am found, indeed.
I clearly remember literally sitting on the edge of my seat as Sonny approached the church in painstaking slow motion when this first aired. The anticipation was insane, and they drew it out perfectly. Whatever other problems I had with Brenda’s return, this one moment was just fantastic.
The MetroCourt Hostage Crisis
Incandescentflower: Knowing what I know now, there is part of me that doesn’t want to put the MetroCourt hostage crisis on this list. But there is no denying that it included some of the more enjoyable episodes General Hospital has had in a long time. Too bad it ruined sweeps and the countdown clock for us all. If only the writers didn’t realize that we enjoyed it, then maybe they wouldn’t be trying to recycle it every three months.
But the fact that I still enjoy the first montage — even though we saw variants of it for weeks — demonstrates its staying power. The music is powerful, the scenes are affecting, and it involves almost every character on the show: a perfect storm of enjoyment.
The second montage takes place in the aftermath of the crisis, and includes some of the most distressing and interesting parts — as well as Mr. Craig’s ruthless speechifying, which was also entertaining. If only he had stayed Mr. Craig and 100% evil. It just goes to show that often the writers know when they have something good, but they get all mixed up when they try to recreate it because they don’t understand why it’s actually good. Ugh.
Tenillypo: These days, the ABC promo monkeys are fond of announcing that the next big event will “CHANGE GENERAL HOSPITAL FOREVER!” Cue viewers everywhere rolling their eyes as nothing ever changes.
Clink/Boom (so named for the clink of Jax and Brenda’s wedding glasses just as Lily’s car explodes) is infamous for a lot of reasons — for one, it was just good soap, plain and simple; for another, this was back before mob violence had become an everyday occurrence, so the death of Sonny’s pregnant wife still had the power to shock. But most of all, this one artful sequence kicked off a series of events that really did change the face of General Hospital in a lasting, meaningful way.
What’s crazy is that Bob Guza was actually writing on the show back then. Sometimes I really wish mid-90s Guza could jump in a time machine and come show present-day Guza how it’s done.
What should current GH writers learn from these clips?
Well, actually — as the more recent nature of some of these clips demonstrates — one of the few things GH is still good at is putting together a decent montage. I think maybe it has to do with the writers’ short attention spans. They may be too easily distracted by the next shiny thing to bother with long term plotting of character continuity, but sit them down with a good song and they can reliably bang out 3-5 minutes of quality montage.
In any case, with any good soap montage, it boils down to:
1) Music. Pick the right song and you’ve won half the battle.
2) Artful direction. I know soaps don’t have much money right now, but never underestimate the value of even simple tricks like slow motion.
3) Find an over arching theme. The best montages have a common idea which ties all the disparate threads on the canvas together. They showcase something about the similarities or differences of what’s going on with the different characters — whether in direct comparison or ironic contrast.