Kami Cotler portrayed Elizabeth, the youngest member of the Walton family. Since her time acting on the show she has become a teacher, educator and school principal. Recently, Kami has become quite active on her Facebook page, sharing her memories of working on The Waltons. Preserved here are those memories that she has shared for your easy reference and enjoyment.
If you want to read the comments click the date of each post to go to the original post on Facebook.
Someone posted questions! I like questions. "As the youngest member of the Waltons, how did you go about attending school while taping for the show?" By California law we had to attend school 3 hours a day. The production company provided a teacher. We all went together, so the teacher had to teach different ages. We would get to work, dress, rehearse, go to school, film, go back to school while they set up camera/lights/sound, return to set to do closeups, and so on.
When we filmed outdoors, we often had to stop a scene and shoot it again because a jet flew overhead. Sound stages are soundproofed, so we never had to worry about jets while filming in stage 26. The sets were spread out to make space for lights and the camera. Each wall was temporary, and they would remove them as needed. The wall behind grandma's ironing board was most often missing, and in its place a camera, cameraman, focus puller, lights, electricians, sound boom, sound man, sound mixer & his board, script supervisor, director, and so on...
Someone asked about the door to the right of the stove. It was used as the entry to a pantry or root cellar in an episode or two, I think. In reality it opened to nothing, just the back of the kitchen walls, but further along was a kind of kitchen where the prop man would make the food for the eating scenes. The food would be fresh at first, as we shot the "master" takes. Then as the set was re-lit and camera re-positioned for close-ups and other angles of the the same scene, the food would cool and age and then become less appealing. However, whatever you ate in the printed master had to match what you did in other shots, to ease the work of the editors. Watch Michael closely. She rarely actually eats.
The Foundling was the second show we filmed and the first show aired. They screened it for the cast and our families. When Elizabeth was locked in the trunk, my mother says that my brother, who was seated next to me, looked up at her, wide-eyed, and whispered, "Does she ever get out?"
My husband asked about our hair on the show. It reminded me how the boys suffered with short, above the collar hair when the style of the 70's was long. And any young, male guest star was appalled to discover the hair stylist wanted to cut their hair, so it would be "period". I can remember quite a few arguments over it in the makeup room at the start of an episode.
When CBS did their 50 year anniversary special, they told my Mom that I need to have floor-length formal black dress. My poor Mom searched everywhere trying to find something appropriate for a 13-year-old. While I have no memory of this clip, I do remember meeting Mary Tyler Moore and Carol Burnett and watching Lucille Ball and Vivian Vance play cards.
I was thinking about "The Ferris Wheel", which was directed by one of my favorite directors, Larry Dobkin. In this behind-the-scenes photo, you can see the top of his head. I am about to be handed Chance's lead, by the livestock wrangler who was responsible for the cow. I don't remember this episode, but I do remember breaking the "ice" in the bucket, which was really made of wax.
Terri Marsh Felder asked about dressing rooms. When we started they had one dressing room for the girls and one for the boys. Since we also had Moms or guardians with us, it was pretty crowded. This lasted until the actors' union came on set and told them shared dressing rooms violated union contract. Then they build dressing room on the soundstage for us. If we were filming on the backlot, they put us in old trailers, often unplugged and unheated. Hollywood glamour!
I don't want anyone to feel too sorry for us over the dressing room situation. It isn't that we were suffering, but there is a desire to correct people's idea that we were pampered or spoiled. I don't really understand why the production company was so frugal, why there were so many examples of penny pinching, even after we were a top rated show. It's kind of a mystery, because when we visited other Lorimar sets, they had the kind of comforts that one might expect. And as far as craft services were concerned, for the first years it was just donuts, coffee, mixed lemonade and water. Later on they offered bagels and cream cheese and we felt lucky!
There were two houses used as The Walton house. The original exterior was on the Warner Brothers' back lot in Burbank. It burned down and they turned the land into a parking lot. It was rebuilt on the Warner Ranch for the reunion shows. The Ranch is not far from Warner Brothers and we filmed there during the series, notably for the Baldwin house exteriors. The new house wasn't quite right, though we all struggled to articulate the differences. The trees were wrong, certainly. And I think the new house was too low to the ground. If you visit this site and page down to "The House/Filming" there is some excellent information about how the house set was used after the show was canceled.
Here are some photos of The Waltons' exterior set as it was used for other things...
