Saturday, April 23, 2016

Where are they now? - The Waltons

The Waltons (top row from left): Eric Scott, Mary McDonough executive producer Earl Hamner, Jon Walmsley as Jason Walton, and David Harper as Jim-Bob Walton; bottom, from left: Kami Cotler, Michael Learned, Ralph Waite and Judy Norton

I recently posted an item about the creator of TV series The Waltons, Earl Hamner Jnr, having died.  That's him at the back in the above pic.  He was also the narrator in each episode.

Here is a follow up on the cast of that show.  The info about one of the cast members, Will Geer, I found especially fascinating.

Ralph Waite (John Walton Snr):

Waite (1928 -2014) passed away in 2014, aged 85. He had appeared in many guest roles on numerous television series, most recently in a recurring role in NCIS as Jackson Gibbs, the father of Leroy Jethro Gibbs. 

Interesting item:

Waite ran unsuccessfully for Congress in California as a Democrat on three occasions. In 1998, he ran in the special election for the then-Palm Springs-based 44th district left vacant by the death of incumbent Sonny Bono. He was defeated in that election by Mary Bono, Sonny's widow, and lost to her again that November.

Michael Learned (Olivia Walton):

Michael Learned (1939 - ) won a record four Primetime Emmy Awards for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series; three for The Waltons (1973, 74, 76), and one for Nurse (1982). She has stated that her parents never explained to her why they had given her a boy’s name. Because she was relatively unknown at the commencement of The Waltons, she was billed as Miss Michael Learned for he first 6 seasons to avoid gender confusion. Since The Waltons she has had parts in TV shows, including Scrubs, General Hospital, and The Young and the Restless. She has also appeared in many stage productions on and off Broadway, including the 2006–2007 national touring production of On Golden Pond and in a 2008 production of Driving Miss Daisy, playing the title role of Daisy Werthen. 

Interesting item:

In a 2002 article for her church magazine she revealed that at the time that she was cast in The Waltons, she had hit rock bottom as an alcoholic. She made the decision to get sober at that time and also began her spiritual journey, having now been sober since 1977.

Michael Learned in 2014

Will Geer (Grandpa Walton):


· Not only was Geer (1902-1978) gay, he was a radical gay activist as early as 1934.

· He was also a member of the Communist Party from 1934 and active in organisation of strikes.

· As a dedicated political activist he toured work camps in the 1930’s with Woody Guthrie and Burl Ives (Geer introduced Guthrie to Pete Seeger).

· Because he refused to testify before the House of UnAmerican Activities, he was blacklisted and appeared in few films in the 1950’s. Before then he had appeared in numerous plays and reviews in the 1940’s, as well as in movies between 1948 and 1951 that included Winchester ’73, Broken Arrow, Comanche Territory and Bright Victory. In 1972 he appeared in one of his most memorable roles, that of “Bear Claw” in Jeremiah Johnson, with Robert Redford.

· Married with 3 children, he and his wife Herta Ware (best known for her performance as the wife of Jack Gilford in the 1985 film Cocoon) eventually divorced but remained close throughout the rest of their lives. 

Interesting item:

As Will Geer was dying on April 22, 1978, of respiratory failure at the age of 76, his family sang Woody Guthrie's This Land is Your Land and recited poems by Robert Frost at his deathbed. 

Will Geer in the 1949 film “Lust for Gold”

Ellen Corby (Grandma Walton):

Ellen Corby (1911 – 1999) worked as a chorus girl in Atlantic City after leaving high school, became a script girl on the Our Gang comedies and eventually landed roles in films (garnering an Academy award nomination in 1948 for I Remember Mama) and roles in numerous TV shows. A stroke in 1976 was written into the script of The Waltons and she appeared in a reduced role thereafter. Ellen Corby died in 1999 aged 87 after several years of declining health.

Interesting item:

Ellen Corby was an enthusiastic practitioner of Transcendental Meditation, and was trained by its founder, Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, in 1969, as a TM teacher.

Ellen Corby in the 1946 film It’s a Wonderful Life

Richard Thomas (John-Boy Walton):

Richard Thomas (1951 - ) left The Waltons at the end of the fifth season. He had signed only a 5-year contract and planned to pursue other acting opportunities. He made a comeback in Season 6 and the last three family television reunions, and has continued carrying out stage, film and television work.

Interesting fact:

He speaks some Chinese, after changing his major at Columbia from Literature to Chinese. He did this because he attended Columbia during the time that the Vietnam War was underway and was frustrated with the anti-war demonstrations and how they were interrupting his education. He felt the best way to avoid such disturbances was to change his major to Chinese.


Judy Norton (Mary Ellen Walton):

Today Norton (1958 - ) commutes between the U.S. and Canada. In the U.S., she does stage and TV. In Canada, her husband and she run a chain of dinner theatres. 

Interesting item:

She is a Scientologist. In an effort to shake her "family" image, Norton Taylor posed nude for Playboy in 1985

Jon Walmsley (Jason Walton):

Jon Walmsley (1956 - ) was born in Blackburn, Lancashire, England and is a British-American multi-instrumentalist, songwriter, actor and producer. 

An accomplished multi-instrumentalist, songwriter and producer, as well as being regarded as a world class guitarist and vocalist, Jon is a veteran of the stage and studio, having worked with many notable artists including Richard Marx, The Doobie Brothers, Gregg Allman, Merle Haggard, Roy Acuff, John Mayall, Spencer Davis, Peter and Gordon, Jackie Lomax, Roger Daltrey, The Beach Boy's Al Jardine and David Marks, and Dean Torrence of Jan and Dean.

After the end of the series The Waltons, Jon Walmsley was rarely seen on camera. His passion was the music. He played, among other things ,in the 80s as guitarist for the then very popular singer Richard Marx. Today Jon Walmsley plays in his own band, The UK Beat.

Interesting item:

His musical style runs the gamut from classic pop rock, blues and country to standards.

Eric Scott (Ben): 

Eric Scott owns Chase Messengers, a Los Angeles-based delivery service.  


Mary McDonough (Erin): 

Mary McDonough authored Lessons From the Mountain: What I Learned from Erin Walton. She has a deal for two more books with the publisher Kensington. 


David W. Harper (Jim-Bob): 

After quitting acting and working a series of odd jobs including working for Scott's messenger company, he's returned to school to study business and history. 


Kami Cotler (Elizabeth): 

Kamo Cotler is the founding principal of the Environmental Charter Middle School in Gardena, Calif.


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