The Waltons gave actress Judy Norton a new identity back in the 1970s. And because of the show’s enduring popularity, she can’t shake it all these years later.
Yes, Waltons fans still call Norton “Mary Ellen.” She’s 63 now, but will forever be the oldest daughter of John and Olivia and living on Waltons Mountain. It’s as if time froze sometime around World War II. Norton talked about being Mary Ellen Walton three years ago with the site MovieHole.com
“People still identify me with Mary Ellen,” Norton said. “I’m recognized and I still get called Mary Ellen far more than Judy! We’re so fortunate to have done a show to have a long-term impact on people — the show is in Canada and other parts of the world, what a legacy, a timeless show. Timeless things and family values, core human experiences, those aren’t strictly about the 30s and 40s; I think it’s so important that that is represented in our films and TV today.”
Norton then talked about how the show could represent much broader, social issues. And she bemoaned the loss of other civilities, like manners.
“It’s the leading edge of a culture like music or hairstyles, arts, film and television and music,” she said. “Using our voices to not just point out what’s wrong, but point out possibilities. I would like to personally be involved to inspire things, how to solve problems domestic and international, it would be wonderful. It’s too bad that manners are fading away, that it’s not taught in everyday living situations.”
Judy Norton Was In Waltons Cast Through It All
Norton played Mary Ellen in the first episode of The Waltons. It was a made-for-TV movie called The Homecoming: A Christmas Story. The movie ran in December, 1971. CBS shuffled some of the cast before turning it into a series that ran for nine seasons and six reunion films.
Producers left Norton and the actors who played her six brothers and sisters in place. But the network recast John and Olivia Walton and the grandfather.
Once the show ended as a regular series in 1981, Norton had problems shaking The Waltons. Specifically, she always was viewed as the child actress who played Mary Ellen Walton. So Norton opted to pose for Playboy to shake up her good-girl image.
“I was getting a lot of advice from people who were representing me at the time,” Norton said. “They felt it would be a good, positive career move. I wouldn’t say that was the case and it’s one of those things that if I knew then what I know now, I wouldn’t have made the choice.”
But at 63, she now embraces that wholesome Waltons image. And she doesn’t mind it when folks call her Mary Ellen.