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The Documentaries

The House/Filming

NB: All links here are provided for convenience only.

The Books
Spencer's Mountain book

Spencer's Mountain by Earl Hamner Jr.

Hamner's first novel about the Spencer family. First published in 1961 by Dial Press. Currently out of print in hardcopy form but still available as an ebook.

Link to the book on

The Homecoming book

The Homecoming: A Novel About Spencer's Mountain by Earl Hamner Jr.

Hamner's second novel about the Spencer family (actually more of a novelette). First published in 1970 by Random House. Currently out of print in hardcopy form but still available as an ebook.

Link to the book and Link to the book on

Goodnight John-Boy book

Goodnight John-Boy: A Celebration of an American Family and the Values That Have Sustained Us Through Good Times and Bad by Earl Hamner and Ralph Giffin

This is the only "guide book" to the show ever published. It starts out fine, with detailed chapters about Hamner's upbringing, and the making of the Spencer's Mountain and The Homecoming movies. Sadly, it then runs out of steam and dumps us into nothing more than an extended run of short synopses of the main The Waltons episodes with no behind-the-scenes information at all save for a few "this is my favorite episode" type of comments from assorted actors and production staff.

There are a few mistakes dotted around, and the oft-repeated errors in broadcast dates around the time of The Children's Carol seem to have started here. The book is also printed on rather poor-quality newsprint paper. However, in lieu of anything else, all The Waltons fans will certainly want to own a copy...

Link to the book on

Earl Hamner: From Walton's Mountain to Tomorrow book

Earl Hamner: From Walton's Mountain to Tomorrow: A Biography by James E. Pearson Jr.

The official biography of The Waltons creator, so this book covers The Twilight Zone and Falcon Crest as well as The Waltons and the Spencer's Mountain and The Homecoming books and movies. Includes written tributes from most of The Waltons actors.

Link to the book on

Lessons from the Mountain: What I Learned From Erin Walton book

Lessons from the Mountain: What I Learned From Erin Walton by Mary McDonough and Beverly Naut

A good 80% of this autobiographical book is about The Waltons, with behind-the-scenes anecdotes. A good read for fans, though it should be borne in mind that this is one person's perspective on the show and not a general "making of" guide; many of the other members of the cast are hardly mentioned.

Link to the book on

Ike Godsey of Walton's Mountain book

Ike Godsey of Walton's Mountain by Joe Conley

Joe's autobiography covers the whole of his career. Obviously, The Waltons is covered too but not, perhaps, in quite the detail most fans would like to see. He does set out the basic facts of his time on the show, though, and his friendship with Eric Scott (Ben) is described.

Link to the book on

Mr. Godsey asked me to marry him and I said: yes! book

Mr. Godsey asked me to marry him and I said: "yes!": (exit sobbing) by Ronnie Claire Edwards

The Waltons Forum reader Ryan James says of the 119-page, softback book: "I enjoyed it very much and laughed out loud a few times! I wouldn't really call it a 'tell-all' book, but she does expand on a few of the Walton cast in a way that would probably surprise others. In addition to her talking about The Waltons, she does talk about some of her other adventures and bizzare situations she's been in." Travis adds: "If ... you buy to get insight on the show, be prepared for a letdown, unless you just want her brief, yet upfront, commentary. Perhaps 20 percent at most is about the show."

This book was never easy to obtain and it is unclear whether it is still in print or not. Watch the price!

Link to the book on

A Walton Christmas CD

A Walton Christmas (aka A Walton's Christmas): Together Again by various

Jon Walmsley and Mary McDonough masterminded this seasonal bluegrass-flavored audio get-together of all the surviving cast members in 1999. It could have been the ultimate cheese-fest but in fact the finished product manages to come over as surprisingly adept, with the Lisa Harrison-led That's What Christmas Means To Me working especially well (even if it is a bit of a knock-off of Loretta Lynn's Country Christmas). There is also a very nice fiddle "reimagining" of the theme tune.

It can be hard to work out who is who on the various solo parts, though, which is frustrating. Those who, apparently, can't sing (hello Ralph Waite) simply provide "vocal interjections" over music, speak the links between the songs, or recite poems. These are the weakest parts of the album.