The house on the left was used in Mayberry RFD, so this version on the set predated our show. They added the dormers. They was a Chinese Elm between the house and the barn and a pepper tree next to the barn, where the treehouse was. The tree that was on the garden side (to the left facing the house) was special in some way. I remember Will telling me its latin name and why it was a rare tree.
Eric Scott- Kami, the tree towards the garden was a ginkgo. Do you remember the cement patch in the trunk?
Kami Cotler - oooh, I just looked it up. They are "the only living species in the division Ginkgophyta, all others being extinct. It is recognizably similar to fossils dating back 270 million years"
This is the house when used for The Gilmore Girls. I think this is on the Ranch, so the rebuilt version. One difference between the original set and the post fire set is the number of steps going to the porch. The porch on the original set was raised and there were three or four steps up. I think the post-fire set had a fewer steps up..
Apparently this is for Dukes of Hazard. Notice how they removed the dormers and added a peak at the middle. They must have gone to such lengths to conceal the "Walton" of the building. I think this is the original set on the Warners lot, because of the tree in the foreground, which didn't exist on the Ranch set.
Exteriors and interiors were filmed separately and the front of the house was mostly a facade, with just two small interior rooms. According to Steve-P's page, "In November 1991, a fire started by serial arsonist John Orr badly damaged the house. Warners had already earmarked the site for a new parking lot, but with the forthcoming reunion movie, A Walton Thanksgiving Reunion, already on the horizon, a new site was chosen for the rebuilding of the house. The charred original was eventually dismantled for good in 1995."
The Greens department is part of the team making a show like The Waltons look real. They tended any plants around the set and supplied any giant potted plants needed to hide things that were too modern.
People are asking about The Burn Out. It was a little scary to film, but mostly very exciting. For the interiors, they sprayed the walls (and our nightgowns) with flame retardant and then set gas pipes along the walls on the floor. They would warn us which walls would have fire. Then fire department would light the gas jets, we'd film the scene and then after the director yelled, "Cut!" they'd cut the gas and blast the wall with fire extinguisher, as needed. I'll talk about exteriors tomorrow.
We filmed The Burn Out exteriors at night and, as children, we were not allowed to work past 6:30pm, so the producers had to get special permission for us to work that late. Our call time was midday or late afternoon and I think they may have fed us dinner. All very novel. A fire company was there with fire hoses. The house exterior was on the Warner Brothers backlot and behind the facade were two interior rooms that connected the front door and the side porch door. I am not sure the exact mechanism that shot fire out the upstairs windows, but I think it similar to the gas jets they used for the interior shots. When the director yelled, "Cut!" they would turn off the fire, but the wood frames had usually ignited, so the fire fighters would blast the windows with their water hoses. So dramatic. This sequence was the only time The Waltons ever felt real to me.. and just for a moment. When we were huddled together, pretending to cry, with flames shooting out the windows and then Ralph came out of the front door, enveloped in a billow of smoke with Mary in his arms, it all seemed real for a split second and I really started to cry. I had to hug Mary very tight after that scene finished!
We filmed at Warner Brothers in Burbank, CA. Here is an aerial photo of the lot from when we were filming. You can't see the house exterior set, Godsey's store, or the "Jungle" where the pond and the roads were. They are out of frame to the right of the building with red walls. However, you can see Midwest street, where Boatwright was and the Walton Mountain School. The second photo is of Midwest Street and if you turn left to the opening past the truck and keep going past the big parking lot, you would come to the house exterior....
This google map shows where the Warner Bros lot is in relationship to the Warner Ranch. The Ranch is south of Verdugo and west of Hollywood Way. When we filmed the series, the Ranch is where the Baldwin's house was and it's where the Walton house exterior now resides. The satellite image is Warner Brothers lot today. The dense green on the right is The Jungle, where Drucilla's Pond and all the mountain roads were filmed. Above that, you see a parking lot, which was where Godsey's store was and then above that a building, which was where the house exterior originally stood.
One day we discovered they'd turned Drucilla's pond into the La Brea Tar Pits and crashed a plane into it. It's hard to see, but this is a photo of John Belushi's plane from the film "1941" after it crashed. You can just see the bridge that crosses Drucilla's pond behind it.
