The Conflicted History Of Luke And Laura's Wedding On General Hospital

In the late 1970s, "General Hospital" was near cancellation when a new executive producer named Gloria Monty was brought in and "given 13 weeks to save it," according to The Los Angeles Times. One of her first moves was to hire actor Tony Geary, who later told FoundationINTERVIEWS that Monty sold him on the part, which she created specifically for him, by promising that his character would be "an anti-hero ... who does all the wrong things for the right reasons." Monty also promised Geary that Luke Spencer would "cause a lot of trouble for a lot of people." Boy, was that prophetic.

Pairing Geary with Genie Francis' Laura proved to be another stroke of genius by Monty, as Luke and Laura soon became household names with one of soaps' first love-on-the-run stories. "GH" was saved from death and remains on the air to this day.

When Luke and Laura got married on November 16, 1981, it was more than just a milestone for the characters; it became a pop culture touchstone and was the most-watched soap opera episode of all time, with a record 30 million U.S. fans tuning in, according to ABC News. Luke and Laura undeniably had the fairy-tale romance of the moment, which is remarkable, considering the scandalous start of their relationship.  

A romance that started with a rape on General Hospital

The year was 1979 and Laura Baldwin was a young wife to Scotty (Kin Shriner), her law student husband, whom she tried to help make ends meet by waitressing at the Campus Disco. One night after the disco closed, a fellow employee, Luke Spencer, asked Laura to dance. Eventually, that dance took an ugly turn as Luke raped Laura and the show played it as just that — a rape. Laura even told Scotty and the police she had been raped, but did not say who her attacker was.

However, the fans somehow took a liking to Luke and Laura together, and as "The Survival of Soap Opera" author Abigail De Kosnik put it to People, "They became popular not despite the rape, but partly because of it." Shocking as that may sound, Genie Francis revealed in a 2010 interview with FoundationINTERVIEWS that Gloria Monty instructed her "to play rape" during the scene, but then later softened her direction of the character to say it "was really more of a seduction than a rape." This manipulation of the storyline served to effectively whitewash for years what was actually a date rape.

As society changed and as views on sexual assault changed, "General Hospital," as well the stars who played Luke and Laura, had to deal with how this couple came to be.

If you or anyone you know has been a victim of sexual assault, help is available. Visit the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network website or contact RAINN's National Helpline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673).

General Hospital addresses Laura's rape years later

It was 1998, nearly two decades after Luke raped Laura, that "General Hospital" officially changed its ways and stopped re-writing Laura's rape as some sort of "seduction." When Luke and Laura's teenage son, Lucky (Jonathan Jackson), finds Elizabeth Webber bruised and shaking in the park after she had been raped by a stranger, Laura finally decides to deal with how her marriage came to be. The reckoning also leads to a gripping confrontation between Luke and his son. 

"My first reaction was that it was a big can of worms that could eat us alive," Tony Geary told the AP News as this story was about to air. "I was terrified, basically." Wendy Riche, "GH" executive producer in the late 1990s, felt it was the right time to tell the story. "For us, it was a great opportunity,″ Riche told the AP, adding, "We didn't approach it as 'let's make amends.' We didn't feel guilty or felt like we had to." However, Riche also admitted while re-writing a rape as a seduction in 1979 worked story-wise, it could not have happened in 1998. "What the audience perceives and what they expect is very different from what it was 20 years ago. They are more conscious date rape is unacceptable."

In retrospect, Genie Francis was less forgiving. "I won't justify it," she said during her interview for People and ABC's "The Story of Soaps" documentary. "It's awful. They shouldn't have done it."

If you or anyone you know has been a victim of sexual assault, help is available. Visit the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network website or contact RAINN's National Helpline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673).

Luke and Laura are no more

Despite how Luke and Laura began on "General Hospital" and despite their son learning what his father did to his mother nearly 20 years after the fact, Luke and Laura remained together off and on and in love into the early 2000s. The pair even still made headlines in 2022 when the show killed off Luke, shocking not only fans, but also the character's family and friends.

Laura is now the mayor of Port Charles and happily married to Dr. Kevin Collins (Jon Lindstrom). Luke left town for good in 2015 and was living with Tracy Quartermaine (Jane Elliot) in Amsterdam until Tracy personally delivered the news to Laura that Luke had been killed in a horrible accident. Both Tracy and Laura threw a memorial for Luke at the end of January, but as Luke's body was never found — and this is a soap where dead is often not dead — Luke and Laura might not be over forever.