Julia and I have been following the Waltons. We remember the series from when we were young and recently a UK channel called True Entertainment is reshowing the entire run. I am glad they are due to the very nature of the programme. It is moralistic, yes at times idealistic but it has a heart. It ran from 1972 until 1997 (if you include the TV movies) and in that time was one of the most popular American series. I can understand the reasons. It was based in the 30's and 40's on Waltons' mountain. This was a time of depression and war, tackled in the series of course, always through the eyes of a family unit in great scenery with quality actors and actresses.
The head of the family was John Walton played by the great Ralph Waite. He died this year aged 85 which was sad to hear. The character he played was not perfect, very much like most within the series. He was a father figure that did not believe in Religion, very different to his wife Olivia. He was a hard task master and was at times unsympathetic. Through all this was a strong man that everyone respected. He was a listener and advice giver, a man of integrity and most importantly a patriarch who was there for his family when they needed him.
Olivia, played by Michael Learned, was a matriarch who managed to be strict and gentle in equal amounts. It was this relationship that helped cement the foundations of what are still appreciative stories for anyone who wants to drift off into a world of coffee, wood and family disagreements.
The two who were the most like chalk and cheese were Grandma and Grandpa Walton. This was Esther and Zeb, played by Ellen Corby and Will Geer. They were a pairing that argued but made up with the affection that shone brightly through the production. Will Geer is a stand out character for Julia and I. He was playful and mischievous and was a lover of nature. He knew the mountain and taught the children how to protect and respect.
Well I could write a whole essay on how the Waltons is a wonderful way of telling stories. Earl Hamner created the series and I thank him for that.
All the family; Erin, Mary Ellen, Ben, Jim bob, John Boy, Jason and Elizabeth all are familiar. For most the biggest character was the house. The house was built at the rear of Warner Brothers and I wonder if it is still there. None of the shots were filmed inside but the exterior was a perfect backdrop for those stories.
Where are they now? Well does it matter really. I hope they are all well and enjoying life. I know they had a reunion in the last few years thankfully before Ralph died. It does make me happy to see the photograph below. It, for me, produces a feeling of glow and light that is a tribute to the acting and quality of a series that is a now undoubtedly part of media culture......for all the right reasons. Drama, comedy and scenery all clubbing together to take the viewer to an era long gone.
I will leave you with this image of Elizabeth played by Kami Cotler. She is now a teacher and shows how it is possible to survive 'child actress' status without the drugs and attention seeking. That is, for me, the clarity and purity in the Waltons. All involved seemed to grow with the show and I suspect have a closeness that was a part of the very core of Earl Hamner's reason for those moments on screen that seeped into all who made contact with it.