Kami's Mother Barbara adds: No. It is really Drucillas Pond on the Warner Bros back lot. They were filming 1941 and they needed to have a plane crash into the tar pits. so they took Drucillas pond and built a plane head nose into the pond surrounded by dinosaurs. Wwe we driving thru the back lot and used to seeing Drucillas pond as part of the Walton sets. we came around the corner and discovered the pond with an airplane and dinosaurs in it.
It was months later that we discovered what it was all about when the movie was finally released.
The barn was a real building and we filmed barn interiors inside of it. The "road" that appears to disappear behind us between the house and the barn dead ends into a wall of bushes and a chain link fence. On the other side of the fence is a residential street. A real one. If we keep walking, as we are in this photo, we emerge in "the flats", and the exterior of Godsey's store is to our left and the cave from "The Calf" is to our right. The house used for the haunted house from "The Foundling" is there, too. And we are barefoot. At some point our guardians and mothers banded together to protest this as unsafe, and the producers conceded it wasn't a good idea... Anyone notice when we started wearing shoes on a consistent basis?
This school building is one of the few exteriors that had a real interior. We filmed many school scenes inside it, though I think we also used a set in a sound stage. I don't remember it having a curb...
Eric Scott who played Ben Walton added this in the comments:
Kami, the streets were always there. When the set decorators came in to prep.,they would cover the street with enough dirt to bring it up to curb level (slight incline). The playground was also put in at that time. Hope that helps. XOXO, Eric Scott
Well, thank-you Kami, we appreciate your enthusiasm. We work very hard to try and be the best source of information for The Waltons TV show. It helps immensly though when those who were involved in the production, such as yourself, share their memories with us. - Dave @ All About The Waltons
Someone asked we ever had to dub our dialogue. Occasionally, a siren or airplane or some technical issue would ruin the audio in a scene and we would have to "loop". I remember once a month or so, I'd have a looping session. They'd bring me to a recording room, with curtains and that "dead" sound recording rooms have, put headphones on me, stand me at an easel with the pages of dialogue on it and I'd watch the problematic part of the scene projected on a large screen. It was called "looping" because the editors created a short "loop" out of the section of the scene with bad sound. They also put a rhythmic beep, beep, beep on the soundtrack and you had to say the bad line after those three beeps, trying to match your lips on the screen. And the energy and emotion. It was hard and I kind of liked it. In retrospect, the sound editors must have expected a little kid to struggle, so they were always very complimentary when I was able to quickly match my speaking to the picture. And I loved the praise!
This is one of the rare moments when we weren't seated in our usual places. We tended to guard our places at the table jealously. Sometimes a new director would arrive and with a notion that we could sit where he wanted us to sit, in places that made more sense for that scene, but we would dig our heels in and refuse.
There is a cupboard on the left of the landing I used to hide in when I was small. It was spacious and you could surprise people by popping out.
I am thinking at the start of every month, I should answer the questions I've answered before, but everyone new asks again.
1. The reunion shows messed up when it came to The Waltons next generation. You are right, there are errors about Ben & Cindy's kids and Mary Ellen's. We pointed out the errors at the time and the producers thought no one would notice. Ha!
2. Yes, the cast does stay in touch. We see each other like any extended families-- weddings, bar mitzvahs, etc. We enjoy seeing each other!
3. I don't know what happened next with Drew and Elizabeth. They were engaged at the end, but unless someone writes another episode, we will all just have to use our imaginations...
4. As far as we know, there is not a reunion show in the works.
Someone asked how long it took to set up the lights before filming, which started me reminiscing about the lights. When I was little, I was fascinated by all the equipment and pestered the crew with questions. I was proud of knowing the names of all the different screens and lights, etc. I searched for arclights, which were the biggest lights we used, and nine lights, which were the hottest lights, but there isn't much on the Internet about TV set lights from the 70's.. So this photo is the best I could do. These lights are somewhat familiar, but smaller than what we used. Our set was much more crowded with lights, stands, sound equipment. They made an exciting obstacle course for a small girl to scamper through.
To Kami's point about not finding images of the large arc lights that were used on The Waltons from the 70's. Here is a image we posted on our Facebook page a while ago with the lights she describes that can be seen in the behind-the-scenes still below. A portion of a similiar light appears in the top image as a gaffe in a final shot from the show.
