Two-time Emmy Award winning actor Macdonald Carey, the actor whose reassuring , paternal delivery of the “Like sands through the hourglass, so are the days of our lives” intro to “Days of Our Lives,” and who spent almost three decades playing Dr. Tom Horton on the long-running soap opera, succumbed to cancer Monday at the age of 81.

Carey had been in failing health for several years and was operated on for a cancerous tumor in 1991.

He had not appeared on the show since last January. Yet, his passing cast a shadow over Monday’s rehearsals, according to Deidre Hall, who plays psychiatrist Dr. Marlena Evans Brady. The set was “very still,” she said, following the announcement that Carey had died early that morning at his Beverly Hills home. Cast and crew members were “biting their lips and going about their business,” according to John Clarke who has played Carey’s son on the soap since its 1965 debut.

“It’s hard to talk to each other. But, we have a show to do and we’re trying to immerse ourselves in work,” said Clarke.

According to “Days” spokeswoman Paulette Cohn, the character of Dr. Horton will also die, and will be woven into the show’s storyline.

In tribute, producers of the NBC show will display Carey’s portrait after tomorrow’s episode, then fade to black.

Carey’s offscreen life provided a sharp contrast to his stalwart Dr. Horton, a role which brought him Daytime Emmys in 1974 and 1975. He was quite frank about his decades of alcoholism and his recovery in the early ’80s.

He also was open about his daughter Lisa’s mental illness and treatment, which for many years, he told People magazine, he used as an excuse to drink.

His alcoholism also contributed to the dissolution of his marriage to actress Betty Heckscher in 1969, the mother of his six children, which was detailed in his 1991 autobiography, “The Days of My Life.”

Born in Sioux City, Iowa, on March 15, 1913, Carey attended Phillips Exeter Academy and got his BA from the University of Iowa.

Carey began in show business as a radio and stage actor in the 1930s and early ’40s, first coming to attention in the Broadway musical drama “Lady in the Dark.” After making his screen debut in “Dr. Broadway,” Carey served in the Marine Corps in World War II, achieving the rank of first lieutenant.

Over the next decade Carey played a variety of leading male and character roles, the best of which was a co-starring assegment as a detective in Alfred Hitchcock’s “Shadow of a Doubt” opposite Teresa Wright and Joseph Cotten.

Some of his projects included “Wake Island,””El Dorado,” the Alan Ladd version of “The Great Gatsby” and Joseph Losey’s “The Damned.”

He made his TV debut in 1952 in “Yellow Jack,” an installment of ABC’s Celanese Theater. Subsequent TV appearances included the title role in the short-lived 1956 series “Dr. Christian” and in the drama series “Lock Up” from 1959-61. He played Squire James in 1977’s acclaimed miniseries “Roots” and had many other guest roles in regular series and television movies.

Carey published three volumes of poetry including “That Further Hill” in 1987 .

He was a board member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences and the Screen Actor’s Guild and an active member for many years in Catholic Big Brothers.

He is survived by his six children Lynn, Lisa, Steve, Teresa, Edward Macdonald, and Paul and six grandchildren.

Funeral services are pending.