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- A Christmas Story

Original Airdate: December 19, 1971 - Length: 1 hour 38 minutes
Teleplay: Earl Hamner Jr.
Director: Fielder Cook


Starring: Patricia Neal (Olivia Walton), Richard Thomas (John-Boy Walton), Edgar Bergen (Grandpa Walton), Ellen Corby (Grandma Walton), Dorothy Stickney (Mamie Baldwin), Josephine Hutchinson (Mamie Baldwin), William Windom (Charlie Sneed), Cleavon Little (Hawthorne Dooley)

Special Guest Star: Andrew Duggan (John Walton)


Co-Starring: David Huddleston (Sheriff Ep Bridges), Woodrow Parfrey (Ike Godsey), Sally Chamberlin (City Lady)

With: Jon Walmsley (Jason), Judy Norton (Mary Ellen), Mary McDonough (Erin), Eric Scott (Ben), David Harper (Jim-Bob), Kami Cotler (Elizabeth), David Livingston (Claudie), Betty Carter (Emmarine), Kent Williams (Shepherd #1), Roderick Bingley (Shepherd #2), Rodney Bingley (Shepherd #3), Miyoshi Williams (Angel), Clarence Landry (Santa Claus), Carrie Hamner (Young girl listening to City Lady), Scott Hamner (Young boy listening to City Lady)


"My Grandfather used to say that nobody owns a mountain but getting born and living and dying in it's shadow we loved Walton's Mountain and felt it was ours. The Walton family had endured in that part of the Blue Ridge for over 200 years. A short time in the memory of a mountain, still our roots had grown deep in it's earth. When I was growing up there with my brothers and sisters, I was certain that no one on earth had quite so good a life. I was fifteen and growing at a alarming rate. Each morning I woke convinced I had added another inch to my height while I slept. I was trying hard to fill my Father's shoes that winter. We were in the middle of the depression and the mill on which our villiage depended had closed. My father had found work in a town fifty miles away and he could only be with us on weekends. On Christmas eve, early in the afternoon we had already started looking forward to his homecoming."

Short Synopsis:

Set during the depression in 1933. The Homecoming tells the story of a poor american family as they prepare for Christmas. They look forward to the homecoming of the father of the family, John Walton. He has found work in the city but as the hour draws late for his return, Olivia, the stern, strong willed mother sends her eldest son out on a mission to find his whereabouts. John-Boy checks at the usually spots where John might be found, the pool hall at Godsey's General Store and the Baldwin sisters who are known to make home made moonshine. John-Boy experiences a variety of challenges and meets an assortment of colorful characters in his community but returns home without accomplishing his mission. In a touching scene his mother leans of John-Boy's passion to write for a living. Will his father approve of such a choice? When hope of his return is all but lost John Walton bursts through the door with a bag full of presents and a tale to tell.


Detailed Synopsis:

The Walton children recover their milking cow who has escaped from the farm yet again. While picking apples in the cellar for her Apple Sauce Cake Olivia is delighted when she spots her blooming Christmas cactus. She planted it 17 years before when she and her husband John were married. Olivia's parents were big Baptists and didn't approve of John because he wasn't a church goer but they snicked off one night and eloped. The children discuss their Christmas wishes while they crack walnuts in the barn for their mother's cake. John-Boy has difficulty explaining the cause for the depression, Mary Ellen shows off her feisty spirit in a fit of rebellion and Elizabeth decides to have puppies instead of children when she grows up.

Olivia makes her way to Godsey's Mercantile for sugar and meets preacher Hawthorne Dooley and his son who are transporting supplies for the Baldwin sister's "Recipe". She is disapproving of his involvement with the two old ladies and their bootleg whiskey. Inside the sisters are trying on new hats and they ask Olivia if John can come look at their machine which has stopped producing their Papa's "Recipe". They are afraid they will run short on supply which is in demand across the state. They admit that their father Judge Baldwin didn't leave them with as much money as people think and they rely on the sale of their - whiskey to make ends meet.

Olivia runs into Sheriff Bridges and enquires as to the condition of the roads and whether he as seen her husband. Ike learns that the Sheriff is on the lookout for the "Robin Hood Bandit" who robs food from stores and gives it to poor needy families at Christmas. The Sheriff believes that maybe Ike knows who the bandit is and we learn later that it is Charlie Snead when he drops off a fresh turkey at the Walton home.


  Homecoming Promo Ad

Olivia arrives home and over hears on the radio that a bus has been overturned on the highway from Charlottesville. She decides to wait until they hear further news before getting too upset. She asks John-Boy and Grandpa to cut down a Christmas tree but is suspicious as to why John-Boy was up in his room with the door locked. While walking on the land Grandpa explains to John-Boy how Walton's Mountain came to be. His Great-Great Grand Daddy arrived in 1789 with only an axe, plow, mule and rifle and he faced many challenges to build the land.


The children then decorate the Christmas tree. John-Boy milks the cow and discovers that Mary-Ellen is experiencing "growing pains". When Claudie Dooley arrives to announce that a missionary woman is handing presents out down at the store, Olivia objects at the children attending but then consents if they only watch and not accept charity. Mary-Ellen makes use of her bible knowledge to help other children recite a bible verse in exchange for a present. Elizabeth is given a doll which she desperately desires but the face is cracked which brings her to tears.


Back at home John-Boy writes the days events into his journal. The adults listen as the radio announcer reports of one death in the bus accident. When Olivia goes to send John-Boy out to find his father she learns what John-Boy has been up to in his locked room. He expresses his passion for writing and his desire to become a writer. She gives him his Christmas present early for his journey to find his father. It is a knit scarf and it's all she can afford to give John-Boy and the other children for Christmas. She explains to him that she is sending him to do a man's job and to not disappoint her.


