Before she became The Waltons Grandma, Ellen Corby appeared as Lurch's mom on The Addams Family
"I'm sort of a nut," Corby said. Wait. Does this mean Lurch and John-Boy are related?
"Where's my boy?" Ellen Corby screams at Gomez Addams when he opens the door for her in The Addams Family episode "Mother Lurch Visits the Addams Family."
For this episode, Corby is cast as Mother Lurch, and when she sees the towering Ted Cassidy just beside the door, she hugs his midsection squealing, "Sonny!"
Capturing the unique humor of The Addams Family, Lurch's arms wrap the empty air above his tiny mother's head.
When this episode first aired in 1965, Corby was celebrating her 30th anniversary working in motion pictures. She got her start as a script supervisor in 1935. After 11 years, she became the cherished character actor she is today, when she made the transition to acting and never looked back.
Corby is perhaps best known to classic TV fans for playing Grandma of a different TV family, the Waltons. As Esther Walton, Corby became so beloved in the role, kids actually sent her letters asking if they could come live with her.
"I get lots of fan mail from kids who want to adopt me," Corby told The Charlotte News in 1974.
"They like Grandma because she is thinking and active and not ready for the junk heap," she joked.
By 1974, Corby was in her 60s, and though she was still young and spry as Grandma, she said she had already experienced a major loss.
"I'm a widow now," Corby said. "I was married to a cameraman for many years. He's still the only man I ever loved."
She said most of her fans expected her to be like Grandma, but she claimed she didn't quite have it all together the way that Esther did.
"I'm sort of a nut," Corby said. "I'm not Grandma."
That nutty side maybe helped her fit in better playing Lurch's mom on The Addams Family. Corby said after all the time she spent roles she played in her career, something spooky eventually happened and she lost herself a little to the experience of portraying others.
"When you have acted as long as I have, quite often it is very difficult to be yourself," Corby said. "You sort of feel an invisible camera following you around."
On The Waltons, Corby became a household name after decades of entertaining character work, and when Corby had a stroke and had to leave the show, everybody hoped she'd regain her health, recover her lost speech and return to the screen.
And she did. When series creator Earl Hamner Jr. watched Corby film her first episode coming back, "Grandma Comes Home," he got chills and predicted Corby would win another Emmy.
She did take home three Emmys for Grandma, but unfortunately, she was only nominated for "Grandma Comes Home." (She lost out to Blanche Baker who won for her work in the mini-series Holocaust.)
According to Hamner, you can be sure Corby kept her chin up through those years where her name wasn't called to come pick up a trophy.
"Ellen has a philosophy that will not accept any negative thoughts," Hamner told The News-Journal in 1978. "She applies a positive aspect to all situations."