The Big Lebowski once appeared on Walton's Mountain, as the first writer John-Boy ever meets

Richard Thomas said his episode with David Huddleston was one of his favorites.

Universal Pictures

Read to Me

"Are you a writer?" John-Boy marvels when he meets A.J. Covington in The Waltons episode "The Literary Man." The episode finds John-Boy in utter awe to have a real writer in his company, and this "real" writer A.J. takes advantage of the boy's enthusiasm by becoming pretentiously prescriptive on the best way for John-Boy to become a writer, too.

"The writing has to come first," A.J. tells John-Boy. "Leave kith and kin behind without ever looking back."

For this episode, A.J. Covington is played by David Huddleston, who you likely recognize from his iconic comedic roles as the actual Big Lebowski in The Big Lebowski and Mayor Olson Johnson in Blazing Saddles. He's an amazingly memorable character actor who once humbly told the Santa Fe New Mexican of his impressive acting career, "I've had a very, very, very good run at this stuff."

For Richard Thomas, the actor who originated the role of John-Boy, he said Huddleston remained one of his favorite guest stars on The Waltons, right up there with Sissy Spacek and Ron Howard.

Huddleston's part was particularly juicy because the episode that he appears in has an extremely meta plot that ends with Huddleston's character urging John-Boy to basically create The Waltons:

"Don't waste your life searching for the one big story you were born to write. Write the little stories. Who knows, the sum total of them might be the big one. Write about Walton's Mountain, your feelings about your family and this place, just the way you've been doing. Write about how it is to be young and confused and poor, groping, but supported by a strong father and a loving mother, surrounded by brothers and sisters that pester and irritate you, but care about you. Try to capture that in words, John-Boy. That's as big a challenge as the Klondike or the white whale or flying the Atlantic Ocean alone. It was too big for me, but I think you just might be up to it."

Since John-Boy is a character inspired by Earl Hamner's real life, this is essentially the moment on the show where Hamner playfully reimagines the impetus for The Waltons itself, the very show we're watching.

By the end of the episode, A.J. leaves the mountain, and we're led to believe he'll never come back, which is in line with the mythology of his wayfaring character.

However, three years later, A.J. Covington did return to Walton's Mountain, but unfortunately, he was not played by David Huddleston.

In "The Abdication," A.J. is played by the actor George Dzundza, who stepped into Huddleston's shoes. Perhaps Huddleston was just too busy for TV after appearing in Blazing Saddles?

If that's the case, we can be sure there are no bad feelings about giving away his role on The Waltons, since Huddleston has said of his time on Blazing Saddles, "It was probably the most fun I ever had on a set."

Or maybe The Waltons called and Huddleston just turned down the part, because there weren't enough good lines. We're just speculating here, but that's what he did when Mel Brooks offered him the role of the mayor in Blazing Saddles, prompting Brooks himself to call Huddleston and demand to know how he could be so bold: "You'd turn down a Mel Brooks picture?" Huddleston told him there just wasn't enough of a part there for him.

Famously, Brooks then had Huddleston over for lunch and they went through the script. Brooks let Huddleston take any lines he wanted from other characters until the part of the mayor was big enough for him to say yes.

If you've seen The Big Lebowski, you know that Huddleston was a character actor who always seemed to carry a twinkle in his eye. A similar winking pomp can be found in his portrayal of A.J. Covington, who delivers many incisive lines to inspire John-Boy to doubt he has what it takes to become a writer on The Waltons. On re-watch, the episode is every bit as fun as Thomas remembered.

Thomas loved rising to the level of great actors who guest-starred on his show, and Huddleston honed his chops as an actor doing movies with stars like John Wayne, Jimmy Stewart, Gregory Peck, and Bette Davis. Huddleston was never the star like Thomas, but always a supporting actor.

Looking back on his career, Huddleston definitely said he loved performing with the greats just like Thomas, but he also had a fondness for his early days on Westerns, including his four appearances on Gunsmoke.

"I loved doing particularly the Westerns," Huddleston told Roanoke.com.