- Dave @ All About The Waltons
I imagine when fans look at the Walton house, living room, kitchen, etc, they seem warm and familiar. I get the same feeling when I look at the equipment behind the scenes. The hard metal storage boxes, the sandbags on grip stands, the cables snaking across the floor, the heavy camera dolly, the Panavision camera-- these make me feel cozy. I can remember watching the dolly grip, Armando, expertly roll the camera dolly from mark to mark while filming a scene. When I was very little, I think he let me ride on it during filming if I was very still and quiet. Our dolly was bigger than the one pictured here, big enough to carry a camera operator, focus puller and a small girl perched on the corner.
Apparently, this is the camera dolly from The Waltons (thanks David D for the photos!). It looks small to me, but isn't that just how memories from childhood work? As soon as I saw the photos, I remembered the round seats, which spin and move in all directions. I can't believe they let me sit on it during filming, but I remember that they did a few times. If I'd wiggled, it would have ruined the shot and that would have been at fault. They were so patient with me!
We filmed interiors on Stage 26, which I cannot find a good picture of, so here is an empty Stage 16. I believe 16 is the biggest on the Warner's lot, but 26 was big, too. It held the interiors for kitchen, living room, bedrooms, Godsey's store, the shed and Baldwins entry, living room and still room. Also the make up room, real prop kitchen, school darkroom, and assorted small dressing rooms. The stage was dark and crowded, and the walls were padded, but had a decrepit feeling, unlike the photo below.
I can't find any photos of our set, but I'm going to try and share what it felt to walk onto the stage. If we weren't filming, the big door might be open and you could walk in that way, but normally you'd enter through the small door, first checking to be sure the red light was off. This door is to Stage 23, where we filmed interior church scenes and almost every other interior that wasn't the Walton house or Godsey store. Most parts of the stage were shadowy and dark, and you had to watch your step, since the floors were crisscrossed with cables and full of equipment. All the sets were made of flats, so the perimeter walls had exposed 2x4s and were nailed into the floor of the stage and supported by diagonal metal or wooden props, also nailed into the floor. Most things were nailed together with two-headed nails, so it was easy to pull the nails out and move the flats as needed. And there was often random stuff lying around, like the airline seats you see in this picture.
Top Left Image - Most interiors were filmed on stage 26, including the Walton house, the Godsey store and the Baldwin's. Every other interior was on stage 23. The Dew Drop, any other house, etc.
Lower Left Image - The stage had two giant doors, and they were used to move large equipment in and out. The air pressure in the stage used to be unequal to the air pressure outside, so when you opened a door there was a great gust of wind trying to equalize the pressure.
Top Center Image - On one side of a flat, wall paper, framed photos, wainscoting, on the the other side, just this. Except the reverse side of our walls never looked this fresh and new. They were grubby and had notes spray painted on them, I assume to identify which flat belonged to which set. And the back sides of the sets were never well lit.
Top Right Image - This is not from our set, either. Just an image of flat that I found. I like this one because it reminds me of the random stuff that one would find stored behind a set. A trashcan, an office chair, airplane seats, a broom. I don't remember ever finding airplane seats, but for a kid, there was usually something interesting to get into...
Bottom Right Image - This photo is from a shoot more recent than The Waltons, because I can see a video monitor. These are common now and were used in the reunion shows, but not when we filmed the series. Our crew was much bigger than this one. However, the pool of light and the cables and the clutter is very similar to how our set felt.
Boy does this video bring back memories! This is the kind of light we used on The Waltons. During any exterior scene, several of these arc lights, each being minded by a gloved electrician atop a ladder, would shine from each side of the camera. Counter intuitively, a bright sunny day required MORE man-made light, so on hot summer days, when we were usually filming the winter episodes, these bright lamps would blaze onto us. I can remember playing with the spent carbon rods, once they had cooled down. And watching the electricians light the lamps and adjust them. Fascinating!
We've talked about lights and camera, what about sound? Sound was collected from strategically hidden microphones, placed behind bushes or pieces of furniture, or from overhead boom mikes, usually hanging from a move-able arm on a dolly, sometimes held overhead on a boom, less often via a radio mike worn our clothing. If you watch some of the early episodes, I think you can catch me watching the movements of the microphone overhead. The sound mixer would raise and lower the levels on each microphone as the scene was filmed and after the director yelled, "cut" if he liked a take, he would ask "camera?" and then "sound?" to get the camera operator and the sound mixer's permission before calling, "print!"
Didn't their arms get tired? This microphone is much smaller than what we used in the 70's. Those mics had big conical foam covers. The sound guy would ask the camera operator for the scene's frame, so he could figure out how low he could bring the mic and still remain out of sight. Since cameras pan and dolly and zoom in and out, this wasn't always easy.
