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The Waltons is an American television series created by Earl Hamner, Jr., based on his book Spencer's Mountain and a 1963 film of the same name, about a family in rural Virginia during the Great Depression and World War II.
|Created by||Earl Hamner Jr.|
by Earl Hamner Jr.
|Narrated by||Earl Hamner, Jr.|
|Country of origin||United States|
|No. of seasons||9|
|No. of episodes||221 (list of episodes)|
|Running time||45–48 minutes|
|Production company(s)||Lorimar Productions|
|Distributor||Warner Bros. Television Distribution|
|Original release||September 14, 1972– June 4, 1981|
|Preceded by||The Homecoming: A Christmas Story (1971)|
|Followed by||A Wedding on Walton's Mountain (1982)|
The television movie The Homecoming: A Christmas Story was broadcast on December 19, 1971. Based on its success, the CBS television network ordered one season of episodes based on the same characters and that became the television series The Waltons. Beginning in September 1972, the series subsequently aired on CBS for nine seasons. After the series was canceled by CBS in 1981, NBC aired three television movie sequels in 1982, with three more in the 1990s on CBS. The Waltons was produced by Lorimar Productions and distributed by Warner Bros. Domestic Television Distribution in syndication.
The main story is set in Walton's Mountain, a fictional town at the foot of a mountain in fictitious Jefferson County, Virginia.
The time period is from 1933 to 1946, during the Great Depression and World War II, during the presidential administrations of Franklin D. Roosevelt and Harry S Truman. The year 1933 is suggested by a reference to the opening of the Century of Progress exposition in Chicago, a brief shot of an automobile registration, and it is divulged in episode 18 that the date is in the spring of 1933. The last episode of season one, "An Easter Story", is set in February–April 1934. The year 1934 takes two seasons to cover, while some successive years are covered over the course of a few months.
The series finale, "The Revel", revolves around a party and the invitation date is given as June 4, 1946. A span of 13 years is therefore covered in nine seasons. There are some chronological inconsistencies, which ostensibly do not hinder the storyline.
The first three reunion movies (A Wedding on Walton's Mountain, Mother's Day on Walton's Mountain, and A Day for Thanks on Walton's Mountain), all produced in 1982, are set in 1947. Of the later reunions, A Walton Thanksgiving Reunion, filmed in 1993, is set in 1963, and revolves around President John F. Kennedy's assassination; A Walton Wedding, made in 1995, is set in 1964; A Walton Easter, filmed in 1997, is set in 1969.
The series began relating stories that occurred 38 years in the past and ended with its last reunion show set 28 years in the past.
The story is about the family of John Walton Jr. (known as John-Boy): his six siblings, his parents John and Olivia Walton, and the elder John's parents Zebulon "Zeb" and Esther Walton. John-Boy is the oldest of the children (17 years old in the beginning), who becomes a journalist and novelist. Each episode is narrated at the opening and closing by a middle-aged John Jr. (voiced by author Earl Hamner on whom John-Boy is based). John Sr. manages to eke out a living for his family by operating a lumber mill with his sons' help as they grow older. The family income is augmented by some small-scale farming, and John occasionally hunts to put meat on the table. In the simpler days of their country youth, all of the children are rambunctious and curious, but as times grow tough and the Walton youths grow up to deal with them, the children slowly depart from the innocent, carefree days of walking everywhere barefoot while clad in overalls and hand-sewn pinafores, and into the harsh, demanding world of adulthood and responsibility.
The family shares hospitality with relatives and strangers as they are able. The small community named after their property is also home to folk of various income levels, ranging from the well-to-do Baldwin sisters, two elderly spinsters who distill moonshine that they call "Papa's recipe"; Ike Godsey, postmaster and owner of the general store with his somewhat snobbish wife Corabeth (a Walton cousin; she calls her husband "Mr. Godsey"); an African-American couple, Verdie and Harley Foster; Maude, a sassy octogenarian artist who paints on wood; Flossie Brimmer, a friendly though somewhat gossipy widow who runs a nearby boarding house; and Yancy Tucker, a good-hearted handyman with big plans but little motivation. Jefferson County sheriff Ep Bridges, who fought alongside John in World War I, keeps law and order in Walton's Mountain. The entire family (except for John) attends a Baptist church, of which Olivia and Grandma Esther are the most regular attendees. The church that the Hamners actually attended was Schuyler Baptist Church, near the Hamner homeplace and is still in operation. The church has helped host several events honoring Earl Hamner, Jr., including one in 2014.
In the signature scene that closes almost every episode, the family house is enveloped in darkness, save for one, two or three lights in the upstairs bedroom windows. Through voice-overs, two or more characters make some brief comments related to that episode's events, and then bid each other goodnight, after which the lights go out.
