6 Ellen Corby roles that are the opposite of Grandma Walton

She bossed around the Addams family, hoodwinked Barney and Gomer, and even played an alien!

Ellen Corby will forever be remembered as Grandma Esther in The Waltons. However, her most famous role came relatively late in her long career. She started decades early in films then transitioned to guest roles on television. Many of her TV characters were sweet, if a little strict, mothers or grandmothers similar to Grandma Walton.

But some memorable portrayals were the exact opposite! Here are six times Ellen Corby played nefarious characters who would never be welcome on Walton’s Mountain.  

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1. Miss Samantha – Alfred Hitchcock Presents

The Alfred Hitchcock Presents episode “Bull in a China Shop” will sound very familiar to any fans of the 1944 Cary Grant dark comedy Arsenic and Old Lace. One of the funnier episodes of Hitchcock’s thriller series, it follows four elderly women who can’t get enough of the handsome, and unmarried, detective who lives nearby. Ellen Corby plays Miss Samantha, one member of the seemingly sweet quartet who will find any excuse, including arsenic poisoning, to see the strapping investigator again.

2. Myrt “Hubcaps” Lesh – The Andy Griffith Show

One of Ellen Corby’s most memorable single-episode roles is the kindly Mrs. Lesh in The Andy Griffith Show who tearfully sells Barney a car belonging to her late husband. Of course, Myrt “Hubcabs” Lesh wouldn’t be on this list if that was the end of the story. When Barney’s new ride turns out to be a total lemon, he and Andy discover the sweet old lady who sold the car is really the head of criminal automobile racket. She even has Allan Melvin, who played many crooked characters in Mayberry, as a henchman.

3. Mother Lurch – The Addams Family

Though Ellen Corby’s turn as Lurch’s mother in The Addams Family stays within the confines of the law, she certainly isn’t very pleasant to be around. When Lurch confesses that his mother thinks he owns the Addams’ house, Gomez and Morticia agree to be his temporary servants. Little did they know that Mother Lurch would criticize their every move and even convince her son to fire them! It’s a great showcase of Corby’s sterner side and the perfect opposite to the sometimes ornery but always kind Grandma Walton.

4. Aunt Sara – The Invaders

As far as “secretly bad but pretending to be good” characters go, Corby’s role as Aunt Sara in the very first episode of The Invaders might be the most extreme. After all, petty thieves and con artists are nothing compared to an alien planning to take over the world! The pilot episode sets up the series premise that architect David Vincent sees a flying saucer and finds out that extraterrestrials disguised as humans are infiltrating society. Ellen Corby plays an elderly woman who’s extended pinky fingers give away she’s not who she seems.

5. Criminal Mother #1 – Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C.

After swindling Barney in The Andy Griffith Show, Ellen Corby played two different criminals in the spinoff Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C. Both shady characters were mothers who seemed like the last people in the world to break the law. In “The Case of the Marine Bandit,” Corby and her daughter, played by frequent '60s guest star Kathie Brown, trick Gomer into robbing multiple liquor stores. They even get Sergeant Carter in on the act before Gomer realizes the ruse and has them arrested.

6. Criminal Mother #2 – Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C.

Ellen Corby’s second maternal outlaw role on Gomer Pyle comes in the episode “The Short Voyage Home.” Gomer plans to buy the filling station in Mayberry and takes $1,600 in cash with him on the bus home. Corby’s character, credited simply as “Mother,” tries to snag the money out of Gomer’s pocket at the station. When that doesn’t work, she and her son follow them onto the bus. Sergeant Carter’s attempts to protect Gomer backfire and Corby’s sweet old lady act gets her off the hook yet again— at least until the end. This episode originally aired three years before Corby started on The Waltons and became everyone’s favorite TV grandma.

