The show “The Waltons”, Cast, Pictures, and Trivia!
This is a rural family show set back in the time of the Great Depression and World War II.
It was created by Earl Hamner, Jr., and was based on the book he wrote entitled, “Spencer’s Mountain”, as well as a 1963 movie of the same name, which starred Henry Fonda and Maureen O’Hara.
This series is about the family of John Walton, Jr., who is better known to everyone as John-Boy (Richard Thomas). He and his family live at the foot of a mountain in Jefferson County, (fictional) Virginia, in a town called, “Walton’s Mountain”. John-Boy lives with his mother and father, John (Ralph Waite) and Olivia (Michael Learned) Walton, his grandparents, Zebulon “Zeb” (Will Geer) and Esther (Ellen Corby) Walton, and his seven siblings. He is the oldest of the children at seventeen, and every episode begins and ends with his narration (although it is actually an older version of John-Boy, and is voiced by the series creator, Earl Hamner, Jr.). This show is told through his eyes as he wants to be a novelist when he is older, and it follows the family through a multitude of emotions and life events: birth, death, illness, growing of age, war, depression, courtship, schooling and marriage.
John Sr. takes care of his family and earns a living, by running a lumber mill with the assistance of his son’s as they grow older. In addition, the family also does some small-scale farming to enhance their income, as well as a trip into the woods now and then to hunt for meat for their table. On occasion there are strangers or family members who come by for one reason or another and the family generously shares what hospitality they can. The small town in which they live is named after their property and holds a variety of different people within its limits. Some with more money and some with less, but they all seem to have different personalities and ways to make a living.
And at the end of nearly every episode, is the familiar scene of the family home becoming encased in darkness with the exception of one or two small lights in an upstairs bedroom. Then several characters make a few short comments in reference to the events of that particular show, tell each other goodnight, and turn out the lights.
This is a wholesome, honest and down-to-earth type of show. It gives you a feeling of how people actually behaved and felt during this difficult period in our nation’s history. I give this series 7 out of 10.
Jason Walton-Jon Walmsley
Erin Walton-Mary Beth McDonough
Ben Walton-Eric Scott
Mary Ellen Walton-Judy Norton
Jim-Bob Walton-David W. Harper
Elizabeth Walton-Kami Cotler
Narrator-Earl Hamner, Jr.
John Walton, Sr.-Ralph Waite
Ike Godsey-Joe Conley
Olivia Walton-Michael Learned
Zebulon Walton-Will Geer
Esther Walton-Ellen Corby
John-Boy Walton-Richard Thomas
Corabeth Walton-Ronnie Claire Edwards
Emily Baldwin-Mary Jackson
Mamie Baldwin-Helen Kleeb
John Curtis Willard-Michael and Marshall Reed
Cindy Brunson Walton-Leslie Winston
Sheriff Ep Bridges-John Crawford
Rose Burton-Peggy Rea
Dr. Curtis Willard-Tom Bower
Mrs. Flossie Brimmer-Nora Marlowe
Yancy Tucker-Robert Donner
Rev. Matthew Fordwick-John Ritter
Jeffrey Burton-Keith Coogan
Serena Burton-Martha Nix
Verdie Grant Foster-Lynn Hamilton
John ‘John-Boy’ Walton, Jr.-Robert Wightman
Rosemary Hunter-Mariclare Costello
Aimee Louise Godsey-Rachel Longaker
Maude Gormley-Merie Earle
Dr. Matthew Vance-Victor Izay
George William ‘G.W.’ Haines-David Dormus
Jefferson Davis ‘J.D.’ Pickett-Lewis Arquette
Martha Rose Coverdale-Cindy Eilbacher
Horace Brimley-Wilford Brimley
Rev. Henry ‘Hank’ Buchanan-Peter Fox
Zack Rosswell-James Gammon
The Radio Announcer-Art Gilmore
2nd Man in the Bar-Llynn Storer
Drew Cutler-Tony Becker
Virginia ‘Ginny’ Walton-Claire and Elizabeth Schoene
Marcia Woolery-Tammi Bula
Harley Foster-Hal Williams
Airman Driver-John Philip Dayton
David Spencer-Robert S. Woods
Radio Announcer-Hank Stohl
Antoinette ‘Toni’ Hazleton-Lisa Harrison
Daisy Garner-Deirdre Lenihan
Radio Announcer-Walker Edmiston
Sissy Walker-Cissy Wellman
Dr. McIvers-Rance Howard
Professor Parks-Paul Jenkins
Easy Jackson-Britt Leach
Sara Griffith-Lynn Carlin
Radio Announcer-John Hiestand
Zuleika Dunbar-Pearl Shear
Ralph Waite (John Walton, Sr.) did not always know that he wanted to be an actor. It was not until the age of 30, that he started to study acting. This was after he earned a BA from Bucknell University, spent three years at the Yale School of Divinity and spent time at countless other occupations along the way.
