The Walton's were not just a fictional family typically created from the minds of Hollywood writers. They were, for the creator, the memories of growing up in rural Virginia... memories of family and neighbors... memories of a country still living in a time of innocence.
Prior to creating The Waltons Earl Hamner Jr.'s career began in Radio but he quickly made the move to Television as it was becoming the dominant format for entertainment programming.
While establishing his career in the brodcast world Earl Hamner rose to prominence as an author.
First Published- 1953
(From the dust jacket of "Fifty Roads to Town")
About the Author
The author of this first novel is thirty years old, the eldest of eight children. He was born Schuyler, Virginia, a villiage in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Mr. Hamner has been writing since he was seven years old when the Richmond Times Dispatch published his first poem. In between reading everything in sight as he grew up, he milked cows, slopped hogs, caught posseums and paid for his tuition at the University of Richmond by working as a dispatcher for a trucking company and census taker. After serving in the army for three years, he returned to Richmond and began to work in radio, first as assistant program director and then moving on to Cincinatti, he obtained a job as radio writer. Mr. Hamner began to work on Fifty Roads To Town during one summer in Arkansas Ouachita Mountains where the state paid 23¢ a head for each crow brought in, but the author's aim was bad and he returned from the vacation with a fragment of the present novel and flat broke. He gradually worked his way up to New York and a job with a large advertising agency and finally, to NBC as a radio script writer where he is now happily employed.
First Published - 1961
First Published - 1965
First Published - 1970
First Published - 1999
In 1963, his second book was made into a film starring Henry Fonda and Maureen O'Hara.
Along with the novels that he would continue to write Earl Hamner made the move from the east coast to California and would write numerous teleplays for various television shows throughout the 1960's including 8 episodes of The Twilight Zone.
Rod Serling gave Hamner his first break in Hollywood.
Friends since college days, Serling would joke that Earl had given him his "first" job when Rod replaced Earl after he resigned from his position as a writer at WLW, a Cincinatti radio/television station.
Hamner also created other family dramas
In 1968 he wrote the teleplay for the TV movie Heidi
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In 1971 his book The Homecoming was turned in to a Television Christmas special.
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In 1972 he wrote the screenplay for the animated version of Charlotte's Web
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In 1974 he wrote the screenplay for a story about an Appalacian family
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Based on the success of The Homecoming, the broadcaster CBS, ordered one season of episodes based on the same characters.
As a result The Waltons were born.
By the time "The Waltons" hit the airwaves, life for Earl Hamner must have seemed
pretty good for a "depression kid" from the Blue Ridge Mountains.
With the Cast
Earl on the Walton set with "Blue' the mule
Earl appeared in the episode
"The Journey" (s2-ep28)
Earl Hamner, the creator of "The Waltons" joins actors Michael, Ralph and Richard on the set.
Richard Thomas and Earl during the filming of the 90's reunions
Earl's legacy of work did not go uncredited so it didn't take long for fans of his work to realize who was behind their favorite program.
Spencer's Mountain, 1963
The Twilight Zone, 1962-64
Palm Springs Weekend, 1963
Gentle Ben, 1967
The Homecoming, 1971
The Waltons, 1972
The Waltons, 1973-81
Apple's Way, 1974
Falcon Crest, 1981-1990
As soon as The Walton's became an award-winning-smash-hit, Lorimar Productions tried to capture the genie in a bottle and tasked Earl Hamner to create a contemporary family oriented show following a similar formula of family focussed dramas that take place in a rural setting. Apple's Way was the result.
Lasting only 28 episodes during the 1974-75 season, this show had many ingredients for success. It co-starred teen heart throb Vince Van Patten and a young Kristy McNichol but it failed on a variety of other levels that kept it from being the next hit for Lorimar. A similar family show that did become a hit would soon follow when the production company fine-tuned the formula and created Eight is Enough which interestingly starred Vince's father, Dick Van Patten.
This TV Guide Ad makes a direct comparison to Earl Hamner's successful hit, The Waltons. For a fascinating look at this forgotten series, click the image.
After the Waltons, Earl immediately created another succesful show that would run for 9 sesons as well, only this time the family would NOT be as nice as the Waltons.
Lorimar Productions practically created the Prime-time soap opera with their smash hit Dallas. After The Waltons, Earl created Falcon Crest for Lorimar-Telepictures
Earl Hamner, with Falcon Crest stars Jane Wyman and Robert Foxworth
Hamner would return to his post on the Waltons during the movie specials in the 90's
Earl has continued to write, create and be involved with his various creations.
More recently Earl co-wrote two children's books with Donald Sipes
First Published - 1998
First Published - 2011
Earl continues to make appearances and be honored for his body of work
Watch a short documentary about Earl Hamner by the University of Cincinnati
A short promo from INSP where Earl discusses the importance of The Waltons
Earl Hamner, creator of The Waltons, knows the power of television to elevate people and show our best -- and our worst -- sides. When done right, he believes television can be a positive influence on individuals and society.
A short interview by Jim Halterman where Earl comments about writing and his fans