On his journey he encounters a variety of challenges that inhibit his success. Charlie Snead has been captured by Sheriff Bridges at Ike's store but he lends his car to John-Boy to find his father but it runs out of gas along the way. He makes his way to the colored church and asks preacher Dooley if knows where he can get some gas. The preacher takes John-Boy over to the Baldwin ladies place in hopes of finding some gas. The sisters are in the middle of decorating a ridiculously large tree but invite the men in for some Christmas cheer. After a bit of necessary entertaining the ladies offer their horse and sleigh to the men. They all venture out but their journey is stopped short by a large tree that blocks the road.


At home the children hear the arrival of the sleigh bells and wonder if it is Santa Claus, John-Boy walks in, unsuccessful in his mission but with a gift from the Baldwins. Olivia erupts with the fear that it is bootleg whiskey but is embarrassed when John-Boy explains that it is only eggnog. A noise is heard on the roof which signals the long last arrival of their father John Walton with a sack full of Santa's toys. Everyone gets the gift they desired most including John-Boy and Olivia. John has bought his son a handful of Big Chief writing tablets and tells him that he knows and approves of his plan to become a writer. John then promises to Olivia that she will no longer have to worry about him coming home again. He will find work on their land to make ends meet until the good times return. When she asks what they will live on now that he has spent most of his pay on presents he replies that they will live on "love".


"Christmas is a season when we give tokens of love in that house we received not tokens but love itself. I became the writer I promised my father that I'd be and my destiny led me far from Walton's Mountain. My Mother lives there still, alone now for we lost my father in 1969. My brothers and sisters grown with children of their own live not far away. We are still a close family and see each other when we can and like Miss Mamie Baldwin's fourth cousins we are apped to sample the recipe and then gather around the piano as we hug and sing the old songs. But no matter the time or the distance we are united in the memory of that Christmas eve. More than 30 years and 3000 miles away I can still hear those sweet voices."

Additional Credits:

Music composed and conducted by Jerry Goldsmith, Director of Photography: Earl Rath, Production Designer: Robert E. Smith, Unit Production Manager: Neil T. Maffeo, Assistant Director: Max Stein, Set Decorator: James G. Cane, Casting: Pam Polifroni, Film Editors: Marjorie Fowler A.C.E., Gene Fowler Jr. A.C.E., Sound Mixer: Harold Lewis, Costumes: Bob Harris Jr., Betsy Cox, Makeup: Bob Sidell, Hair Stylist: Dione Taylor. Portions of the Fibber McGee and Molly Program Courtesy of NBC Radio. Production Manager: Edward O. Denault, Music Supervision: Morton Stevens. Exteriors Filmed in Teton National Forest. © MCMLXXI Columbia Broadcasting System Inc. A CBS Television Network Production. Filmed at CBS Studio Center Studio City California.

About the Production:

Earl Hamner had written The Homecoming in 1970 as a follow up to his book Spencer's Mountain. It involved the same characters modeled after his own family. In the two book the central character of Clay-Boy Spencer would become John-Boy Walton in this movie. Warner Bros. owned the rights to the original book and therefore character names. The Homecoming established the names and characters that would be continued into the series.

Lorimar the production company was looking for a hit. They were a fledgling company with only a few productions under their belt when Lee Rich bought the rights to The Homecoming from Earl Hamner. It is no small exageration to say that the success of Earl Hamner's work made Lorimar the powerhouse that it would become.


For ease of logistics like Spencer's Mountain had done before, exteriors were filmed in the Grand Teton Mountains of Wyoming instead of the Blue Ridge where the story is set.


  • Henry Fonda who was approached to reprise his role as the father felt that the star was the eldest son and he didn't feel his presence should detract from that. Fonda by then was likely too old for the part and certainly wouldn't have continued with the character for 9 seasons of television which followed after the success of The Homecoming.

  • Patricia Neal takes a very different approach to the character of Olivia Walton vs. the portrayel that Michael Learned offered in the series. Patricia Neal who had previously suffered a stroke prior to the movie was not asked to return for the series as the producers believed that her ailing health would hold her back from the rigors of a weekly series.

  • All of the adult cast would be re-cast for the TV series except Ellen Corby as Grandma Walton. Interestingly her approach to the character was to be the "salt" of the show as opposed to the soft and sweet woman that Hamner had written who was based on his own Grandmother. Corby felt that all the characters were "too nice" and she would be the "spice" to balance out the family.

  • Edgar Bergen who played the role of Grandpa Walton would later appear in the series for a different reason. His voice would be heard as the family would gather in the living room to listen to Charile McCarthy and Edgar Bergen on the radio.

Watch the preview trailers





Memories of Filming 'The Homecoming'
30 years after it's release, the children from the cast of The Waltons share
their memories of filming 'The Homecoming - A Christmas Story'.

Writer/Creator Earl Hamner's 2 children appear in a scene.

Scott Hamner
Scott Hamner
Caroline Hamner
Caroline Hamner

Publicity Stills

Homcoming photo Homcoming photo
Homcoming photo Homcoming photo
Homcoming photo Homcoming photo

Homcoming photo

Behind the scenes

On-location in Wyoming: actors Jon Walmsley, Donald Livingston, David Harper, screenwriter Earl Hamner, on-set school teacher Mrs.King, actors Kami Cotler and Eric Scott.



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