‘The Waltons’: How the Director’s One Suggestion Changed the Final Scene of ‘The Conflict’

by Joe Rutland
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“The Waltons” is one of television’s finest family dramas. To be one, though, changes were sometimes made to certain episodes.

Actress Judy Norton of the CBS drama talks about one change in “Behind The Scenes with The Waltons.” This time, she focuses on an episode called “The Conflict” and its director, Ralph Senensky.

Senensky sent Norton some memories of directing “The Waltons” episodes, which she shares with viewers.

‘The Waltons’ Director Shared Core Reservation About Ending With Hamner Jr.

About “The Conflict,” Senensky said, according to Norton, that he “had a more serious reservation.”

“The ending of that script had the government allowing Martha Corinne [played by actress Beulah Bondi] to remain in her home in the mountains,” Senensky said. “I went to Earl [show creator Hamner Jr.] and told him my concerns.”

Senensky writes, “In real life, the government’s planned highway through the mountains would not have been changed to accommodate the wishes of this elderly mountain woman.”

Norton says that “having Martha Corinne being forced to leave her homestead would not be more real,” according to Senensky. “It would be more dramatic.” Therefore, Senensky writes that Hamner rewrites the script’s closing without any screen credit.

Martha Corinne Walton, Bondi’s character’s full name, is Grandpa Walton’s sister-in-law. Will Geer, obviously, played Grandpa in “The Waltons.”

Senensky Called Being A Part of Show ‘Oasis In A Desert Of Mediocrity’

Senensky arrived in 1973 to direct “The Waltons.” He writes that “scripts written for television had changed and not for the best.”

“From the quality of scripts being filmed in the 1960s, I considered ‘The Waltons’ to be an oasis in a desert of mediocrity,” he writes. Senensky called Hamner Jr. “a joy to work with” on the show.

He shares another experience around his first assignment, “The Chicken Thief.”

“I went to him [Hamner], not with criticism of a scene in the script, but with a suggestion for an added scene to add closure to [a particular] scene,” Senensky writes. What happened? Hamner ended up writing an additional scene which the director said was a joy to read and film.

Classic TV Show’s Man Behind The Camera Also Worked On Other Shows

By the way, Senensky is alive at 98 years old, having just celebrated his birthday on May 1, 2020. Besides “The Waltons,” other shows he directed include episodes of “The Fugitive,” “The Partridge Family,” and “Star Trek.”

Sadly, Hamner Jr. died on March 24, 2016, at 92 years old. Another classic TV tidbit about Hamner. He created “Falcon Crest,” another CBS family drama starring Jane Wyman and Robert Foxworth. That series lasted nine seasons, the exact same length as his first series.

“The Waltons” remains one of classic TV’s favorite family shows. People around the world continue to be introduced to the Walton family and its mountain lifestyle.

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