‘The Waltons’: One Star Didn’t Start Acting Until They Were in Their 70s

by Michael Freeman

Sporting such a large cast, many The Waltons stars began their careers on the show. However, one of them actually didn’t start acting until they were well into their 70s.

Merie Earle played Maude Gormley on the show and it may surprise you to learn she didn’t begin her acting career until she was 77. Debuting in “The Minstrel,” she sang regional folksongs. Earle appeared as the character 15 times during the show’s tenure, doing things like baking, helping out the church, or just giving gifts to neighbors.

Earle said playing Maude was a highlight of her career. For most of her life, she was a housewife, but a The L.A. Times interview had Earle saying “I had always been a ham,” even when cleaning the house. Knowing this, when her husband retired from his career as a train engineer, the pair moved to Los Angeles. Earle didn’t initially land any roles, and mainly dedicated her time to things like performing in church plays.

MeTV reports her big break occurred when a talent agent’s son happened to also be in a play with her. The agent scouted Earle, with her first role having her work as a Polaroid model. In the late 60s, she scored parts on Green Acres, Petticoat Junction, The Beverly Hillbillies, and Bonanza. Though her roles were minor, her professionalism earned her the nickname “one-take Merie.” Often only needing a single recital for her scenes, she was quite talented.

This continued into the 70s, with her landing her signature part as Maude Gormley on The Waltons and even The Bob Newhart Show. To top everything off, Earle didn’t receive any formal training whatsoever.

‘The Waltons’ Director Addresses Will Geer Not Driving in the Series

The Waltons was a monumental show back in the day and remains a classic. Mary-Ellen actress Judy Norton made a YouTube series explaining the series and what went on behind the scenes. In one episode, she talked about how directors got around Will Geer not driving.

Will Geer played Grandpa Walton and Norton reiterated there were times she mentioned the fact he didn’t drive. After viewing one of Norton’s episodes addressing that, one of The Waltons’ directors reached out to her with an interesting story about it.

Before appearing on the show, Geer had been cast in Intruder in the Dust, an MGM film. A scene required Geer to drive to a very specific spot, stop, and then get out of the truck to begin a dialogue. However, Geer explained he couldn’t drive. This presented a problem, as the director needed the shot and the assistant director knew he wouldn’t be happy with Geer’s inability to drive. Deciding to wing it, the director told Norton “Will not only missed stopping the truck on the designated mark, but he drove it right into something.”

Sufficed to say, Geer not driving was probably better for everyone.