Cold Heart, Smooth Demeanor
The name Frank Smith still strikes terror! Played by the well-spoken George Gaynes, who often portrayed Professor Henry Higgins in productions of My Fair Lady and is best known for being on Punky Brewster, Frank Smith was a gentleman gangster. Later, in the person of Mitchell Ryan, he was closer to thugdom. He also became younger. Smith was 63 in 1980 when he went to prison as Gaynes; when he emerged as Ryan in 1994, he was 66. I'd like that formula, please.
An Important Catalyst
Frank Smith was the cause of many an important General Hospital plot line - the one that sent Luke and Laura on the run. Smith ruled the Port Charles underworld with an iron hand. Initially he hired Luke Spencer to manage his money-laundering operation, the Campus Disco, which by day was an exercise studio run by Richard Simmons. Tracy Quartermaine used to show up there in outrageous outfits and do a couple of deep knee bends and call it a workout. But hey, talk about launching a career - Port Charles did wonders for Simmons.
Frank was grooming Luke for bigger and better things and wanted to test his loyalty by having him kill politician Mitch Williams - a suicide mission. However, Luke's pal and Bobbie's boyfriend Roy DeLuca decided to do it himself and for his efforts died in Bobbie's arms (or so we thought).
A More Personal Assignment
Luke managed to squirm out of that one, but then Smith marked Laura for death after she overheard an incriminating conversation of Smith's.
Though in love with Laura, Luke promised to marry the willowy Jennifer Smith, Frank's daughter, in order to save Laura. The wedding took place on a yacht. Scotty, Laura's husband, picked a fight with Luke, and Luke wound up overboard. He begged Laura for help and thus began the often imitated and never equaled Love on the Run. Smith dispatched hitman Jefferson Smith Hutchins, also known as "Hutch" to kill them. After that whole debacle, Smith wound up in prison where he continued to run his organization, eventually taking on Sonny Corinthos as his front man.
The Search for Luke and Laura
Frank's search for Luke and Laura, who eventually ended up living and loving on the run for years, never ended. Luke and Laura settled in Canada and ran a diner. When Smith located them, he had the diner bombed and the Spencers, with their son Lucky, decided to hide in plain sight, back in Port Charles.
Damian Smith, on behalf of Daddy, promised Luke that he and his family would be safe if Luke would help smuggle people into the country, with Sonny Corinthos as a liaison. Luke said yes, stalling for time until he could figure out how to get rid of Smith. It turned out to be no easy task, and it put him back in touch with a much-changed Jennifer. WHOA! Much changed! Jennifer had morphed in Roseanne Arnold, and she had a husband, played by Tom Arnold.
The Great Escape
To get him out in the open, Luke helped spring Frank from prison, but Smith used Laura as a human shield and got away. Finally, Smith set Luke up for a murder he didn't commit, and they at last had a final showdown in which Luke killed Frank. The Luke Spencer-Frank Smith saga was of the longer protagonist-hero conflicts in the history of soaps.