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'The Waltons' Cast Reunites for 40th Anniversary (VIDEO)

by Catherine Lawson, posted Dec 2nd 2011 6:45AM
'The Waltons'Time for 'The Waltons' fans to dust off those overalls: The kids are back! Tonight, all seven 'Waltons' children are expected to turn out for the 40th anniversary of the TV movie that started it all.

Jon Walmsley -- a.k.a. Jason Walton -- told NJ.com that tonight's screening of 'The Homecoming' in Jersey City, New Jersey marks their first complete reunion in 30 years.

Ahead of tonight's screening the cast members appeared on 'Today' and shared their memories of being on the show. Watch them talking to Matt Lauer after the jump. (Elizabeth looks exactly the same!)

Although Michael Learned and Ralph Waite made the roles of parents Olivia and John Walton their own, the parts were played in 'The Homecoming' by Oscar-winner Patricia Neal and Andrew Duggan ('Falcon Crest').

Judy Norton, who played eldest daughter Mary Ellen, told NJ.com that Learned's "warm yet tough" portrayal of Olivia was rooted in Neal's performance. "There was a little bit of a grittier feel to 'The Homecoming,'" she said. "Patricia's portrayal was a little more of woman who had been through tough times. You could feel her heart and soul, but you definitely got the sense of a woman who has struggled."

'The Homecoming' and 'The Waltons' were both based on 'Spencer's Mountain,' Earl Hamner Jr.'s memoir of growing up in a rural community during the Great Depression and World War II. The novel had previously been filmed before, in 1963, with Henry Fonda and Maureen O'Hara playing the parents, Clay and Olivia Spencer, and James McArthur playing the role of eldest son, Clayboy.

The TV movie is set on Christmas Eve 1933 and focuses on the family's wish for their father, who has been unable to find work locally, to get home in time for Christmas despite snowstorms and bus crashes. It introduced viewers to the whole Walton clan including all seven children and their grandparents Zeb and Esther.

The TV series ran for nine seasons on CBS from 1971 to 1982, and was the Number 2 primetime show in the 1973/4 season. Although it played down many of the bleaker themes in Hamner's novel, such as alcoholism and infidelity, life on Walton's Mountain was still hard as the clan eked out a living from the family lumber mill.

Norton thinks that the series' overriding theme, of family coming together through tough times, still resonates today. "[It] really evoked a community feel. When a neighbor was in trouble or there was a problem in the community, everyone came together."

Walmsley agrees: "I knew a musician who was in gangs when he was a kid. His mother made him stay home and watch 'The Waltons,' and it was one of the things that helped straighten him out. He got a perspective on what a family could be like."

He adds, "The show wasn't just a show to some people -- it had a deeper meaning. And that's always nice to hear."

So, with the current vogue for rebooting the '70s TV classics -- 'Battlestar Galactica,' 'Charlie's Angels,' 'Hawaii Five-0,' 'Dallas' -- could it soon be time to see a lot more freckly redheads in primetime with a new version of 'The Waltons?'

And now, for all you 'Waltons' fans out there, here's that moment. "Good night, John Boy ... " Enjoy!

For more information on the 40th anniversary of 'The Homecoming,' including tonight's screening and tribute to Patricia Neal, check out the official website.

Follow Catherine: @TVClaw.

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LOVE this show!! I just recently discovered it at GMC tv and can't get enough!!!! Love the cast!

April 01 2012 at 5:09 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Each of you should be so proud of how you contributed to our happiness during the 70's and thanks to those channels who have brought you back again! How can anyone ever get tired of this ..what I would call true "reality TV". You are all classics and barely an episode goes by that I don't garner some real wisdom learned from situations you found yourself in. I'm in favor of an reunion of some sort - you guys are the best! I feel sorry for those who have missed your many episodes, for they know not what they have missed!!!!! In some ways, I feel like you are all my brothers & sisters and how can you go wrong when surrounded by 22 carot "jewels" llike the Walton Family? God bless each of you. I hope you continue to use your talents in similar wonderful ways!! Love you all!!!!!!!!!!! THANKS AGAIN FOR BEING APART OF OUR GROWING UP!!!!!

January 17 2012 at 8:04 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
barbiedoll greeter

I could have done WITHOUT that cartoon version of good night. Tacky.... I love the Walton is that was horrible!

December 05 2011 at 1:03 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I remember watching this show with my grandparents when I was a kid....to watch it now....WOW!....BORING! I guess so much has changed over the years with our culture and TV programming, this show seems greatly outdated.

