‘The Waltons’: Esther Actress Ellen Corby Died of Natural Causes 22 Years on This Day

by Emily Morgan

Fans of “The Waltons” remember Ellen Corby for playing the beloved grandmother on the hit series. On this day, 22 years ago, the world lost a Holywood icon when Corby died at 87-years-old. Corby, who won three Emmy Awards for her work on “The Waltons,” died on April 14, 1999, at a hospital in Woodland Hills, California. 

During her career that lasted 60 years, she starred in 100 feature films. However, she cemented her superstar status when she booked Esther’s role on “The Waltons.” During her tenure on the show, she starred alongside Will Geer, who played grandfather Zeb. Together, they became America’s favorite grandparents. 

‘The Waltons’ Ellen Corby Shined In TV & Film

Off-camera, she won Emmy awards for her portrayal on “The Waltons” in 1973, 1975, and 1976. She also won a Golden Globe in 1974. Even though the family show ran from 1972 to 1981, Corby sadly had to say goodbye to the cast and viewers after she suffered a stroke in the late ’70s. Luckily, it wouldn’t be her final goodbye. She appeared infrequently on the show afterward. She also later returned to appear in many of the Walton reunion movies after the series ended. In 1997, she made her last TV appearance when she starred in “A Waltons Easter.”

Born in Wisconsin, Corby worked as a chorus girl before getting her start in entertainment. She began working as what was then called “script girl,” which is now known as continuity editor. She worked as a script girl for RKO pictures for over a decade before writing a screenplay for a Western film called “Twilight on the Trail.”

After many years of working behind the scenes, she got the chance to star in front of the camera in 1945. Two years later, she booked her first major movie role when she landed “Dark Corner.”

Her most notable movie credits include “I Remember Mama,” in which she played Aunt Trina. For that role, the Academy Awards nominated her for “Best Supporting Actress” in 1948. She also played in the Christmas classic, “It’s a Wonderful Life,” where she played a depositor who withdrew a small amount of money. Then, she landed on the original “Sabrina”, in which she was Humphrey Bogart’s secretary. 

Corby also appeared in classic films like “Shane” and Alfred Hitchcock’s “Vertigo” as wellIn television, she also had an illustrious career. Fans may have seen her on various classic sitcoms such “The Andy Griffith Show,” “The Addams Family,” “I Love Lucy,” “Bonanza,” “The Beverley Hillbillies,” and “Gomer Pyle: USMC.”