Mary Beth McDonough (Erin Walton) has the disease, lupus.
The man who wrote the book and created the series, Earl Hamner, Jr., (narrator) based the characters on himself, his own seven siblings, and other real-life members of his family. He also did narration work on The Waltons as well.
Will Geer (Zebulon Walton) had a master’s degree in botany from Chicago University.
Ellen Corby (Esther Walton) won three Emmy awards for her role as Grandma Walton.
Joe Conley (Ike Godsey) played many, many small roles over several decades, but he is best remembered for his role as Ike Godsey, the storekeeper.
Richard Thomas (John-Boy Walton) uses two very small hearing aids because he has a 50% hearing loss. This is due to a nerve disorder called, otosclerosis. He is also the National Chairman of the Better Hearing Institute.
Judy Norton took part in two world-records in skydiving in 1986.
Ronnie Claire Edwards (Corabeth Walton Godsey) is best known for her performances as Ike Godsey’s wife in The Waltons and Charlene Frazier Stillfield’s mother in “Designing Women”.
Michael Learned (Olivia Walton) is the oldest of six children (all girls) and the daughter of a U.S. State Department employee. Their family moved to Austria when she was only 11 years old, and she then attended boarding school in England.
In the television pilot movie that preceded the actual series, Grandpa Walton was played by Edgar Bergen, while in the series; the character was played by Will Geer. Because Bergen played the grandfather in the movie, in the very first episode after the debut movie, the entire family is shown sitting around their new radio, listening to the “Edgar Bergen and Charlie McCarthy Show”.
Eric Scott (Ben Walton) has been married three times. His second wife, Theresa Fargo died in 1992, of myelomonocytic leukemia, which she developed during her pregnancy with their daughter, Ashley. She died shortly after their daughter was born.
Earl Hamner, Jr. (narrator) who in addition to writing “Spencer’s Mountain” and other novels, is the creator of The Waltons, and two other television series, “Boone” and “Apple’s Way”. He has also worked as a producer and written teleplays and screenplays. Here are a few things that he has worked on: Charlotte’s Web, (1973 & 2006) Falcon Crest, The Twilight Zone, Heidi and others.
Will Geer was married to actress Herta Ware for twenty years and they had three children together, and though they did eventually divorce, they remained close to each other for the rest of their lives. Before his marriage, Geer was the lover of gay activist, Harry Hay.
David W. Harper (Jim-Bob Walton) appeared in a few things after The Waltons ended, including the movie “Fletch”, with Chevy Chase. However, shortly after that, he virtually seemed to have disappeared from show business.
Jon Walmsley (Jason Walton) is an incredibly accomplished multi-instrumentalist, he is a world-class guitarist and vocalist, and he has worked with a considerable amount of both talented and well-known musicians. Some of these include; Richard Marx, Merle Haggard, The Doobie Brothers and Gregg Allman, as well as many others.
Judy Norton (Mary Ellen Walton) posed naked for Playboy Magazine in the August 1985 issue. She says that she did this so that her image would be shaken up a bit after spending so many years on The Waltons.
Kami Cotler (Elizabeth Walton) is married to Kim Howard and they have two children.
Ralph Waite was passionate about politics and had a great desire for many years to hold a political office. But despite three attempts to run for a Congressional seat, (once in 1990 and twice in 1998 due to the death of Sonny Bono) he was ultimately unsuccessful.
Will Geer became a member of the Communist Party of the United States in 1934. He toured work camps in the 1930’s with folk singers such as Woody Guthrie and Burl Ives, and was a dedicated activist. However, in the early 1950’s, Geer was blacklisted for refusing to testify before the House Committee on Un-American Activities. Because of this, Geer did not appear in but a few films over the next decade.
Richard Thomas has been married twice and has five children. Three of them are a set of triplets, all girls.
The building that was the “Walton House” was in the northern part of what is commonly referred to as the Jungle section of the Warner Bros. studios in Burbank. What was known as “Walton’s Mountain” on the series, (which was generally seen from the front porch of the home) was in actuality, a slope of the Hollywood Hills in California. The interior shots of the house were filmed on Stage 26, and the roadway to the home went through what remained of the Jungle area. As of 2003, the roadway still existed and could be seen during the studio tour; however Ike Godsey’s store had been removed long ago. The house now is used as a working exterior set, after being dismantled and then re-built on the Ranch lot at Warner Bros.studio, located at Hollywood Way and Verdugo Avenue. One example of something it’s been used for is Season 1 of “Gilmore Girls”. The “Dragonfly Inn” that the characters Sookie and Lorelai buy and then renovate, is actually the exterior of the old and familiar, Walton House.
Joe Conley worked not only as an actor, but also ran his own real-estate agencies, and thus became very wealthy as a result.
Michael Learned is the winner of four Best Actress Emmy Awards. Three for The Waltons and one for the series, “Nurse”.
