An Oscar-nominated character actress, Ellen Corby appeared on both “The Waltons” and “I Love Lucy.”
In “The Waltons,” Corby played Esther Walton. She won three Emmy Awards for her portrayal of that character.
In “I Love Lucy,” Corby appeared in one episode, “Lucy Meets Orson Welles,” playing Miss Hanna. In the episode, Lucy, trying as ever to catch a break in show business, agrees to work with Orson Welles, who wants an assistant for his magic act. Lucy thinks they’ll be performing Shakespeare. Hilarity ensues.
Ellen Corby Toiled in Obscurity Before Becoming An Actress
Corby grew up in Philadelphia and moved to Hollywood in the early 1930s to become an actress. She worked as a script assistant for 12 years before she was able to break into the business.
Even after she became an actress, Corby often took on unglamorous, uncredited or bit parts. She played small roles in 25 productions before tackling Aunt Trina in 1948’s “I Remember Mama.” The role secured her a Best Supporting Actress nomination. And it paved the way for work in more well-known films, according to IMDb.
Corby would go on to make numerous guest appearances in TV Westerns. And she won the Golden Boot Award from the Motion Picture and Television Fund in 1989.
Unfortunately, Corby had a stroke in 1976, making it difficult for her to speak and to continue to appear on “The Waltons.” But she still made infrequent, brief appearances on the show when she could.
The actress died in April of 1999 at age 87 in Woodland Hills, California.
‘I Love Lucy’ Episode Also Featured Orson Welles
Besides Corby, that Season 6 episode also starred Orson Welles. According to the New Yorker, Welles and “I Love Lucy” star Lucille Ball went way back. Welles had tried to cast Ball in a 1939 mystery film he was working on at the time, but the studio nixed his casting choice.
Years later, after Ball had risen to stardom and immense wealth and as Welles’ career was sputtering, she and Arnaz returned the favor by backing a television project of Welles’. It was titled “The Fountain of Youth,” and Welles only wound up filming the pilot episode.
The show failed to draw sponsors and the pilot wasn’t picked up, per the New Yorker. But Welles will remain a part of television history forever for his appearance on the popular “I Love Lucy Show,” as will Corby.