‘The Waltons’: Which Actors Appeared on Both the Show and the Original ‘Homecoming’ Movie?

by John Jamison
(Photo by Will And Deni McIntyre/Getty Images)

With a modern reboot of the original “The Waltons” movie right around the corner, it only seems fitting to look at the similarities between the casts of “The Homecoming: A Christmas Story” and the iconic show that emerged in its wake.

For the uninitiated, “The Waltons” television show wasn’t the first audiences saw of the Depression-era Virginia mountain family. In 1971, “The Homecoming: A Christmas Story” premiered. It was based on a novel written by the show’s eventual creator Earl Hamner Junior. He penned the movie as well, adapting his own literary work for the screen.

And before that, the 1963 film “Spencer’s Mountain,” starring Henry Fonda and Maureen O’Hara, depicted an early version of the Walton family. By the time “The Homecoming” premiered, the setting and the cast were very different.

Further, the cast looked different than it did for either of the movies when “The Waltons” television show first aired in 1972. Interestingly, the Walton family children remained the same. But all of the adults were recast, except for Ellen Corby as Grandma Esther.

Fans need no reminder that Ralph Waite and Michael Learned stepped in as the mom and dad of the family. They took over from Andrew Duggan and Patrice O’Neal. And they took over from Henry Fonda and Maureen O’Hara. Beyond that, the only other big change was bringing in Will Geer to play the role of Grandpa Zeb. He took over from Edgar Bergen.

So the actors who portrayed the Walton children were the only others to appear in both the show and the movie.

‘The Waltons’ is Getting a Movie Special Later This Year

The CW is currently in the process of producing a rebooted version of “The Homecoming: A Christmas Story.” And the timing is no coincidence. 2021 marks the 50th anniversary of the original movie’s premiere.

We can’t be sure what approach the special will take in terms of reimagining the original. But we do know that there will be little overlap regarding the original “The Waltons” cast. In fact, the only person from the show confirmed to be involved with the upcoming project is John-Boy actor Richard Thomas.

Everything coming full circle, Thomas will play the role of the narrator. In the past, that honor was given to the show’s creator, Earl Hamner Jr. It only seems right. After all, Hamner grew up living the real-life version of “The Walton” experience. And Richard Thomas grew up portraying a proxy for Hamner on the screen.

Judy Norton, who played Mary Ellen Walton on the series, said that she hadn’t been approached for the special.

“I heard about this through Richard [Thomas]. Richard said he’d been approached about doing the narration, and he had agreed. But he didn’t know a whole lot else,” she said in a YouTube video.