December 04 2011 at 12:54 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

"The Homecoming" was a really-good made for TV movie. However, it should not be directly compared to The Waltons TV show, because some primary cast members were not the same, and it was indeed grittier and more forceful, so would not have been as easy to watch, on a continuing basis, as the TV show was. Andrew Duggan and Patricia Neal in "The Homecoming" were so powerful, so intense... Only Richard Thomas as John-Boy could stand, not over whelmed, beside them. To the contrary, the TV show had excellent non-overpowering actors in Ralph Waite, Michael Learned, and my favorites, Will Geer and Ellen Corby, and they, along with Richard Thomas, brought a more relaxed realism to the small screen that one could watch every week. Of course, as time went on, the cast changed; Will Geer died (I can still recall the newsbreak on TV that announced his passing, and how shocked I was), Ellen Corby had a stroke, but later returned as the Grandmother who had suffered a stroke, Michael Learned left, supposedly for Olivia's Tuberculosis treatment, but she actually went on to her own show, "Nurse", and of course, Richard Thomas left to do other things and was replaced by another actor... But Ralph Waite, the steady, always there, parental figure, remained, and if any character, and actor was needed more for a lengthy run as was had by The Waltons, I certainly can't name him or her. In the beginning, Will Geer provided alot of great character, but Ralph Waite was THE Dad of Dads on TV... Only Bill Cosby's Dr. Huxtable, in a much more affluent role, can make the same claim. Beyond Thomas' John-boy, the Walton kids (actors) seldom seemed natural, although sometimes they'd surprise you with a heart-wrenching performance. The stories were usually quite good, but it is the very early shows that stand out as the better episodes filmed. The earlier episodes had everything, and are on par with anything made for TV from any country at any time.

IF you've never seen "The Homecoming" or The Waltons TV show, do yourself a favor and pick up a copy of the movie and a few early Waltons episodes on DVD. It's good stuff, and will pull you from your ivory tower, and let you feel a bit more down to Earth. In my opinion, "The Homecoming" and The Waltons should be required viewing for cold-hearted Republicans.

December 04 2011 at 12:07 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to legreatone's comment

I think you got it all wrong,you should start listening to what Obama is doing to our nation,with socialistic heathcare mandates,and not letting the oil pipeline which would bring 20,000 jobs which Obama wants more jobs,also not letting the Drillers drill for oil and Natural gas.look what happens when other Country's want to destroy us the gas at the pump goes sky high,if you are a deep rooted Libral or you are a Democrcat and don't have job you should stop listining to the lies Obama is telling,he is leading us to bankruptsy now that is what is cold hearted to the Max.

February 23 2012 at 1:24 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Ive seen every show so many times and I never get tired of watching them. When Im watching The Waltons, I am back in that wonderful time and I always feel so relaxed and feel so good about everything. Its a shame that the world has gotten in the shape its in now. I dont think the show will be the same with out the original actors. I think grandpa really made the show. When John Boy was replaced by another actor, it just took away from the show. I love John Boy. If we only had shows like this, that is suitable for anyone, what a blessing that would be.

December 03 2011 at 10:52 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I never missed a show from the beginning starting with "The Homecoming". When the reruns came on I watched them mesmerized like I was watching the show for the first time.

December 03 2011 at 9:45 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Finchie's comment

They are showing reruns on the GMC and Inspirational channels.I LOVE the Waltons too. =)

December 03 2011 at 9:49 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

I was soooo disappointed last night..I searched the channels looking for this show, and come to find out it wasn't on tv at all...You had to buy tickets for a theater in N.J. :(

December 03 2011 at 9:11 PM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply

Saw Ralph Waite on Bones. He looks older, but I could spot him a mile off. Loved seeing the cast. The Walton's were wonderful. I wish there was a show like this for todays kids. The show taught lessons of love, togetherness, and endurance. We could use a large dose of The Walton's right now.

December 03 2011 at 9:01 PM Report abuse +3 rate up rate down Reply

Gee, 'thanks' for posting this a day late. I read 'tonite' and went straight to my TV, flipping channels. Disappointed, I came back and read at the top of the article' Dec. 2'. Get on the ball, people!

December 03 2011 at 8:38 PM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Charlene's comment

They advertised on Tv and online for a couple on months.Sorry you missed it! =(

December 03 2011 at 9:52 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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