‘The Waltons’: Judy Norton Opens Up About How Show Producers Saved Ellen Corby’s Life

by Anna Dunn

The Waltons actress Judy Norton opened up about a terrifying moment on set in a video about an episode called The Ferris Wheel. While filming for The Ferris Wheel, actress Ellen Corby had a stroke. Corby played Grandma Walton on the hit show.

Norton shared the story as a part of her behind the scenes series she’s been posting on Youtube.

“This was the episode we were filming when Ellen Corby had her stroke. She didn’t show up for work one day. Being the constant professional she was, said “Something’s wrong. She would be here if she could,'” Norton described. Geer played Grandpa Walton.

That quick thinking likely saved Corby’s life.

“He, along with a couple of the producers, went to Ellen’s house and found her and took her to the hospital and likely saved her life,” she said. After her stroke, Grandma Walton struggled with the same symptoms Corby did, including limited speech. It allowed her to stay on the show.

But in the meantime, even amongst tragedy, the show had to go on. Norton said that it was a hard episode to film.

“We felt very unsettled about Ellen not being there,” she said. In the episode, Grandma can be seen earlier on, but not in the later scenes.

Norton’s been doing a ton of behind-the-scenes videos on her Youtube channel. She talks about everything from her opinions on certain episodes, to what the set was like, to day-to-day life while working on The Waltons. Many of the cast members still stay in touch. Sometimes Norton reaches out to cast members to get more information for her videos. They’re a great watch for any fan of the show.

Ellen Corby Had Very Close Relationships on ‘The Waltons’ Set

Ellen Corby made a lot of connections while on set, but her bond with her TV grandson Jon Walmsley was so strong that they actually considered each other Grandma and Grandson after the show ended.

“Jon has no grandparents,” Corby said in a 1974 interview. “I have no grandson, so we’ve more or less adopted one another.”

The two would go out to shows together and spend time together offset. But Walmsley wasn’t the only kid she bonded with onset.

Producer Earl Hamner Jr. once described Corby as not only a Grandma on the show but an “off-camera Grandma,” who’d occasionally scold the kids for too much horsing around.

Corby was a part of an incredible cast on The Waltons. The group taught meaningful life lessons to millions with their work on the iconic show. Thanks to the quick thinking of Will Geer and some producers on the day she had a stroke in the 70s, she lived until 1999.