Macdonald Carey, 81, the Emmy-winning actor who portrayed the patriarchal Dr. Tom Horton in the long-running NBC soap opera "Days of Our Lives," died of lung cancer March 21 at his home in Beverly Hills, Calif.

Mr. Carey, who also appeared in more than 50 films, had starred in the daytime drama since it began in November 1965. He narrated its trademark opening: "Like sands through the hourglass, so are the days of our lives."

His portrayal of the friendly, fatherly Dr. Horton won him Emmys for best actor in a daytime drama in 1974 and 1975. Horton was the perennial chief of staff of a university hospital in the fictional town of Salem.

Although best known for the soap opera role, Mr. Carey was cast as a leading man in Hollywood movies of the 1940s and '50s, including Alfred Hitchcock's "Shadow of a Doubt" in 1943.

On television, he also starred in the title role of the 1956 series "Dr. Christian" and in the drama series "Lock Up" from 1959 to 1961. He played Squire James in the acclaimed 1977 miniseries "Roots."

Mr. Carey began in show business as a radio and stage actor in the 1930s. He appeared on Broadway in "Lady in the Dark."

He served in the Marine Corps during World War II.

Beginning with "Dr. Broadway" in 1942, his better-known films included "Suddenly It's Spring" with Paulette Goddard (1947), "Dream Girl" with Betty Hutton (1948), "Streets of Laredo" with William Holden and William Bendix (1949) and "The Great Gatsby" with Alan Ladd (1949).

Mr. Carey also wrote volumes of poetry, including "A Day in the Life" and "That Further Hill." He called his 1991 autobiography "The Days of My Life."

He was born in Sioux City, Iowa, and attended the University of Wisconsin and University of Iowa. His marriage to actress Betty Heckscher ended in divorce. They had six children and six grandchildren.

In his autobiography, Mr. Carey recounted a long battle with alcoholism and blamed it for the 1969 breakup of his marriage.