December 19, 2014







On December 19, 1971, exactly 43 years ago today, the debut of The Homecoming - A Christmas Story appeared on CBS television.  It would prove to be the pilot show for a new series, The Waltons.

Although it presented the same values and family relationships that we all came to know through the years of the series, it was different in many respects.  The most obvious were the actors.  Of the adult performers, only Grandma (Ellen Corby) and John-Boy (Richard Thomas) were portrayed by the regular series stars. However, all of the child actors in the pilot continued to perform in the series.

The other adult roles were:

          Olivia Walton (Mama) - Patricia Neal
          John Walton (Daddy) - Andrew Duggan
          Grandpa Walton - Edgar Bergen

The story takes place on Christmas Eve, 1933.  The local mill has closed which causes John Walton to work out of the area and only return home to the family on weekends.  His homecoming on Christmas Eve is much delayed and news of a terrible bus accident has the family very worried.

In addition to her concern about her husband's safety, Olivia is sad there will be no gifts for the children and no special food for a Christmas dinner.  John-Boy ventures out in the bitter winter temperatures and snow to find Daddy and bring him home to the family.  The story follows his difficulties in his search and the help he gets from the people he meets along the way.

This pilot show sets the stage for the series to follow.  Much is revealed about the characters, including John-Boys secret desire to become a writer.

The Homecoming - A Christmas Story is a heartwarming story that would be enjoyed by any true Walton's fan or anyone wanting to get a little Christmas spirit during the holiday season.

Olivia Walton (Patricia Neal) and a very young Mary Ellen (Judy Norton Taylor) admiring a real bird's nest for the Christmas tree.


         
Order DVD from Amazon

                    


   Cast of The Homecoming - A Christmas Story











October 1, 2012

Walton's Reunion 40th Reunion Party

A reunion to celebrate "The Waltons" tv show 40th reunion was held last Saturday in Los Angeles.  The event was organized by Kami Cotler, the actress who played the youngest Walton daughter, Elizabeth.  Kami is now a school principal at Environmental Charter Middle School in Inglewood, California and the event was a fundraiser for her school.

Michael Learned (mother Olivia Walton) and Robert Thomas (oldest son John-Boy) were unable to attend as they are both appearing in stage shows.

Ralph Waite (father John Walton) was there with all of his other TV children.  Earl Hamner, Jr., creator of the show, was also at the reunion.

Mr. Hamner said at the reunion, "The series succeeded because the climate was right then.  There was a yearning for stability and unity."

The show has been off the air for 31 years but still has a very large following of people that watched it back then as well as younger people that are seeing it now in syndication for the first time.

Kami Cotler (Elizabeth Walton)
at the 40th Reunion - Sept. 29, 2012

August 19, 2012

Earl Hamner ... Creator of The Waltons

Earl Hamner, Jr. was the creator of The Waltons which was based on his childhood while growing up in Schuyler (pronounced Skylar), Virginia.

His first published piece was a poem entitled "My Dog" which was printed on the Children's Page of the Richmond Times-Dispatch newspaper when Earl was only 6 years old!  The rest is history ...

You may not be aware of some of Earl's other accomplishments:

  •   Did you know that he wrote 8 episodes of the 1960s science fiction TV series, "The Twilight Zone"?
  •   He was the creator of the 1980s night time soap opera, "Falcon Crest".
  •   In 1974, Mr. Hamner created a TV series named "Apple's Way" which was not successful and was     cancelled in its 2nd season. Here is a link to more information about that series: Apple's Way

Personal Life:
Earl has been married to Jane Martin since 1954.  They have two children, Scott who was born in 1954 and Caroline born in 1958.

An excellent documentary about Earl Hamner can be viewed here.  It lasts about 11 minutes and is well worth the time to watch.  You will be touched by a story that Michael Learned (The Waltons Olivia) shares at time marker 9:20.

Available for purchase is a hardcover copy of a biography of Earl Hamner from Amazon.com:

August 15, 2012

It All Started with "Spencer's Mountain"

"Spencer's Mountain" is a 1963 movie that was based on a novel of the same name that was written by Earl Hamner, Jr.  The book and the movie would become the basis for The Waltons.

Mr. Hamner was inspired to write the book by his experiences growing up in Schuyler, Virginia in the Appalachian mountains.  He was the oldest son in the large Hamner family in this small, rural town.

Both the book and the movie were supposed to take place in the Appalachian mountains, however, the movie director wanted bigger, more spectacular mountains for the scenery.  The Spencers in the movie live on Spencer's Mountain in the Snake River Valley of the Grand Teton mountains in Wyoming.  The movie was filmed in Jackson, Wyoming.

Clay and Olivia Spencer live with their nine children and Clay's aging parents.  The oldest son, Clayboy, is the first Spencer to graduate from high school.  As the class Valedictorian, he has aspirations to attend college and follow his dream to become a writer.  Much of the storyline centers around Clayboy's family and the community trying to help him achieve that goal.

Unlike The Waltons series, the movie included subjects such as alcoholism and marital cheating.  Those topics would not have been received well by The Waltons viewers as much of the appeal of the television show was that it was suitable for family viewing.

Clayboy's parents are portrayed by Henry Fonda and Maureen O'Hara.  James MacArthur plays the young and handsome, Clayboy.

Here are links to a few clips of the "Spencer's Mountain" movie that I believe you will enjoy.  If you would like to buy the movie or book, see have the opportunity, rent or buy the movie.  If you are a Waltons' fan, you will become a "Spencer's Mountain" fan!

"Daddy Spanked Mama"

Around the Spencer's Dinner Table

Trailer from the 1963 Movie "Spencer's Mountain"  (Click on the button to "Play Trailer")

If you would like to buy a DVD of the movie or a copy of the book, please click links below to Amazon. com:


August 10, 2012


The Walton Family Gathered Around the Radio
                                                                                                       

The Waltons was a popular television series that aired on CBS from 1972 to 1981. Each week viewers watched the trials and tribulations of the fictional Walton family during their struggle to survive the Great Depression and life on Walton's Mountain during the time period of 1933 to 1946.

The series was not only a favorite television show for many but also a history lesson as several of the plots were intertwined with World War II.  The Waltons also presented a picture of life before television, when the family gathered around the radio each night for news of what was happening outside their little world on Walton's Mountain.

The Waltons developed what is known as a cult following.  People today long for the simpler days of a simpler time when life was centered around family and neighbors, like on Walton's Mountain.  Viewers watched the children grow and the elders pass on.  There was a certain attachment to the characters that is seldom seen in a television program.

It was a family show that could be watched by the family together.  Much like when the Walton family listened to the radio together, American families would gather around the TV to see what was happening to their ficitional neighbors, the Waltons.

Many people today are fortunate to be able to see The Waltons in re-runs but others have never seen this wonderful program. It is my hope that this blog will provide information and discussion that will help you  learn to love the Walton family as if they were your own.

Now let's go down memory lane to Walton's Mountain ...