The Waltons was a beloved TV show that started in the 70s and lasted for nine seasons. It earned an Emmy for Outstanding Drama Series for plenty of good reasons! It offered warmth, comfort, and great plots and characters that make it stand out even today.
But even if you’ve seen all 221 episodes, there are some hidden details and secrets that you may not have heard! Here are five things you didn’t know about The Waltons!
1. Inspiration for The Waltons
Getting to the root of inspiration for The Waltons requires a surprisingly long trek! The pilot for the series aired as a successful made-for-TV movie in 1971 with an almost entirely different cast. Before that, there was a 1963 movie on the big screen called Spencer’s Mountain which was in turn based on a novel of the same name by Earl Hamner Jr.
The trail doesn’t end there; Hamner based the book off of his own life and family. He also grew up with seven siblings, who served as inspiration for the characters. In fact, the famous “goodnight” sequence at the end of most episodes was a routine for Hamner’s family as well.
2. Low Expectations
CBS did not expect the show to do well for two reasons. Rural shows were in a slump at the time on all channels, and it would be competing with popular shows on other stations.
Even cast member Ralph Waite only took his role as John Walton because he thought it wouldn’t go beyond the pilot. He didn’t want to confine himself to a long-running show.
The high ratings were a huge surprise, and competing shows on both ABC and NBC were canceled because of its popularity.
3. Alcoholism on Set
The Waltons cast hid a secret for a long time: two of the members struggled with alcoholism during the show’s run. Both Ralph Waite and Michael Learned drank daily. Learned even brought a bottle of bourbon to her audition.
Both actors recovered from their addictions during the show. Waite cites The Waltons as the reason he got sober, and he later helped Learned with her problem as well.
4. The Set Still Stands
A big part of The Waltons history is still standing on the Warner Brothers’ lot in California. While the original set burned down, a perfect replica takes its place now. Reunions and specials took place on this set, and it even appeared in an episode of Gilmore Girls.
While the Waltons’ home remains the same, the characters are very different! Take a look at The Waltons cast now to see how the family has grown!
5. Walton Pride
One of the most surprising facts about The Waltons is that Grandma and Grandpa Walton were in same-sex relationships! Ellen Corby was a closeted lesbian with a long-term partner, and Will Geer was bisexual.
Geer and his partner Harry Hay were both big parts of the gay rights movement. Geer was later blacklisted, but his contribution was priceless to the LGBTQ+ community.
The Waltons Lives On
The Waltons continues to be an outstanding drama that families can enjoy together even decades after it aired. You can watch The Waltons on several subscription streaming services, or catch the reruns still airing on TV!
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