Physically, the album was available on CD and cassette, and was re-released in 2003 and 2007. It is currently widely available as a download.

The Documentaries
Mary McDonough from The Walton Legacy documentary

The Walton Legacy

1997 program from Virginia PBS. Historical documentary about Schuyler, Virginia; the Hamner family; and the birth of The Waltons TV show. Includes footage from assorted conventions. Features interviews with a selection of the Walton clan: Judy Norton, Jon Walmsley, Mary McDonough, Kami Cotler, Michael Learned and (briefly) Joe Conley. This is available on DVD (see DVD section, above).

Written, Produced and Directed by Tracey Jewell.

Eric Scott being interviewed from The Life & Times of documentary

The Life & Times of: The Waltons

Little-known 2000 documentary from The Nashville Network (Greystone/ Enterprises for TNN). Straight retelling of the history of the show, with contributions from: Jon Walmsley, Richard Thomas, John Ritter, Eric Scott, Ralph Waite, Earl Hamner, Joe Conley, Mary McDonough, Ellen Geer and Lynn Hamilton. However, the show almost completely ignores the Walton kids not interviewed (Kami Cotler, Judy Norton and David Harper). Interestingly, Earl Hamner confirms he has written a script for another reunion movie (after the three 1990's ones) [apparently called A Fire on Walton's Mountain].

Produced and Directed by Richard Jones.

Group shot of the kids from the After They Were Famous documentary

After They Were Famous: The Waltons

British TV documentary (made by Yorkshire/Tyne Tees for ITV1) first shown in July 2002 and reshown in an updated version in January 2005. The show covers all the territory you'd expect and functions as probably the best retrospective made to date. All the kids are reunited and talk about the series and their lives and families afterwards, with ensemble visits to the Walton house (the second one, though they pretend it isn't), a couple of random filming locations (The Calf and The Empty Nest), and Schuyler. Neither Ralph Waite nor Michael Learned feature and, at a guess, there might well have been problems getting them to contribute, so the show is more about what the Walton kids did "after they were famous" rather than the whole clan.

Written by Stuart Maconie.
Produced and Directed by Mark Murray.

Group shot from the Waltons Family Reunion documentary

A Waltons Family Reunion

All the surviving cast (and Earl Hamner) assemble to talk about their experiences on the show, though sadly Richard Thomas isn't present in person and only appears on a video link. The majority of the program has the cast (assembled around the "kitchen table") sharing their reminiscences about clips from the original show. Hosted by Mary McDonough and made by the INSP Network to preface a rerun of the original series. First broadcast in October 2010 and reshown a number of times.

Listening to the radio

Goodnight John Boy

British radio documentary, broadcast in December, 2011 on BBC Radio 4. Presenter Frank Cottrell Boyce reflects on the show on its 40th anniversary. Includes contributions from Earl Hamner, Richard Thomas, Ralph Waite, David Harper, Kami Cotler and, briefly, Jon Walmsley. The fact that the budget apparently didn't stretch to using actual clips from the original show is rather too obvious, though!

Produced by Geoff Bird.

Though the above are all the self-contained documentary/reunion programs about The Waltons, other features and reunions have also taken place. The most recent of these, for example, was on NBC's The Today Show in December, 2011 where all the surviving family (except for Ralph Waite) met up and spoke about the show.

The House / Filming

Traveling to Virginia from California on a two-weekly basis would have been prohibitively expensive for a show like The Waltons, so all external shots of the family home were actually filmed on Warner Brothers' backlot in Burbank (on the north side of the "jungle" section, also the area used for Ike's store and Drucilla's pond) using a shell of a house constructed specifically for the purpose. Inside, the "house" was only sparsely furnished and unfinished – all inside shots were actually filmed separately on a sound stage.