The dolly boom was on of my favorites pieces of equipment as a kid. The sound guy could move the mic up and down the boom, swing the boom right to left, and swivel the mic nearly 360 degrees at the end of the boom. When I was little, it was very hard not to watch it during filming, because it was doing so many things! And the skill it took to crank the wheels and make it dance around so smoothly and precisely--I was super impressed.
Our sound mixer for years was William Flannery. He was such a sweet and patient man. I'd watch him mix sound during filming, fascinated by all the levers and switches and knobs. He would explain what he was doing to me and sometimes I was allowed to slide the levels up and down. It was gorgeously made technology. I clearly remember how smoothly the controls would glide...
The panel he is using (above) does look similar to what we used, but the keyboard above is modern stuff. The sound board had a tiny light and the sound man would be off camera surrounded by darkness and working in a tiny pool of light.
Memories of the making of The Homecoming, including the home movies my Dad shot of our time at Jackson Hole.
The Christmas movie that gave us - "The Waltons"!
Created by Earl Hamner Jr., the series pilot aired on December 19, 1971 as a television movie titled "The Homecoming: A Christmas Story". Thank You Earl Hamner Jr. for allowing the World to be a part of your family.
Does anyone know how to differentiate between the exterior house set we used on the original series and the new exterior they built for the reunion shows? I know the steps were different; the original house was on a higher foundation and there was one additional step to the porch. Any other signs? I know this picture of the front of the house is the original house, but I'm not sure about this overhead.
When we filmed on the front porch we sometimes filmed outside, on the back lot porch, and we sometimes filmed in the sound stage. This photo shows the interior porch set used on a reunion show. On the original interior set the porch was longer, opened at both ends and had the swing. I wonder if it's possible to tell when we were filming on the indoor porch versus the outdoor porch?
Here are some backstage photos of the Easter reunion movie. It was not filmed at Warner Brothers, so it doesn't quite fit my childhood memories-- in the 70's the equipment was all bigger and sturdier. These are from when Janet, John-Boy's wife, gave birth. Thanks to Vicky for sharing them with me!
Michael and Judy ministering to Kate McNeil as Janet. TV acting is all about tuning out distractions-- the man with the microphone boom will move it overhead to catch their dialogue, the camera will be whirring, and the crew will be watching, hoping they get it right quickly so we can move to the next angle. Note the tape rolls dangling off the camera dolly? As a child I used to beg tape from the dolly grip. So many different kinds to play with!
Everyone and everything crammed into a bedroom set. You can see why the walls have to be move-able.
The porch existed on stage 26 and on the back lot. When they filmed inside the living room, a giant painted backdrop of trees might be glimpsed through the lace curtains. These photos are from the reconstructed set from the reunion show.
Ever wonder how we filmed inside vehicles? 99% of the time we used rear projection. We would act in the foreground, while a pre-filmed background was projected onto a screen behind us. It creates a grainy effect you can recognize if you look for it. On our show all these shots were filmed between the porch and the backdrop, where there was enough space to line up the projector, the screen, the car and the camera crew.
(Follow up comment) Rear projection is an older process. Green Screen, is a green screen that they digitally add images to. Rear projection is a big projector that projects the image from behind onto a screen. I think it was also synced with the film camera to make sure the camera was filming frames at the same moment the projector was showing images.
(Note: In the final image of John-Boy sitting on the roof of the truck you can see the edge of the rear projection screen on the left. - AATW Editor)
Here is my brother's casting photo from back in the day. We've talked about his acting on the Waltons; anyone recognize him from any other show?
My brother was in several episodes of The Waltons, as many of you remembered, and he worked as a child, recurring on Eight is Enough as Nicholas' best friend Irving, guesting on Emergency, and featured on The Young Pioneers with Linda Purl, Robert Donner, Mare Winningham and Robert Hayes. He was also in the short-lived sitcom, Struck By Lightening, which is why I say we were each in the one of the worst TV shows ever-- Me and the Chimp and Struck By Lightening.