Not surprisingly, the character of John Walton, Sr., came in at #3 on TV Guide’s list of the “50 Greatest TV Dads of All Time”.
Ralph Waite was married three times and had three daughters to his first wife, Beverly Hall. His oldest daughter, Sharon Waite, died at only nine years of age from leukemia.
Jon Walmsley is the creator of the voice of Christopher Robin, for Disney’s beloved “Winnie-the Pooh” cartoons.
Richard Thomas left the series after the fifth season because he had only signed a 5-year contract.
When actor Will Geer, who played Grandpa Walton on the show, died after the filming was over for the 1977-1978 season, he was written off of the show by his character dying as well.
Will Geer and his wife founded the “Will Geer Theatricum Botanicum” in California in 1951. He managed to combine his two loves here, that of both acting and botany. He made certain that every single plant that was mentioned in Shakespeare, was grown at the Theatricum.
Although actress Patricia Neal was originally given the part of Olivia Walton in the series pilot movie, “The Waltons: The Homecoming: A Christmas Story”, due to past health issues, she was unable to continue playing the role. It was then given to Michael Learned.
Ellen Corby, who played Grandma Walton, had to leave the series for a while after suffering a massive stroke. She later returned to the series, and her character was written as having had a stroke as well. As she went through the difficulties of recovering, so did her character.
Michael Learned has been married four times and has three children. Her first marriage was when she was only 17 years old.
Eric Scott owns a parcel delivery service in Sherman Oaks, California, called “Chase Messengers”.
Richard Thomas made commercials for the restaurant chain, “Zaxby’s”, in 2008.
Kami Cotler is the principal at a charter school in Los Angeles, California.
Judy Norton and her ex-husband, Randy Apostle, ran a chain of dinner theatres in Canadian cities called, “Celebrations and Jubilations”.
Joe Conley died in July of 2013, due to complications from dementia.
After Ralph Waite had stayed away from organized religion for 50 years, he then returned to it in 2010, becoming a member of Spirit of the Desert Presbyterian Fellowship.
Jon Walmsley was the guitarist for musician Richard Marx, in the late 1980’s.
Will Geer won an Emmy in 1975, for “Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series” for his part of Grandpa Walton.
While trying to get the series ready to be filmed, the former executive of CBS decided he wanted a big star to play on the show. He made the suggestion of film star Henry Fonda, to play the role of the father, so the network screened the pilot movie to Fonda. (Fonda had played the role of the patriarch in the big-screen film version, “Spencer’s Mountain” in 1963.) After watching the pilot movie, Fonda is quoted as saying, (according to executive producer, Lee Rich) “What do you want me for? The kid is the star! The whole family is the star! You don’t need me.”
Mary Beth McDonough has one child, a daughter named, Sydnee.
The series was on for nine seasons, and was then cancelled by CBS in 1981. The following year, NBC aired three television movie sequels, and then three more additional ones during the 1990’s.
Michael Learned is the godmother of actor Christopher Plummer’s daughter, Amanda Plummer. Amanda’s middle name is also Michael after her.
Ralph Waite passed away on February 13, 2014 of age-related illnesses. He was 85.
Born in Manhattan, Richard Thomas’s parents were dancers with the famed, “New York City Ballet”. They also owned the “New York School of Ballet”.
When the series was first put on the CBS schedule in the fall of 1972, it was thought to have been done as a response to recent Congressional hearings at that time, on the quality of television. There was also speculation that it was done because of backlash from a decision the previous year, to eliminate a lot of the more rural type of shows from the network’s line-up. Several long-running rural shows which were still quite popular and doing well on the weekly television ratings had been recently cancelled, “The Beverly Hillbillies” and “Green Acres”. They even gave The Waltons a bad time slot between two very popular series at the time, “The Mod Squad” and “The Flip Wilson Show”, the rumor being that the network didn’t think it would make it up against the other two shows. Ralph Waite, who played the father, said that he was hesitant to try out for the part as he did not want to be tied down to a TV series that could turn out to be long-running. It was his agent who actually convinced him to audition by saying, “”It will never sell. You do the pilot. You pick up a couple of bucks and then you go back to New York.”
Earl Hamner, Jr. and his wife, Jane Martin, have had two children and have been married for sixty years.
Judy Norton is a scientologist.
When Michael Learned was billed on the show, it was as “Miss Michael Learned”. This was because the producers did not want the viewers to be confused about her gender, and also because she was not very well known at the time. By the sixth season, the “Miss” was dropped from her name. Learned says her parents never explained the reason behind her masculine name.
Ellen Corby died in 1987, at the “Motion Picture & Television Country House and Hospital”, in California.
Jon Walmsley was born in Blackburn, Lancashire, England.
Ronnie Claire Edwards has vast repertory experience and has recently put out a memoir which is called, “The Knife Thrower’s Assistant”.