‘The Waltons’: Ralph Waite Would Tell ‘Off-Color’ Jokes to Kids on Set

by Joe Rutland
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Never let it be said that actor Ralph Waite didn’t try and keep things loose on the set of CBS’s family drama “The Waltons.”

It turns out that Waite, who played patriarch John Walton on the show, was quite a jokester. He often would tell “off-color” jokes to the kids on the show’s set.

That’s according to actor Judy Norton, who played the oldest daughter Mary Ellen on the Earl Hamner-created show. She talked about the shenanigans in an interview with The Houston Press. When Norton gave this interview, she was co-starring with former “Happy Days” star Don Most in a local production of “Hello, Dolly!”

‘The Waltons’ Star Norton Says Ralph Waite ‘Was Very Funny’

“The thing with Ralph is that he was very funny,” Norton said. “He would – and this was most common around that famous kitchen table – Ralph would start to do one of two things: Tell off-color jokes to a table full of kids, which was questionable.

“Or he’d sing way out of tune like ‘I SHOT the SHE-RIFF!’ and we’d just crack up,” she said. “And he’d get Michael (Learned, Ma Walton) going, and her shoulders would be shaking while we were trying to film a scene!”

Waite also had another humorous trait in his back pocket on “The Waltons” set. Apparently, he and Will Geer, who played Grandpa Walton, got a kick out of mooning Learned when they could. That’s according to an article from MeTV.

Since they seemed to do it so often, it appears the men had a good time trying to get a laugh or two out of “The Waltons” family matriarch.

Michael Learned Admits She Loved Ralph Waite A Whole Lot

Yes, Waite loved pulling a fast one on Learned and other “The Waltons” cast members. But she said that she and Waite did love one another.

Learned shared her reflections on Waite upon one anniversary of his death on Feb. 13, 2014. He was 85 years old.

“We had a deep love for each other,” Learned told the Daily Mail. “That we would have ruined if we had taken it that extra step. And we didn’t.”

Learned said the two were in love. But they went out on only one date. Learned was married four times. She divorced her first husband, actor Peter Donal, in 1972. That was the first season of “The Waltons.”

As for Waite, he was divorced for six years before the show started. They complemented each other in the husband-wife role on the TV show. Their work remains respected and loved by many people.

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