After completing high school, John-Boy attends fictional Boatwright University (based on the University of Richmond) in the fictional nearby town of Westham. He later goes to New York City to work as a journalist.
During the latter half of the 1976–77 season, Grandma Esther Walton suffers a stroke and returns home shortly before the death of her husband, Grandpa Zeb Walton (reflecting Ellen Corby's real-life stroke and the death of Will Geer, the actors who portrayed the characters).
During the series' last few years, Mary Ellen and Ben start their own families; Erin, Jason and John-Boy are married in later television movie sequels. Conversely, the younger children Jim-Bob and Elizabeth, struggle to find and cement true love.
World War II deeply affects the family. All four Walton boys enlist in the military. Mary Ellen's physician husband, Curtis "Curt" Willard, is sent to Pearl Harbor and is reported to have perished in the Japanese attack on December 7, 1941. Years later, Mary Ellen hears of sightings of her "late" husband, investigates and finds him alive (played by another actor), but brooding over his war wounds and living under an assumed name. She divorces him and later remarries.
John-Boy's military plane is shot down, while Olivia becomes a volunteer at the VA hospital and is seen less and less; she eventually develops tuberculosis and enters an Arizona sanitarium. Olivia's cousin, Rose Burton, moves into the Walton house to look after the brood. Two years later, John Sr. moves to Arizona to be near Olivia. Grandma appears in only a handful of episodes during the eighth season (she was usually said to be visiting relatives in nearby Buckingham County).
Six feature-length movies were made after the series' run; set from 1947 to 1969, they aired between 1982 and 1997.
|Season||Episodes||Originally aired||Nielsen ratings|
|First aired||Last aired||Rank||Rating|
|Pilot||December 19, 1971||N/A||N/A|
|1||25||September 14, 1972||April 19, 1973||19||20.6[a]|
|2||25||September 13, 1973||March 14, 1974||2||28.1|
|3||25||September 12, 1974||March 6, 1975||8||25.5|
|4||25||September 11, 1975||March 4, 1976||14||22.9[b]|
|5||25||September 23, 1976||March 17, 1977||15||22.3[c]|
|6||26||September 15, 1977||March 30, 1978||20||20.8[d]|
|7||24||September 21, 1978||March 22, 1979||N/A||N/A|
|8||24||September 20, 1979||March 13, 1980||N/A||N/A|
|9||22||November 27, 1980||June 4, 1981||30||18.6|
|Movies||6||February 22, 1982||April 27, 1997||N/A||N/A|
The Homecoming: A Christmas Story (1971) was not made as a pilot for a series, but it was so popular that it led to the broadcaster, CBS, initially commissioning one season of episodes based on the same characters, and the result was The Waltons. Except for the children and Grandma Walton, the actors for the movie were not the same as for the series. The musical score was by Oscar-winning composer Jerry Goldsmith (Goldsmith also scored several episodes of the first season, but the producers believed his TV movie theme was too gentle and requested he write a new theme for the series) and was later released on an album by Film Score Monthly paired with James Horner's score for the 1982 TV movie Rascals and Robbers: The Secret Adventures of Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn.
Patricia Neal (as Olivia) won a Golden Globe Award for Best Actress - Television Series Drama. The movie was also nominated for three Emmys: Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Miniseries or a Movie (Neal), Outstanding Writing Achievement in Drama - Adaptation (Earl Hamner), and Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Drama - A Single Program (Fielder Cook).
The following is a brief summary of the main characters. See main article for a more complete list.
- John "John-Boy" Walton Jr. (Richard Thomas, seasons 1–5, guest season 6, three movie sequels; Robert Wightman, seasons 8–9 and one movie sequel), the eldest of the seven children
- John Walton Sr. (Ralph Waite), the family patriarch
- Olivia Walton (Michael Learned, seasons 1–7, guest season 8, and four movies), the matriarch
- Zebulon "Grandpa" Walton (Will Geer, seasons 1–6), John's father
- Esther "Grandma" Walton (Ellen Corby, seasons 1–5 & 7, and two episodes in season 8, and in five movies), John's mother
- Jason Walton (Jon Walmsley, entire series and six movies), second-oldest brother; musically talented
- Mary Ellen Walton (Judy Norton Taylor, entire series and six movies), headstrong oldest daughter; becomes a nurse
- Erin Walton (Mary Elizabeth McDonough, entire series and six movies), second Walton daughter; works as a telephone operator and as manufacturing supervisor
- Benjamin "Ben” Walton (Eric Scott, entire series and six movies), third Walton son; has an entrepreneurial spirit
- James Robert "Jim-Bob" Walton (David W. Harper, entire series and six movies), youngest Walton son; mechanically inclined
- Elizabeth Walton (Kami Cotler, entire series and six movies), youngest of the seven children
- Curtis Willard (Tom Bower), seasons 5-7, and one episode in season 9, Mary Ellen's husband
- Cindy Walton (Leslie Winston), seasons 7-9 and four of the reunion movies, Ben's wife
- Rose Burton (Peggy Rea, seasons 8–9 and one sequel), Olivia's matronly cousin who fills in as matriarch during Olivia's absence
Earl Hamner's rural childhood growing up in the unincorporated community of Schuyler, Virginia, provided the basis for the setting and many of the storylines of The Waltons. His family and the community provided many life experiences which aided in the characters, values, area, and human-interest stories of his books, movies, and television series. Hamner provided the voice-over of the older John-Boy, usually heard at the beginning and end of each episode.
