‘The Waltons’: Why Grandma Actress Ellen Corby Was Absent From ‘The Long Night’ Episode

by Clayton Edwards
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The Waltons was a great television show. It focused on a family in rural Appalachia that lived during the Great Depression and WWII. No matter what came along, the Walton family banded together to handle it. Sometimes, they had to lean on one another to mourn the death of a character. Other times, they had to deal with other heavy topics.

For instance, Mary Ellen once became addicted to pain pills. This caused her life to spiral out of control and her family had to be her support system. Sometimes, things happened in real life and the show’s cast and crew came together just like the on-screen family. This is especially true in the case of Ellen Corby.

Ellen Corby played Grandma on The Waltons. Like many grandparents in real life, she and her on-screen husband were big parts of the family. So, when she fell ill on the show, it impacted everyone. In the episode, “The Long Night,” she was in the hospital after suffering a stroke. The conflict of the episode centers around Grandpa Walton trying to get in to see her. However, he was banned from the hospital. So, it took some doing.

With all that happens in the episode, you may not notice that one cast member is missing. Ellen Corby isn’t in the episode at all. In her web series, Judy Norton talked about why Mrs. Corby was absent from the episode.

Why Ellen Corby Wasn’t in ‘The Long Night’

Norton says the episode, “The Long Night,” was one of the episodes when Ellen Corby was out suffering from the effects of her stroke and before the episode when Grandma comes home.”

Ellen Corby suffered a stroke during the filming of “The Ferris Wheel,” which was the 15th episode of season 5. One day, Corby didn’t show up for work. Because she was always punctual, everyone knew that something was wrong. So, Will Geer, who played Grandpa, and a few others went to Corby’s home. They found her there and rushed her to a hospital. Their quick thinking saved her life.

Ellen Corby was absent for several episodes. However, the show had to go on. So, they worked around her absence and hoped she would be able to come back. They even wrote the stroke into the show. So, when Grandma Walton returned with diminished speech, it fit with the character.

Ellen Corby kept a positive attitude and didn’t let her stroke keep her off the set. As soon as she was able to do so, she was back in the Walton home. However, she had to work extra hard so that the audience could understand what she was saying.

Ellen Corby had her stroke in 1977. She passed away in 1999.

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