Frances Reid dies at 95; last original cast member of ‘Days of Our Lives’

Frances Reid, who was the last original cast member of “Days of Our Lives” and portrayed the soap opera’s matriarch, Alice Horton, for 42 years, died Wednesday. She was 95.

In announcing her death, NBC called Reid “a true icon of the daytime genre.” No other details regarding her death were provided.

Texas-born Reid was already a veteran of Broadway when she debuted in the premiere of “Days of Our Lives” on Nov. 8, 1965. She made her final appearance in 2007.

Familiar with the demands of daily, live television after appearing on the soaps “As the World Turns” and “The Edge of Night,” Reid was hesitant to take the part on “Days.”

But roles for women over 40 were hard to come by, so she finally decided to accept the role, according to an NBC biography.

She agreed to do the show “just for a short while,” Reid said decades later. “But I found it very interesting . . . and I was having fun.”

Her character was a housewife and longtime hospital volunteer. She once aided a prison escape by drugging doughnuts, a homemade baked good that was her specialty and often integral to her plot lines.

In true soap fashion, the Horton matriarch was thought to have been killed off -- a doughnut being a factor -- in 2004 but was found alive two months later.

Reid had “a very sharp and cunning wit,” the show’s executive producer, Ken Corday, told the Hollywood Reporter in 2005. “In the old days, she might go up and forget a line, and the things that would come out of her mouth would kill the crew. We’d have to take five while they howled.”

She was born Dec. 9, 1914, in Wichita Falls, Texas, to Charles William Reid, a banker, and his wife, the former Anna May Priest, and grew up in Berkeley.

After studying acting at what was then called the Pasadena Community Playhouse, Reid appeared in more than a dozen plays on Broadway, playing Ophelia in “Hamlet,” Roxane in “Cyrano de Bergerac” and Viola in “Twelfth Night” in the late 1940s.

In the early day of television, she reprised the role of Roxane, again opposite Jose Ferrer, in a TV adaptation of “Cyrano” that aired as an episode of “The Philco Television Playhouse.”

In 1954, she took her first part on a TV soap opera, playing the title character in “Portia Faces Life,” but quit after six months because she found the workload “exhausting,” according to the website Soap Opera Central.

Before joining “Days,” Reid had roles on about 30 TV shows and later appeared in the 1966 film “Seconds” with Rock Hudson and the 1971 movie “The Andromeda Strain.”

While on a photographic safari in Africa about 20 years ago, Reid had a stroke that left her partially paralyzed. She returned to “Days” after achieving a near-complete recovery.

Twice nominated for Daytime Emmy Awards, she received an honorary Daytime Emmy in 2004 for lifetime achievement.

Her husband of 39 years, actor Philip Bourneuf, died in 1979. The couple had no children.