‘The Waltons’ Star Will Geer Recovered from Being ‘Blacklisted’ with Role of Grandpa

by Joe Rutland

American actors were “blacklisted” for their political beliefs at one time in American history. “The Waltons” star Will Geer fought back.

Geer, who died on April 22, 1978, at 76 years old, was a member of the Communist Party. When he refused to identify “communists” during testimony before the House Committee on Un-American Activities, Geer lost work. He spent the 1950s without hardly any jobs at all.

Richard Thomas, who played John Boy Walton on “The Waltons,” talked about Geer and his presence on the show in an interview with the Archive of American Television.

‘The Waltons’ Star Helped Take Care Of Other Blacklisted Actors

He said Geer nurtured and helped many people in the same predicament.

“Will was not just a blacklisted actor because of his own political sensibilities and his parents as well,” Thomas said. “He (Will) was not only a blacklisted actor. Will, in his compound in Hollywood, among the bungalows in his house, gave lodging and support and succor to a lot of people in that community.”

Among those Geer, who played “Grandpa” Walton on “The Waltons,” helped, Thomas said, was folk singer Woody Guthrie.

“He really was not just one of the victims of the blacklist,” Thomas said. “He was one of the great supporters of the people of other victims. An incredibly, admirable advocate. You know, he would feed people, give people lodging, take care of them. I mean he was an extraordinary man in terms of that community.”

Thomas calls Geer “enraged” when Beulah Bondi made a guest appearance on “The Waltons” at 88 years old. In fact, Bondi won an Emmy Award for her work on the show.

Thomas Said ‘Grandpa’ Walton Actor Didn’t Like Seeing Bondi On Set

The actor says Geer didn’t appreciate Bondi because she “was close to (actor) Adolphe Menjou and they sort-of testified.”

“So anybody who was even touched by the stink of those testimonies when they were on the set, you could see it,” he said. “He (Geer) was contained, always himself but there was no mistaking the rage that he felt when those things were brought back up.”

Thomas, whose career spans across stage and television screens, said Geer would come to work with “gusto.”

He set an example for the other cast members on “The Waltons” who might be looking to clock out early.

Geer’s work ethic “set an example for those of us who very easily could be (Thomas looks at his watch) ‘I got a 7 o’clock call? When is this going to be done? Lunch?'”