|Constance Towers as Helena Cassadine|
Dimitra Arliss (1996)
|First appearance||November 16, 1981|
|Elizabeth Taylor as Helena Cassadine (1981)|
Helena Cassadine is a fictional character on the American soap opera General Hospital, famously originated by film actress Elizabeth Taylor in November 1981. The character reappeared 15 years later in 1996, and has returned — for periods of varying length — nearly every year since.
A fan of the series and wildly popular supercouple Luke Spencer and Laura Webber (Anthony Geary and Genie Francis), Taylor called then-Executive Producer Gloria Monty in 1981 and asked for a cameo role. She was cast as Helena, the vengeful widow of villain Mikkos Cassadine (John Colicos), who had died at the climax of that summer's popular "Ice Princess" storyline. Luke and Laura's November 16, 1981 wedding, featuring Taylor's Helena, was watched by 30 million viewers and remains the highest-rated hour in American soap opera history. Dimitra Arliss appeared briefly as the character in 1996, and Constance Towers was later introduced as Helena on December 19, 1997. Towers was a regular presence on the series until April 9, 2002, later returning on October 16 and 17, 2003, in December 2003, and from January 16 to October 2004. Towers' Helena reappeared in January 2005, April and May 2005, October and November 2005, and January and November 2006. Most recently, Towers returned from April 13 to April 21, 2009, on June 4, 2009. and again on September 30, 2009.
In Summer 1981, Luke, Laura, and Robert Scorpio foil Mikkos Cassadine's plot to freeze the world using a weather machine, and both Mikkos and his brother Tony are killed while their other brother Victor is arrested. Mikkos's widow Helena appears in Port Charles just in time to curse Luke and Laura from the sidelines of their November 16, 1981 wedding. Laura later vanishes without a trace in 1982, leaving a devastated Luke to search for her. Presumed dead, Laura reappears in 1983, having been kidnapped by the Cassadines in revenge. Told that Luke was dead, Laura had been forced to marry Mikkos and Helena's son Stavros Cassadine, who had fallen in love with her. She had returned to Port Charles upon learning that Luke was alive, followed by Stavros; he is ultimately killed, and Luke and Laura are reunited. Discovering that Laura is pregnant with their first child, she and Luke leave town in 1984. Laura's mother Lesley Webber is killed in a car wreck later that year.
Having returned to Port Charles in 1993 with son Lucky, Luke and Laura have a daughter they call Lulu in 1994. In 1996 she is diagnosed with aplastic anemia, and a mysterious young man comes to town hoping to help. Laura is forced to reveal that he is Nikolas Cassadine, her son with Stavros, born during her captivity. She had been sworn by the Cassadines to leave him behind and keep his existence a secret as a condition of her release and to protect Luke from their wrath. Nikolas saves Lulu's life with a bone marrow transplant, but Luke and Laura's marriage is destroyed by the revelation of this secret. Around this time, Luke visits a bedridden Helena, gloating at her condition but vowing to have his revenge when she is well enough to fully experience him murdering her. Nikolas had come to town with his calculating but benevolent uncle and guardian Stefan Cassadine (Mikkos and Helena's younger son) and Stefan's adopted cousin Alexis Davis. Stefan and Laura had been romantically involved while she had been married to Stavros and confined on Cassadine Island, and Stefan still harbors feelings for her. Laura's marriage to Luke faltering, her own feelings for Stefan are rekindled as he comforts her. With Helena no longer a threat, Stefan discovers one of her secrets: Laura's mother Lesley is alive, having been kidnapped by Helena in 1984 and her death faked. Stefan frees Lesley and reunites her with Laura.
Helena appears in 1997 in an attempt to reassert control over Cassadine heir Nikolas and his fortune. She loathes Stefan, whom she views as weak, and seeks to thwart his influence over Nikolas by distracting Stefan with Laura. Meanwhile, Alexis had discovered that she was actually Mikkos' illegitimate daughter, and Helena terrorizes her. Alexis remembers that as a little girl she had watched Helena slit her mother's throat. Luke and Alexis plot to kill Helena in 1998, but Stefan's fiancée Katherine Bell is accidentally killed instead. They attempt to frame Helena, but Stefan is arrested; Katherine is revealed to be alive, saved by Helena as part of her plans. In Helena's debt, Katherine seduces Nikolas to put a wedge between him and Stefan. Meanwhile, Luke discovers evidence that Nikolas is actually Stefan's son, making him no longer the Cassadine heir and allowing Helena to take control of the Cassadine fortune. She next plans to eliminate Stefan and Laura, but Stefan manages to poison Helena, rendering her paralyzed and mute. Katherine is murdered for real, and Laura is charged; it is ultimately revealed that an antidote had allowed Helena to recover, and she had crept out of her bed to kill Katherine and frame Laura. Later it is also discovered that Helena had faked the DNA results, and Nikolas is Stavros' son and the rightful heir.
Lucky is presumed dead in a fire in May 1999; he reappears in February 2000 having been kidnapped on Helena's orders and brainwashed into serving her. In 2001, it is revealed that Stavros has been in cryonic suspension in a secret room below General Hospital since his apparent "death" in 1983, waiting for a time when medical science could revive him. Helena manages to do so, and Stefan stirs up trouble in town. Though initially compelled to do Helena's bidding and even hurting his loved ones, Lucky finally manages to break Helena's conditioning. Luke kills Stavros again by pushing him into a bottomless pit in 2001.
In 2006 Helena placed a nanny in Nikolas' home, Colleen McHenry, in hopes of getting Nikolas' son Spencer. For a while, everything was going according to plan, until Colleen turned on Helena with her own agenda. She had fallen for Nikolas, and when her feelings weren't returned because Nikolas and Emily had gotten back together, she lost it. Colleen overpowered Helena and held her captive in a tower near Wyndemere for a couple days, then kidnapped baby Spencer on Christmas Eve. Nikolas and Emily searched for them and tracked Colleen to Chicago where she had dyed her hair and gotten a job at a daycare center to save enough and start a new life with "her son". After a few near-misses with Nikolas and Emily, Helena encountered the psycho nanny and took Spencer to St. Petersburg, Russia. Nik & Em followed her and got there just in time to stop Helena from baptizing Spencer with a different name. When they tried to get him back, Helena threatened to kill him with a dagger. Emily offered to trade herself for the infant and Helena accepted. Emily was able to get away, as was Helena.
Helena reappears Port Charles at the General Hospital grand re-opening on April 13, 2009 demanding that Nikolas return a painting of Saint Gregoire to her, which he does. Alexis voices her suspicions that Helena has actually orchestrated the recent arrival of Rebecca Shaw, who resembles Nikolas's deceased wife Emily Quartermaine; Nikolas is inclined to agree when he later sees Helena and Rebecca talking. As Helena leaves town on her jet, she tears the paper off the backside of the painting and reveals a birth certificate. She returns again on June 4, 2009 and soon tries to lure Rebecca away from her "current partner" and assist in Helena's plans; Rebecca angrily refuses. After their conversation, Helena disappears.
On September 30, 2009 Helena returns but she is sick and confined to her bed. Luke comes in and talks to her and Helena tells him that another Cassadine is plotting revenge on the Spencers and Cassadines. Luke thinks that Helena is faking her illness but he feels her forehead it is revealed that she is not faking her illness. Her nurse Mischa tells Luke's kids Ethan and Lulu that there is another Cassadine, named Valentin, whom even Helena fears. Fearing for her life, Nikolas has Helena flown to General Hospital. After stirring up even more trouble after arriving in Port Charles, Nikolas uses his position in the hospital's board of directors to have Helena sent back to Greece.