‘The Waltons’ Star Ellen Corby Had to Step Away for More Than a Season: Here’s Why

by Joe Rutland

Quite a cast of actors appeared on The Waltons. One of them was Ellen Corby, who had to step away from the show for a bit. Why?

Corby, who played Grandma Walton opposite Will Geer, suffered a stroke and needed to recover from her illness. We get a few more details from this story provided by MeTV.

The cast, including Geer, were filming a Season 5 episode titled The Ferris Wheel. Corby was pretty punctual when it came to being there for work. When she didn’t show up and was late, The Waltons actors went to her house.

Upon arrival, they realized that Corby had a stroke and got her to the hospital quickly. That fast-acting move probably saved the actress’s life.

‘The Waltons’ Star Did Recover After Stroke and Found Her Back In Scenes

While she did step away to recover, Corby would return and appear in other episodes of The Waltons and even reunion TV movies. But her speech was much slower and her ability to stand for long periods of time was cut down.

A number of her scenes would have her either nod up and down or shake her head for responses. Occasionally, she might be doing good enough to say a word or two. There were scenes she did with Michael Learned, who played Olivia Walton, where Learned would take the upper hand, as it were, and carry Corby through a scene.

Oh, The Waltons did not hide the fact that Corby had health problems. In fact, creator and scriptwriter Earl Hamner Jr. would make sure it had a spot in there.

Turns Out That CBS Wanted To Fire Actress But She Proved Them Wrong

Corby had amassed a lot of TV and movie credits in her career, including a memorable one in The Andy Griffith Show. Yet here is another interesting tidbit about the Corby story. CBS wanted to fire the actress from the show, according to an article from Showbiz CheatSheet.

But Corby would prove the network brass wrong and be able to work. Learned even talks about those episodes that had Grandma Walton struggling.

“She wasn’t that way in her life,” Learned says. “She struggled but she never felt sorry for herself. I never felt that she was feeling self-pity or any of that.

“She had a strength of character that was beyond description,” she says. “We all had fun together actually. Even after she had her disability, we still had a lot of fun. She had a such, a great sense of humor. She knew what she wanted and knew how to let people know and she was a wonderful actress.” Corby died in 1999.