Judy Norton reunited with her first onscreen mom a decade later in The Waltons
Norton made her acting debut in the 1967 film Hotel alongside future Waltons guest star Dee Carroll.
Though she was only 14 when she started playing Mary Ellen in The Waltons, Judy Norton had already been acting for five years. She first appeared on TV in a 1968 episode of the police drama The Felony Squad but made her acting debut a year earlier as an unnamed girl caught in the climactic elevator crash scene in the ensemble film Hotel.
She shares the scene with the movie’s stars Karl Malden and Michael Rennie. The woman playing her distraught mother is Dee Carroll, a former bit player in noir films and Westerns who started her career in the 1940s.
Carroll also had small roles on TV throughout the Sixties and Seventies in shows like The Twilight Zone, Bonanza, Petticoat Junction and Adam-12. She played Dr. Vance’s wife, Mady, in two episodes of The Waltons. Her first time on Walton’s Mountain came in “The Burnout” in season four then she appeared again in the season five episode “The Vigil.”
The episodes originally aired in the spring and fall of 1976, almost exactly a decade after Carroll first worked with the future Mary Ellen Walton.
Judy Norton mentioned reuniting with her first onscreen mom in a behind-the-scenes video she made about “The Vigil.” Norton also noted the episode is Sheila Allen’s first time taking over the role of telephone operator Fanny Tatum. Sheila was married to Irwin Allen, creator of sci-fi shows like Lost in Space and producer of blockbusters The Poseidon Adventure and The Towering Inferno.
According to Norton, “It was very exciting to have Sheila Allen as a guest.” Norton even noted that, “Irwin Allen actually came and visited her on set at some point. I didn’t get to me him. Really a disappointment.”
Norton also talks about which backlot was used for filming this episode, the animal trainer who worked with Waltons’ dog Reckless and many other interesting tidbits she remembers from her time making this touching episode. You can watch her full video below!
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Sheila Matthews Allen for the Walton's reference, and yes she was in 5 episodes as telephone operator Fanny Tatum.
I think the show used chracters more than on screen. FannyTatum, Mrs. Brimmer, and Maude Gormley all seemed to have a bigger presence than actually on screen. So I suspect there were more references to them even if they weren't in many episodes.
- The Return (1978) ... Fanny Tatum
- The Hawk (1977) ... Fanny Tatum
- The Career Girl (1977) ... Fanny Tatum
- The Best Christmas (1976) ... Fanny Tatum
- The Vigil (1976) ... Fanny Tatum
I would think their names (and other characters as well) were mentioned at other times during the series, whether they were in the episode or not.