A few people have asked about the article (to the right with the link below), which says the TNT "had to destroy the Waltons set." I encourage you to take this with a grain of salt. The network is trying to create the message that they will be developing edgy, high-end content, and the easiest way to do that is to say they "tore down" The Waltons set. So far as I know, the Walton house exterior still stands on Columbia Ranch. Even if they have torn it down, it wasn't the original set, which burned down years ago. We haven't used the interior set pieces since 1997. So, there is no way those sets are standing up somewhere occupying stage space. The cool part is that The Waltons is still meaningful enough that it can be used as shorthand to describe a move away from family-oriented programming to something where the content will be PG-13.
Watching the Oscars and remembering Patricia Norris, who was our first costumer on The Waltons. She picked out the little boots and rompers I wore for most of the first season, and she cried when I outgrew them.
I never had this toy, though I did have a Waltons lunch box and the Waltons board game. I took my lunch to school in my lunch box and we played the game, too. No thought of them being collectible... My lunch box rusted out eventually and the game lost its pieces and they both ended up in the garbage.
Here is what our scripts and call sheets looked like. Mary is raising funds for Sjogren’s Syndrome Foundation.
Mary's eBay listing info:
SIGNED ORIGINAL WALTONS SCRIPT+ ORIGINAL CALL SHEET – THE SERMON Signed by cast members. See photos. THE SERMON SCRIPT- ORIGINAL June 11, 1975 signed by Michael Learned, Eric Scott, Richard Thomas, Judy Norton, David Harper and Mary McDonough. This was my original script. It has my name on the upper right corner. It was filmed in 1975 and is 61 pages. I will personalize this if you wish. Just let me know who to make it out to. I will also sign the call sheet if you choose. Included is a letter of authenticity I will sign. All sold as is, see photos, happy bidding. Write if you have questions. Please include if and how and to whom you want the photos signed. If not, they will come as is. Some articles are one of a kind. A percentage will go to Sjogren's Syndrom Foundation.
Yes, indeed! The girls' bedroom and the parents' bedroom are the same set, dressed with different furniture and decor. My bed was so tiny and the mattress was supported by a metal mesh, so it squeaked and sagged delightfully. And I could touch the head and foot of the bed if I stretched, which was kind of novel.
I found this floor plan on www.allaboutthewaltons.com(Thanks for the plug Kami - AATW Ed.) -- It looks pretty accurate to me. It shows the silly set up with the grandparents room-- who would design a room where you step up to the door and then immediately down to the room?
Also from www.allaboutthewaltons.com -- the layout for The Waltons upstairs. Notice the girls' and parents' room is the same. At least once we had to all come out of our bedrooms at the same time and I think they had Michael and Ralph come out of the attic door. Anyone remember this?
This was posted by the director, who details the making of "The Warrior" on his blog. He posted it as a remembrance of Earl Hamner:
Ralph Senensky's words: I am saddened. Earl Hamner passed away on March24, 2016. I directed a dozen THE WALTONS over a period of 5 years. There were several times when I directed an added scene written by Earl, which I discuss on a post WALTON'S MOUNTAIN REVISITED at www.senensky.com/waltons-mountain-revisited/. But only once did I direct a total script written by Earl. It was in the 6th season. The script was THE WARRIOR, a fascinating story about a 101-year-old Indian who returns to Walton’s Mountain, searching for the burial ground of his Cherokee tribe. He finds it is under the Walton barn. Who does the land belong to? It was written by a relative of someone in the upper echelon of Lorimar Productions, and it was not well written. I was not the only one who felt that way, but happily Earl said he would do the rewrite. The next three or four days I went every morning to his home and spent the day there as he totally rewrote the script from the opening to the final good-nights. It was a beautifully written script, and I was excited and eager to film it. But then outrageous circumstances concerning casting occurred, which I will not go into here, but which I describe in vivid detail on my post for THE WARRIOR. The role of the old warrior was a demanding one, and it was unfortunate that the actor already cast did not play it and that for the actor playing it, the role was beyond his experience and capability. For me only one scene (with thanks to the amazing 12-year old Kami Cotler) fulfilled the potential of Earl’s poignant and poetic dialogue.
These days, the words "icon" and "unique" are thrown around indiscriminately. The truth is, as a country music singer and songwriter, Merle Haggard has never been surpassed. When he appeared in a 1976 episode of The Waltons called "The Comeback," I had the good fortune to share the main plot of the episode with him. We hung out on the set together and jammed away on our guitars between takes; a memory I'll never forget. He was a sweet, lovely, humble man. Thank you, Merle. Rest in peace.