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Rambo4 27 months ago
Ellen Corby also played Mrs. Green in the Batman episode “The Jokers Flying Saucer”
Steve2021 27 months ago
Mrs Lesh selling Barney the 54 ford sedan. I would have offered her $50.00 for the car.
kimmer 27 months ago
I loved the timid sister Aunt Trina, she played in "I Remember Mama".....such a sweet role.
ETristanBooth 28 months ago
In one of her "nicer" roles, she played the New York housekeeper Sophie in the 1949 version of Little Women, which is my favorite version (the one with June Allyson).
28 months ago
Doesn't anyone remember wonderful Ellen Corby as the ditzy inmate in "Caged," starring Eleanor Parker? Or, as the ditzy bride of the funeral director in "I Remember Mama?"
katlovemetv 28 months ago
I loved her as Henrietta Porter in Trackdown…she seemed to always keep Hoby on the straight and narrow…
SandyJinNJ 28 months ago
They left out my favorite! In 1956, Ellen Corby played Lucy's former high school drama teacher in the "I Love Lucy" episode Lucy Meets Orson Welles. Although she was invited to see Lucy star opposite Orson in Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet, she was just as happy or unaware watching her assist him in his magic act.
SandyJinNJ 28 months ago
Yes! "Miss Hannah!"
Zip 28 months ago
"Hubcaps Lesh" would have to be my favorite of Ellen Corby's criminal mom characters. She really plays it off well. And "The Long Voyage Home" is a favorite of mine for Gomer Pyle USMC episodes.
DonnaNMI 28 months ago
She was in It’s A Wonderful Life and gets kissed by Jimmy Stewart
lavender023 28 months ago
She had a great part in On Moonlight Bay, a great Doris Day movie. She has a very long list of tv and movie credits
Lbriggs864 28 months ago
Honey West episode 23 has Ellen Corby as part of an accident insurance claim scam.
Fuming 28 months ago
Ellen also appeared in movies before her TV roles, the two notable movies that I recall her being in are It's a Wonderful Life and I Remember Mama.
LoveMETV22 28 months ago
Great story. Thanks MeTV. The picture in # 1- I know it's Ellen Corby but doesn't look like the rest. Just saying.
Peter_Falk_Fan 28 months ago
Ah yes, Aunt Sara on "The Invaders" ('Beachhead'). She was a really good (or should I say bad) invader. I can picture her standing there with David's room on fire.
MrsPhilHarris 28 months ago
She was also int the METV Svengoolie classic The Ghost & Mr. Chicken.
kimmer MrsPhilHarris 27 months ago
Love that movie...She played his elementary teacher...lol
MrsPhilHarris kimmer 27 months ago
I love it too. Watch it every time it shows up on tv. 📺
kimmer MrsPhilHarris 27 months ago
I'm the same....I ended up buying it...lol
MrsPhilHarris kimmer 27 months ago
Oh good idea!
kimmer MrsPhilHarris 27 months ago
If you ever get the hankering.....let me know....girls movie night!!!! lol
BarnabyMannix 28 months ago
The car hustler was my second favorite "Andy Griffith", after the classic "Pickle Story."
harlow1313 28 months ago
Why does Metv constantly try and convince readers that she was a sweet granny?

I'm sorry Metv, I will always see her as the evil Myrt Hubcaps Lesh. This was her true nature.
Maverick66 harlow1313 28 months ago
Yeah, I agree. Hubcaps Lesh even smacked her henchman, Allan Melvin, around, eliciting a "What's with ya, Moit?" from the big guy. (At least, it sounds to me like he pronounces Myrt with a Brooklyn accent, a la Bugs Bunny).
justjeff Maverick66 28 months ago
Until the "All in the Family Years", Allan Melvin sure put in his time in the Armed Services... "St. Bilko", "Gomer Pyle, USMC", "The Dick Van Dyke Show", "Beetle Bailey" cartoons (as Sgt. Snorkel), "The Andy Griffith Show"...
BarnabyMannix Maverick66 28 months ago
Melvin also played a bully that was going to beat up Barney in TWO different episodes...I think he did it a third time with Howard Sprague in a Mayberry RFD episode....Magilla Gorilla never beat up anyone.. :)
Maverick66 BarnabyMannix 28 months ago
Yeah, he played a bully twice & a prisoner twice on TAGS. He did play the house detective for a hotel in yet another TAGS episode, but Barney thought he was a jewel thief. I don't recall the Mayberry RFD episode, but you may well be right about that one as well (like most people, I'm not up with MRFD as much as TAGS).

I liked Melvin best as Sgt. Hacker on Gomer Pyle & Sam the butcher on The Brady Bunch.
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