‘The Waltons’ Actress Ellen Corby Was Born on This Day in 1911

by Brandi Stillings
Photo by Silver Screen Collection/Getty Images

On this day, we pay tribute to the classic American actress and screenwriter Ellen Corby. Primarily remembered for the role of Esther “Grandma” Walton, she was a regular on “The Waltons” TV series.

Originally from Racine, Wisconsin, Corby was born to immigrant parents from Denmark on June 3, 1911. Although she grew up mostly in Philadelphia, an interest in theatre led her to Atlantic City in 1932. From there, the aspiring actress moved to Hollywood.

She got a job at RKO Studios and Hal Roach Studios. According to IMDb, Corby often worked on “Our Gang” comedies, alongside her future husband cinematographer Francis Corby.

Corby had small parts in more than 30 films during the 1930s and ’40s. A few of her most notable movies include: “Babes in Toyland” and “It’s a Wonderful Life.” Her first credited role for acting was in “RKO’s Cornered.” While her debut as a writer happened on “Twilight on the Trail.”

In addition to winning three Emmy Awards for “The Waltons,” Corby also received formal recognition for her role as a lovelorn aunt. She got an Academy Award nomination and a Golden Globe for “Best Supporting Actress” for performing in “I Remember Mama.”

Following her stroke, Corby came back to her role on “The Waltons” in March 1978. Stella Luchetta, Corby’s partner since the 1950s until her death, remained by her side after the unfortunate incident.

Her final role was in the film “A Walton Easter.” In 1999, Corby died at 87 years old in Woodland Hills, Los Angeles.

‘The Waltons’ Actress Ellen Corby Reveals to Johnny Carson How She Got the Role

Iconic late-night talk show host Johnny Carson made a point to interview “The Waltons” actress Ellen Corby. Previously, she worked as a script clerk at a Hollywood studio. Carson had to find out how exactly she started acting.

According to Outsider, Corby’s answer wasn’t what he expected.

“It was sort of thrown at me,” she explained to Carson in 1976. “I came out – I was quite young. I came out and I was all ready… was going to the greatest, you know?”

Similar to others before, and after her, she found out that making it in Hollywood isn’t easy. Though, Corby didn’t let those struggles stop her. She still became the famous actress we remember for “Grandma” to this day.

“Well, in short order I found out that’s not the way it worked,” Corby told Carson. “So, I did a little extra work. I did three double jobs until they told me I wasn’t a double. And, I said, I know it. I’m getting out of this.”