Western TV fans, just like Thomas, held a special place in their hearts for Huddleston, likely a little more familiar with his range than fans of his cult movies. Huddleston once told the Santa Few New Mexican that Western fans still approached him when he was out doing errands like grocery shopping. In the interview, he warmly recalled a recent event where a young fan told him, "I saw you in Gunsmoke last night and you were damn good."

That's the essence of being a classic TV fan right there: connecting all the dots on where the best character actors come from, and as this fan in the grocery store could see as plainly as any of us, Huddleston was definitely one of a kind, and one of the best.

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LadyAgnes 1 month ago
O wish they could have gotten him back for The Abdication, but yes, the part of AJ was stronger in The Litterary Man.
Mike 1 month ago
David Huddleston was everywhere on TV, In movies, on stage - you name it.
When "Santa Claus - The Movie" was made, he was first - and only - choice for the title role.
David Huddleston even got to star in a short-lived TV series called Hizzoner - in which he patterned his character on Chicago's Richard J. Daley.
Huddleston did prime time series, TV movies - and even presided over a soap opera murder trial (One Life To Live, as a wiser-than-most judge).
Come to think of it, one of his last movie roles was a a judge - in the film version of Mel Brooks's musical The Producers!
The man got around ...
UTZAAKE Mike 1 month ago
Funny that you mentioned Richard J. Daley because I always thought one-time Philadelphia mayor Ed Rendell is a dead ringer for David Huddleston. The same goes for Alabama Crimson Tide radio voice Eli Gold.
texasluva 1 month ago
Ha ha! Too funny. I got a like below by an ElDuderino (liked your comment). Whomever that is, very good . That settles it. They and whomever else wishes gets the movie.

If you love Coen Brothers movies as in complete nonsense, outrageous and totally hilarious then you should watch this movie. That being said this is (R) rated as in language and a couple other scenes. Actually it's kind of insane but might be realistically in some people's lives. I have found the movie but I do not own it. It just cost you a click to the site and play arrow. Someone has posted it in the past 3 weeks.

The Big Lebowski (1998) (R) (Directed and written by Joel Coen, Ethan Coen)
1 hr 56 min
IMDb 8.1

Jeff Bridges
John Goodman
Steve Buscemi
Julianne Moore
David Huddleston

https://archive.org/details/0_20201030

Big3Fan 1 month ago
He was great as Olson Johnson in Blazing Saddles.
Who famously reconsidered his position on The Irish.
He had some great lines in the movie, no doubt about that.
ll675i 1 month ago
and before he was AJ, Huddleston was Sherriff Bridges in The Homecoming.
texasluva 1 month ago
Remember. The Dude abides.
That rug really tied the room together.”

Wait... let me just explain something to you. I am not Mr. Lebowski. You're Mr. Lebowski. I'm "The Dude". So that's what you call me, you know. That, or His Dudeness, or Duder, or El Duderino if you're not into the whole brevity thing.

The Big Lebowski : Are you employed, sir?

The Dude : Employed?

The Big Lebowski : You don't go out looking for a job dressed like that? On a weekday?

The Dude : Is this a... what day is this?

The Big Lebowski : Well, I do work sir, so if you don't mind...

The Dude : I do mind, the Dude minds. This will not stand, ya know, this aggression will not stand, man.
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Too bad. Great movie as all of Coen Bros stuff!
I did read it, and I haven't changed my mind. Sounds juvenile. Folks say the same thing about the 3 Stooges whom I like, but those guys are funny. I apologize for making {though unintentional,} any comparisons between the two, if there are any to be made.
First time, {that I can recall,} having "heard" of any of the movies you mentioned. Still not intrigued enough from their titles, to want to view any of them at this moment of my life. I have better things to watch. Folks say I'm, missing out, that's fine. They say the same things about want I like to watch, and I don't hold it against them. To each their own.
Stephanie, you NEVER heard of the Coen BROTHERS? Yes, their humor is extreme, but it's funny!
Kenner 1 month ago
Mr. Huddleston passed in 2016 at the ripe old age of 85. R.I.P.
LivinInThePast 1 month ago
Huddleston also played Sheriff Bridges in "The Homecoming" Christmas Special that launched the series.

https://m.imdb.com/title/tt0067209/
There was a tv series called "The Big Lebowski?!?!"
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