The actors who played the Baldwin sisters on The Waltons both initially auditioned for Miss Mamie

Mary Jackson knew she was right for Miss Emily, but a clueless casting director insisted she couldn’t do comedy.

Read to Me

In The Waltons episode "The Typewriter," John-Boy swears "no typewriter ever came to mean as much to me, as that old machine I borrowed from Miss Mamie and Miss Emily Baldwin."

If you watch the episode, you know that the only reason the Baldwin sisters agreed to let John-Boy use the typewriter is because he referenced their famous "recipe" as bootleggers in his story.

For the actors who played the Baldwin sisters, Mary Jackson (Miss Emily) and Helen Kleeb (Miss Mamie), they spent the rest of their life refusing to share "the recipe" with fans who stopped them on the street wherever they went to beg for the ingredients list to make their own Baldwin brand moonshine.

It’s hard to imagine The Waltons without the Baldwins, and it’s obvious that Jackson and Kleeb had their own special recipe for making the sisters so entertaining for fans.

When casting for the Baldwin sisters, Earl Hamner and producer Robert Jacks had absolutely no luck finding the right actors, until Kleeb left town one day and gave her agent a number where she could be reached in case anything good came along.

Of course that’s when her agent saw the part of Miss Mamie and knew Kleeb would be perfect, but when she called the number Kleeb left, she discovered that Kleeb had just left and could no longer be reached there.

Waiting to get back in touch with her client, Kleeb’s agent didn’t want her to miss out on the part, so she was insistent to Hamner and Jacks that they had to wait until Kleeb got back before they made any decisions.

In the meantime, Mary Jackson got a call to read for Miss Mamie, too. When they both came in to read, they discovered they were neck-and-neck, up for the same role. And Mary didn’t like that one bit. She knew she’d be much better as Miss Emily.

"I was rather aggravated because the casting director had said I couldn’t play comedy," Jackson told The Ithaca Journal in 1977. "After working with people like Mary Tyler Moore, Shirley Booth and Bert Lahr, I was rather insulted. I’m a professional and knew the part of Emily was right for me."

The casting director had both Helen and Mary read for Miss Mamie, and later when Jackson got offered a part on the show, she was confused but delighted to find out she got the part she originally wanted after all.

"I never in my life got a part the way I got this one," Jackson said. "I knew I was right for Emily, but they had me read for Mamie. When I got the call that I had got the part, I still thought it was Mamie and that the studio people were confusing me with someone else. When they finally told me I was Emily, I asked who was Mamie, and they said Helen Kleeb. It’s the first time I ever got a part I didn’t read for."

For Mary and Helen, they were happy for each other to discover they were cast as sisters and would both be on the show. For it turned out, they didn’t meet for the first time at that audition, but in the unemployment line. Both actors bonded in line discussing how badly they needed the work, and when their next roles finally came along, it’s fitting that they became famous together.

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Pacificsun 1 month ago
Well not exactly (regarding the typewriter and John-Boy), and not the point of the story. I had to read through several synopsis for the real angle and this link spells it out because it recaps the script.
http://www.allaboutthewaltons.com/ep-s1/s01-05.php

Nice to read about the actresses though. More examples of true "working actors" in the day. They got many parts reflecting the best of their "acting personalities." How challenging it must've been to reach that age, want to continue doing what you love, having the energy to do it, and wondering where your next compensation was coming from.

(Keep in mind, most supporting actors for those kinds of roles were suggested by Casting or Talent Agencies who knew their work quite well, so it wasn't like they walked in cold to read for a “clueless” director/producer).
Michael Pacificsun 1 month ago
That shed saw so much use. John Boy uses it as a private place to write. It's a guest room. Where John Boy sets up his printing press. I thought there was an episode where two argue over who gets to use it. Cindy and Ben eventually use it as their first home.

