Ellen Corby was everyone’s grandma on the Waltons set

“I really am the grandma around here,” she said.

Everett Collection

Anyone who grew up in the 1970s knows how special it was to see a character like Grandma Walton on TV. Though stern and stubborn sometimes, her generous nature always won out. You could practically smell the hearty home cooking every time she worked in the big Walton’s kitchen and her good-natured bickering with Grandpa Zeb never failed to amuse. She was the grandma every '70s kid wished they had.

For seven lucky children, that wish was a reality — in a way. Ellen Corby, the talented actress who portrayed Grandma Walton onscreen, was a surrogate grandma to all the child actors on set.

In a 1973 interview with The New York Times she said, "These children on the show are like my own grandkids, and I really am the grandma around here."

Corby never had grandchildren of her own but she got the chance to fill that role, literally and figuratively, during her time acting in The Waltons.

She added that, "This show is what I've ALWAYS wanted." She feared that she might not get the role. "I never finished the role on The Homecoming [the CBS made-for-TV movie that served as the series pilot]. I got sick and wound up in the hospital in surgery. I was afraid the producers wouldn't want me back. After all, I had caused them a great inconvenience, delayed production, and didn't seem very healthy."

Thankfully, that was not so. The cast of the beloved family show were all very close and there was a real familial rapport that is plain to see in each episode of the series.

While not everyone could have their own Grandma Walton, it’s good to know at least some did!

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Sheree 39 months ago
I loved Grandma Walton. She was strong and and gruff, but loving and gentle at the right moments. Loved watching her. Learning she was the one who, in real life, drank, while Grandpa was a tea tottler, made me laugh. And learning that she was a lesbian was even better. Wow. Now I really loved her to learn she was so human, so strong and so real. She was an amazing woman.
MeowMeow1962 48 months ago
Both grandmas died before I was 4. Mom's dad died when I was 6 or 7 but I only met him 1x before he died. Dad's dad died when I was 10 so I sort of remember him. It was tough at school when other kids would spend summers or holidays with their grandparents. But that's life so you just have to get through it. I never had kids so I'll never be a grandma, except a kitty grandma.
48 months ago
I fondly remember Ellen Corby in "I Remember Mama" and in the movie, "Caged." She and Will Geer were wonderful together in The Waltons. They were the heart of the show.
Samuel 51 months ago
I must have seen Ellen Corby in well over 100 tv shows and movies (SHANE) in my life and that's not counting THE WALTONS. She played the town newspaper editor in TRACKDOWN, a late 1950s/early 1960s western with Robert Culp. Her most famous role in my opinion was Mrs Leesh (?) the old con lady who sold Barney the used car on THE ANDY GRIFFITH SHOW.
Bill Samuel 51 months ago
I agree! She was great in that Andy Gruffith episode! And with Allen Melvin, who was equally wonderful in tv shows since Sgt. Bilko, in 1955.
RedjacArbez 51 months ago
Some people never met their grandparents.
DebWV 51 months ago
I first remember seeing her on It’s a Wonderful Life. I adored her on The Walton’s. It broke my heart when she suffered a stroke and then later passed away.
Lantern 51 months ago
Just the other day I saw Ellen Corby in a supporting role as an inmate in a 1950 movie called "Caged",
TheDavBow3 51 months ago
There sure are a lot Waltons stories and quizzes 😴🤔
JewelsChuck 51 months ago
I never wished for her, I loved my own even more.
harlow1313 51 months ago
I'm not buying it. Corby will always be the villainess "Hubcaps" Lesh.
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