We filmed The Waltons in Los Angeles, and I didn't visit the Blue Ridge until after the show had ended, so during the filming I didn't understand why there was so much dialog about flowers and seasons. Once you see spring in Virginia you realize what we were going on about.
This is a fabulous example of how in an isolated place, like an island or a rural mountain, an accent can endure. To my English husband, this Virginia accent sounds like a rural English farmer. In Earl Hamner's accent, I hear the vestiges of Scottish indentured servants.
The odd accent of Tangier VA - American Tongues episode #3
Someone asked about cast members and religion. I was the youngest, so I reckon I always have the least amount of information when it comes to any question... I don't really know what most folks' personal beliefs were. Eric's family was Jewish and he had a Bar Mitzvah at 13. Mary's family was Catholic. I think Jon's family were Church of England (Episcopalian in the US). Maybe because viewers saw the central role religion had in our characters' lives, it's a little disorienting when doesn't match our own lives? For me, singing hymns was no different than gathering around the radio or milking a goat-- really cool experiences that differed from my own life.
Here is a lovely video about another child actress. I especially like the part where someone asks her, "Are you the girl who____?" and it isn't about her past acting life. It's always nice to be recognized for the things you are accomplishing in the present.
Did you know Ellen Corby wrote a children's book? We found a copy while cleaning out the garage... My daughter had me sign it and posted it to Ebay. According to Grandma, it's the autobiography of a pebble, which she kindly wrote for the pebble.
Apparently, 44 years ago The Waltons premiered. The showed the second episode we filmed, The Foundling, first. Before it was aired, they screened it for the producers, the actors and their families. When Elizabeth got trapped in the trunk, my little brother turned to my Mom and asked, "Does she ever get out?" I was sitting next to him at the time....
Someone asked what happened to all the quilts and other props we used on the show. We filmed on the old Warner Brothers lot, so everything came from the Warners Prop House. Occasionally, an item would have a label indicating its history. I think Jon Walmsley once had a coat with "Wallace Beery" written on the inside collar. When our show ended, all those props when back to the prop house, just as they had in the 40's after they were used in some Warner film. Kinda cool.
Someone asked if we had special memories of The Burnout and I think we all do. Any time you film with special effects, it's memorable. The producers needed special permission to film with children after 6:30pm, there were firefighters with hoses right off camera, our nightgowns were sprayed with flame retardant. It was very exciting and felt weirdly real.
Someone asked if it was true that Michael Learned's nightgown caught fire during the filming of "The Burn Out". I don't remember that happening but it's possible. When we shot the interior sequences they had gas pipes along the ground to shoot flames up the walls and we were running by them. However, there were fire fighters with extinguishers so no one was injured that I recall. The biggest issue was headaches from breathing in the smoke. I remember them using bee smokers to provide the smoke. They looked almost exactly like the one in this video and they'd pump the bellows and fill the hallway with smoke before we shot.
Someone asked how authentic the Waltons' saw mill was. It worked. Ralph really through a switch and the saw really turned and they really cut wood. I don't remember any cinematic trickery, though they must have disabled it when they weren't using it for filming, because we used to play all around there...
I thought you all might like to see a Waltons shooting schedule. About a week or so before an episode was filmed, a multiple page shooting schedule would be created by our first assistant director. It was an outline of the order scenes would be filmed in and included where we would be filming each day and who worked when. If I saw one I would peer over the 1st AD's shoulder to try and work out which days I'd be busy working and which days I might come in later... This shooting schedule is from the Quilting, directed by Larry Dobkin, one of my favorite directors. Mary is offering it on eBay.
Remembering Mary Tyler Moore, who I grew up watching and admiring. If you look over her shoulder in this clip of CBS' 50th Anniversary TV special, you may just see a redhead wearing her first black tie dress.... (also visible are Michael Learned, David Harper, Ralph Waite, Mary McDonough, Judy Norton, and Eric Scott. - AATW editor)
I know many folks are considering not joining us for the Waltons Reunion in Virginia, since the some of the events are sold out, but there are still reasons to go!
1. Meet the cast & get signatures or selfies.
2. Even more importantly, meet the other Waltons fans. Our fans are the nicest people in the world
3. See where the story really happened-- the beautiful countryside where Walton creator, Earl Hamner, grew up.
4. Visit the Walton Mountain Museum
For people who have attended other Waltons gatherings, am I right when I say you'll make new and lovely friends?