John-Boy Walton's fictional alma mater, Boatwright University, is patterned after Richmond College, which became part of the University of Richmond on Boatwright Drive near Westham Station in The West End of Richmond, Virginia, about seventy miles east of Schuyler.
The town of Walton's Mountain was built in the rear area of the main lot at Warner Bros. Studios, bordering the Los Angeles River, but the mountain itself was part of the Hollywood Hills range opposite Warner studios in Burbank, California (the reverse side of which, and slightly to the east, is Mount Lee and the Hollywood Sign. The Waltons' house façade was built in the back of the Warner Brothers lot. After the series concluded, the set was destroyed. For the reunion shows, a replica Waltons' house façade was built on the Here Come the Brides set on the Columbia Ranch studio, now part of the Warner Brothers studios. The Waltons' house is still used as scenery at Warner Brothers. For example, it served as the Dragonfly Inn on The Gilmore Girls.
Broadcast and releaseEdit
Some sources indicate CBS put the show on its fall 1972 schedule in response to congressional hearings on the quality of television. Backlash from a 1971 decision to purge most rural-oriented shows from the network lineup may have also been a factor. The network gave The Waltons an undesirable timeslot – Thursdays at 8 p.m., opposite two popular programs: The Flip Wilson Show on NBC and The Mod Squad on ABC. "The rumor was that they put it against Flip Wilson and The Mod Squad because they didn't think it would survive. They thought, 'We can just tell Congress America doesn't want to see this'," Kami Cotler, who played Elizabeth Walton, said in a 2012 interview. However, CBS had enough faith in the show to devise a full-page newspaper ad flanked with the show's positive reviews, urging people to watch the show. This ad was attributed to saving The Waltons, causing the ratings to radically increase.
Ralph Waite was reluctant to audition for the part of John Walton because he didn't want to be tied to a long-running TV series, but his agent persuaded him 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."
The Waltons won the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Drama Series in 1973. Also in 1973 Richard Thomas won the Emmy for Lead Actor in a Drama Series. Michael Learned won the Emmy for Lead Actress in a Drama Series three times (1973, 1974, and 1976). Ellen Corby was also a three-time winner in the Supporting Actress category, winning in 1973, 1975, and 1976. Will Geer was awarded the Supporting Actor Emmy in 1975. Veteran actress Beulah Bondi won an Emmy in 1977 for Lead Actress in a Single Performance for her guest appearance as Martha Corrine Walton in the episode "The Pony Cart" (Episode #111). She first appeared in The Waltons episode "The Conflict" (Episode #51) as the widow of Zeb Walton's brother.
In 2017, from March 20 to March 24 INSP network remembered the life of Earl Hamner Jr. (who had died in 2016) by featuring clips of interviews (once per episode) with him about his time involved with The Waltons during the breaks while its syndicated reruns aired from 3-5pm and again at 7pm.
The Walton's Reunion Movie Collection:
1. A Wedding on Walton's Mountain (1982)
2. Mother's Day on Walton's Mountain (1982)
3. A Day for Thanks on Walton's Mountain (1982)
4. A Walton Thanksgiving Reunion (1993)
5. A Walton Wedding (1995)
6. A Walton Easter (1997)
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Warner Home Video has released all nine seasons and six TV movies of The Waltons on DVD in Region 1. Seasons 1–4 have been released in Region 2. The pilot movie, The Homecoming: A Christmas Story, was released by Paramount Home Entertainment. Lorimar produced the series, CBS produced the pilot film, which is why Paramount, under CBS Home Entertainment, handles home video rights for The Homecoming.
