Parting is such sweet sorrow

 BRichard Spencer, Soap Opera Update, 1987

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This is the story of innocence and guilt. Of strife and sheer ecstasy. Of life and death. This is the story of Mary and Mason. "It was such a sweet romance", Harley Kozak remembers. The actress who created Mary Duvall, the ex-nun who won the heart of feisty Mason Capwell, chooses their very first scene as her personal favorite. "It's the scene that touches my heart the most," Harley reveals with the kind of affection in her voice that grandmothers possess when talking about their grandchildren. "Mary showed up at Mason's house and he's flirting with her, and Mary strings him along, strings him along, strings him along, and then Mary tells him she's a nun, and his reaction, "You're a nun ?" is priceless."

"The other scene that stands out is when Mary died. The acting that Lane Davies (Mason) did. And everyone else - Jed Allan (C.C.), Nancy Grahn (Julia), and Jon Lindstrom (Mark) - they just knocked me out, those four. I was so moved", Harley remembers in awe and laughs, "you guys… I'm flattered. I'm touched. Gee, if I would have known, I would have stuck around. Their acting just knocked me out. Literally", Harley tacks on. What Harley is referring to is the way her character met her demise. A huge, show-no-sympathy, neon hotel sign came crashing down on the fragile Mary leaving her for dead ! But more on that later. That's the ending. Let's talk about the beginning. lt was a case of opposites attracting. Mason Capwell is one of the quirkiest characters on daytime. He's opinionated, power-hungry and defensive; everything Mary was not. "She was a character without malice", Harley examines. "She was sincere and naive and very vulnerable because she was unwordly. That brought out a side of Mason which was genuine and he was such a bad boy that the audience enjoyed seeing the sincere person inside of all that. Mary brought out Mason's vulnerability as nobody else had. They had so much fun together in that way."

One of the cuter moments the couple enjoyed was in the early stage of their romance. Mary pronounced her love to a seemingly sleeping Mason. After she walked away, he smiled. Even with all this talk about how chemistry in a couple can't be planned, a memo should have been sent to whoever had the foresight to match these two personalities : RE : Mary and Mason. THE MESSAGE : It's working !

Of course, one important ingredient had to be added to this (or any) love story : conflict. And, jeepers, there was plenty of that. Despite her attraction to Mason, Mary married Mark, near death, in the hospital, out of sympathy. But Mark got better. Mary found herself a newlywed with a husband who couldn't perform in bed. It may rhyme, but there was nothing funny about it. Mary strived to make the marriage work (what any ex-nun would do), but Mark sought sexual healing from a hooker ! A kiss with Mason in the Capwell stables sent Mary running to the convent to sort out her feelings. Mason followed. Clad in a priest's robe, Mason entered a confessional and overheard Mary's confession. Forgiveness turned to fantasy as Mason whisked Mary off to a mountain paradise. With plans to annul her marriage to Mark, Mary enjoyed the passionate escape. Mary and Mason's trot to their own personal love nest also symbolized the couple's status : quite fittingly, the duo was off and running. The story had reached a promising plateau, and Kozak and Davies were playing their roles with the ease of soft butter spread on bread. When Mary and Mason returned to Santa Barbara, their story could have intensified as they struggled to keep their love alive.

But alive was the key word. Mary returned to end her marriage, but instead, was raped by her husband. She learned she was pregnant, but despite her threats, Mark wanted to continue their marriage. With an exciting rivalry between Mark and Mason, and the dimension Mary was now enjoying – no longer sheltered and naive – the glory glowed with intrigue. But Mary and Mark's argument atop the windy roof of the Orient Express would be their last as the newly-installed Capwell Hotel sign was blown down on Mary – conked out by a big "C". What a way to go !? It must have felt strange to be wiped out by a sign. "It's all a blank", Harley kids as she looks back at her character's unique death with a sense of humor. Granted, this is a woman who could be bitter. Her character wasn't put out to sea – she was put out by a C ! However, Harley fondly remembers her exit. "It felt wonderful. I'm so proud of having died such an unusual death", Harley enthuses. "Everybody gets to die of cancer, of explosions, car accidents, drownings – those are all run of the mill, but how many people get to be killed in such a way as Mary did ? It's certainly one of my favorite memories of my career."

Just as Harley Kozak looks back at the Mary and Mason romance as another great memory, so do the viewers of Santa Barbara who were fortunate to share in their tender tale. Considering their popularity and potential, the romance of Mary and Mason was truly a tragic love story. Today, Santa Barbara viewers delight in Mason's romance with Julia. Like Mary, it took Julia some time to admit her love for Mason. Unlike Mary, Julia is not naive to the world around her. Julia can be a pretty tough customer when it comes to adversity in the romance department. What makes Mason and Julia's bond the most special is the child they share. It has allowed a level of commitment and openess Mason has never experienced. Perhaps Mason's romance with Julia is so sweet because, with Mary, Mason learned how to love.