A longtime theater actress with a handful of movies to her credit and work in dozens of filmed and live prime-time television dramas, Frances Reid was best known for the last 44 years of her life for her portrayal of Alice Horton on the soap opera Days of Our Lives. From the show's first broadcast on NBC, on November 8, 1965, until her last on-air appearance in 2007, she was the matriarchal presence on the series -- a loving wife, mother, and grandmother (and, ultimately, great-great-grandmother), known for her wise counsel, patient nature, occasional bravery, and also for her homemade doughnuts.
Reid was born in 1914, in Wichita Falls, TX, but was raised in Berkeley, CA, where her father was a banker. She trained at the Pasadena Playhouse, and in the 1930s appeared in a series of Broadway shows, as well as in a handful of movies, in small, uncredited roles (most notably in Gregory La Cava's Stage Door , starring Katharine Hepburn). Reid made her television debut unusually early, in a 1939 production of Little Women in the role of Beth March, on NBC. As a New York-based actress in the late '40s and '50s, she worked regularly in television, mostly in dramatic roles and on anthology series, and Reid's East Coast presence also allowed her to get her voice into Alfred Hitchcock's New York-filmed production of The Wrong Man (1956). She also starred in two soap operas, Portia Faces Life and As the World Turns, in the 1950s and early '60s, and admitted to not appreciating the grind of the daytime drama format. During the 1950s, Reid was also busy primarily in theater, and won special praise for her work in the classics, most notably her Roxane, opposite José Ferrer, in Cyrano De Bergerac, which was described as "enchanting" by Brooks Atkinson, the New York Times critic.
By 1965, however, Reid had turned 40 and discovered that roles for women in that age group were increasingly scarce. It was then that she took on the part of Alice Horton on Days of Our Lives. Her character's main issues in that more innocent age concerned her oldest son, Tommy, who had been reported as missing in action in the Korean War; and the empty nest left behind as her other children had grown up and moved out. In later decades, the plots involving Alice Horton and her doctor husband, Tom (played by Hitchcock alumnus MacDonald Carey), came to involve kidnappings and other, wilder notions, and even Alice's apparent death. She outlived Carey by 15 years, and continued in the role onscreen through 2007 -- long before that, even non-soap opera fans marveled at the love and devotion that Reid displayed in her long-running portrayal. The series' annual Christmas tree-decorating episode, in which Alice Horton was inevitably at the center, remained a beloved event, right into the 21st century. Reid received a Daytime Emmy Lifetime Achievement Award in 2004 for her work on the series.