German-release DVDs provide German or English sound-track options, with dubbed German voices, or the original English soundtrack, although episode titles, in German, are not always either literal or precise translations of the original English-language titles.
|Region 1||Region 2 (UK)|
|The Homecoming: A Christmas Story||N/A||September 23, 2003||N/A|
|The Complete 1st Season||24||May 11, 2004||November 1, 2004|
|The Complete 2nd Season||24||April 26, 2005||July 3, 2006|
|The Complete 3rd Season||24||April 25, 2006||September 11, 2006|
|The Complete 4th Season||24||January 23, 2007||March 5, 2007|
|The Complete 5th Season||24||May 8, 2007||September 12, 2007|
|The Complete 6th Season||22||January 8, 2008||March 20, 2008|
|The Complete 7th Season||23||April 29, 2008||N/A|
|The Complete 8th Season||24||January 6, 2009||N/A|
|The Complete 9th Season||22||April 28, 2009||N/A|
|TV Movie Collection (not including the original movie)||6||January 26, 2010||N/A|
Lorimar sold the distribution rights of The Waltons to Warner Bros. Television to avoid a lawsuit owing to the similarities between the series and the film Spencer's Mountain, which Warners owned. Warner Bros. acquired Lorimar in 1989, and has continued to syndicate the series ever since. Reruns currently air in the U.S. on INSP, the Hallmark Channel. In Canada, The Waltons airs on Vision TV and BookTelevision.
In the UK, the series was broadcast on BBC 1 and BBC 2 during the 1970s/1980s - the first three seasons were broadcast on BBC 2 from February 18, 1974 to May 17, 1976, on Mondays at 20.00 GMT, and seasons 4 and 5 were shown on BBC 1 from September 5, 1976 to August 30, 1977, on Sundays at 16.10 in 1976 and Tuesdays at 19.00 through 1977. After that, seasons 6-9 would be broadcast on BBC 2 again, starting on April 30, 1979 and concluding in April 1983. The three reunion TV movies filmed in 1982 were also shown on BBC 2 from December 21 to December 28, 1983. The show was repeated on Channel 4 in the 1990s. It currently airs on True Entertainment in the UK.
- "The Waltons" The Homecoming: A Christmas Story (1971) on IMDb
- "All About The Creator". All About The Waltons. Retrieved 28 October 2017.
- "The Courtship", Season one, episode 18
- A significant anachronism occurs in the first season. In the first episode, the Waltons listen to Edgar Bergen and Charlie McCarthy's radio program (in tribute to Bergen, who played Grandpa in the pilot film). However, Bergen's radio show did not begin airing until 1937.
- "The Foundling", season one, episode one
- "Home - Schuyler Baptist Church, Schuyler, Virginia". Schuyler Baptist Church, Schuyler, Virginia.
- Brooks, Tim; Marsh, Earle (2007). The Complete Directory to Prime Time Network and Cable TV Shows 1946-Present (Ninth Edition). Ballantine Books. p. 1686-1689. ISBN 978-0-345-49773-4.
- Crump, William D. (2013). The Christmas encyclopedia (Third edition. ed.). p. 434. ISBN 9780786468270.
- Jon Burlingame, p. 153, TV's Biggest Hits: The Story Of Television Themes From "Dragnet" To "Friends", Schirmer Books, 1996, ISBN 0-02-870324-3
- "The Homecoming-A Christmas Story".
- King, Susan (2012-09-28). "40th anniversary celebration of 'The Waltons'". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2016-04-30.
- IV, J. Garland Pollard. "Earl Hamner and the CBS Brand | BrandlandUSA". Retrieved 2017-03-12.
- "The Waltons". peabodyawards.com. Retrieved December 18, 2012.
- "TV Guide Magazine's 60 Best Series of All Time". 23 December 2013.
- Amazon Video: The Waltons: The Complete First Season Retrieved October 22, 2013
- Lee Rich Interview: Archive of American Television. Retrieved on June 14, 2014.
- "BBC Two England - 18 February 1974 - BBC Genome". genome.ch.bbc.co.uk.
- "BBC Two England - 17 May 1976 - BBC Genome". genome.ch.bbc.co.uk.
- "BBC One London - 5 September 1976 - BBC Genome". genome.ch.bbc.co.uk.
- "BBC One London - 30 August 1977 - BBC Genome". genome.ch.bbc.co.uk.
- "BBC Two England - 30 April 1979 - BBC Genome". genome.ch.bbc.co.uk.
- "BBC Two England - 29 March 1983 - BBC Genome". genome.ch.bbc.co.uk.
- "BBC Two England - 21 December 1983 - BBC Genome". genome.ch.bbc.co.uk.
- "BBC Two England - 23 December 1983 - BBC Genome". genome.ch.bbc.co.uk.
- "BBC Two England - 28 December 1983 - BBC Genome". genome.ch.bbc.co.uk.
- The Waltons on IMDb
- The Waltons at TV.com
- The Shed Waltons Mountain
- The Waltons at the Encyclopedia of Television
- Walton's Mountain Museum official website
- All About The Waltons
- The Waltons website
- The Illustrated Waltons Episode Guide
- The Surviving Waltons: Where Are They Now?
- A Walk with Grandpa Walton and the Walton family
- The Waltons at HallmarkChannel.com