It seemed to be bigger and smaller depending on its use.
Pacificsun Michael 1 month ago
What's funny is when you're writing (say a chapter) and you casually mention something because it fits in, then you're a 3rd or 4th chapter ahead and you realize you've locked yourself into something. Then have to go back and undo it or rewrite the dependency. I can't imagine how complicated that was for writers and all those characters and minor story lines. There actually is the job position of "script continuity." And considering the all the complications going on (fictitously and in real life) IMO they did a great job for that many seasons!!
LoveMETV22 Michael 29 days ago
Yes the episode where who gets to use it "The Awakening- John Boy asks his father if he can use the shed as an office. Mary Ellen asks Olivia if she can move into the shed. Aside from that episode the shed gets a lot of use in other episodes.
Zip 1 month ago
To be honest I never ever kept track of who was who in the Baldwin household. Still don't. I just liked the Baldwin sisters. They always brought an interesting air to the show.
They always reminded me of these elderly sisters(3 in this case) who lived down the block from us in a big house. They invited us over when we first moved into town when I was 7, and they fed us these delicious little ham sandwiches and lemonade. They were always very nice ladies like the Baldwin sisters, and they always walked by our house on the way to the Catholic church(another thing they had in common with the Baldwin's).
I don't think they made up batches of "recipe" though.
Michael Zip 1 month ago
One of them had the kiss with Ashley Longworth, don't you know.

There are subtle differences, and episodes where the story is about one of them. (Like the one late in the series where one is going blind) But yes, without thinking about it, I can say which is Mamie and which is Emilie.

Early episodes, Mrs. Walton won't visit them, because of the Recipe. That changes with the series.
LoveMETV22 1 month ago
I like the show and the Baldwin sisters were sweet endearing women. I think their characters were similar enough in nature that it probably wouldn't make much difference if their roles were reversed.
Pacificsun LoveMETV22 1 month ago
We look at those parts (in a way) as if they were interchangeable. Yet that's what I love about the stories here and from understanding what actors went through in the day. These actresses are another example of taking their work (performance, result) so seriously that they could imagine what went into each character, and so to express the role even better. Part of acting is developing the mindset and context of the "personality" being played, even though the viewer only sees a little of it.

What it really means is that the actor worked their darndest to be memorable and to stand out. What we see today is proof, but can anyone imagine the number of would-be's floating around who hoped for their big break. And that was the purpose of Talent & Casting agencies, to not waste the Production's valuable time in selecting the right person.

(Probably over preaching to "you" ... just using this opportunity as a place to add to the discussion, sorry!).
LoveMETV22 Pacificsun 1 month ago
You don't need to apologize (to me at least). I have had many an interesting conversation with you. Although it was cast as it was, I could see either of them switching roles, they were both talented actresses. I just saw one of them in the past couple of days on another show which the show and role elude me at the moment.
anniecat2004 LoveMETV22 30 days ago
I don't think the characters were interchangeable...Mamie was very sensible and stricter and usually spoke for the both of them. Emily was a bit of an airhead (just a little) but both had hearts of gold and were very sweet.
LoveMETV22 anniecat2004 30 days ago
My apologies if I phrased my comment incorrectly. What I meant is that Mary Jackson and
Helen Kleeb were talented enough that either one of them could play the other character.
AgingDisgracefully 1 month ago
NOT to be confused with Daniel, William and Stephen.
The Subsequent Baldwins.
Or the two sisters Elizabeth and Jane Ann. (the sisters were not actors).
And brother Alec.
Or Afam Baldwin.
harlow1313 1 month ago
Otis Campbell was known to take a road trip to visit the sisters.
Andybandit 1 month ago
The Waltons was not one of my favorite shows. I never cared for those sisters, either. Sorry about that.
Michael 1 month ago
I thought they wrote their will in one episode, and announced that the recipe would go to John Walton. They were also going to leave their house to the communuty, to ge used as a museum. Or maybe it was two different episodes.

The sisters spent the whole series acting like the Recipe was medicinal and they were doing nothing wrong, while the rest of Walton's Mountain played along. They let it pass unless it spread, like the episode where a relative starts selling it.

I think the best episode was the finale. They plan a party for their friends from school, and nobody shows up. They've either died, or moved with no forwarding address.

So the Waltons go over, bringing everyone else. And the sisters make a speech, "we are more like observers than participants". That did define their role on the show, but it's not a negative role.
Pacificsun Michael 1 month ago
And what's nice, is that the roles turned out to be "brush strokes" of Earl Hammer's memories, meaning his "impressions." At whatever age his memories began, no child/young person remembers a character driven adult as they truly are. But how they came across. And that innocence which the sisters suggested, was the highlight of their personality. And made them tender and sympathetic characters in their community. So that if anything negative did happen, they were much more easily identifiable in their grief. The series never touched too deeply on the disappointment of "Ashley" so that most times only the name alone conveyed the touching point of it!

A nicely spun drama which handled complicated and multiple story-lines with clarity and purpose.
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