Because of potential use in later films/TV, the house was left standing long after the series finished in 1982. Though probably because of its close identification with The Waltons, it saw little screen use – a case of a building, rather than an actor, becoming typecast! However, there's at least one appearance of what seems to be the house in The Dukes of Hazzard (a 1985 episode called The Haunting of J. D. Hogg but, possibly, other episodes too). The bottom floor of the building is basically the same as during The Waltons, and also shown is the barn and the side entrance to the house (which led into the kitchen on The Waltons). However, the upper storey of the house now has four bedrooms (instead of the three on The Waltons) and now extends over Grandpa/Grandma's downstairs bedroom, and has just one central dormer, rather than one for each room. One can only hazard a guess (no pun intended) that Warner Brothers (The Dukes of Hazzard was a Warner production and frequently used the backlot) redeveloped the upper storey of the structure for reasons unknown (but unlikely to have been specifically for The Dukes of Hazzard) some time after The Waltons was known to have definitely finished its run on TV some three years earlier.

The original house as it appears in The Dukes of Hazzard in 1985

The original house as it appears in The Dukes of Hazzard in 1985. Note the changed upper level.

Probably the last screen appearance of the original house was in the Stephen King movie Sleepwalkers, filmed in the summer of 1991. Production notes for the film tell us: "In contrast to the pristine town square and street where Tanya lives, the production chose the studio's Walton house, used in the popular television series, as the site for the foreboding Brady house. The rustic, unkempt look of the house in a town of unequaled beauty was symbolic of the Sleepwalkers themselves, outsiders who live on the fringes of society to survive." By this time the house was different yet again. The upstairs and roof seem to have been remodeled once more, and a two-storey extension has been added to the right-hand side of the house. The front door has been moved to the right and the porch and windows have all been changed. The whole house is now painted a dull blue. At this point there must have been little of the original surviving and, to be honest, there's almost no evidence visually that the structure is the same one we saw on screen in the seventies!

Only a superficial resemblance left now: the house in Sleepwalkers

Only a superficial resemblance left now: the house in Sleepwalkers.

In November 1991, a fire started by serial arsonist John Orr badly damaged the house. Warners had already earmarked the site for a new parking lot, but with the forthcoming reunion movie, A Walton Thanksgiving Reunion, already on the horizon, a new site was chosen for the rebuilding of the house. The charred original was eventually dismantled for good in 1995.

Newspaper article: Studio blaze destroys facade of Walton house

The Waltons home was rebuilt to the original blueprints (with the three bedrooms at the front, as originally) at the north end of Warner's "Ranch". The Ranch was the old Columbia backlot, inherited by Warners after their merger with Columbia in 1971, and about a mile to the north of the original location; and was, incidentally, already the location of the Baldwin house. The new Walton house was used for all three of the nineties reunion movies.

Aside from the reunion movies, Walton House Mk II stood almost completely untouched and seldom used until The Gilmore Girls came along in 2001, when the exterior of the house was (superficially) distressed to feature as the dilapidated Dragonfly Inn that Lorelai and Sookie decide to purchase for renovation.

The Mk II house as it first appears in 2001 on The Gilmore Girls

The Mk II house as it first appears in 2001 on The Gilmore Girls.

The revamped Dragonfly Inn eventually resurfaced on The Gilmore Girls, at last ready for business, in 2004. A fourth bedroom had now been added to the left-hand side of the upper floor and the chimney had been moved to the opposite end of the roof. The whole house was now painted yellow with dark green “trimming”.

The Mk II house continued to be used occasionally – for example it appeared as a Chinese restaurant in State Of Mind in 2007. These day, modern lightweight video cameras have supplanted the huge 35mm film cameras which were the norm for TV work in the seventies, meaning that the interiors (as well as the exteriors) of these sort of structures are now also viable for shooting purposes. The inside of the "Walton house" was used for Pushing Daises, for example.

In early 2016, the space used by the Mk II house on the Ranch was required for other purposes; the house was dismantled and put into storage, but not destroyed, we are told...

A small consolation may be that part of the approach road to the original house is still visible on the public tour of the Burbank lot. Drusilla’s Pond also still remains. Ike’s store (ironically closer to the original house than it was supposed to be on the show) has long since gone, apparently.

The Mk II house as it appears today: basically the same as when it appeared after renovation in The Gilmore Girls

The Mk II house as it appeared until removed in early 2016: basically the same as when it appeared after renovation in The Gilmore Girls.

The vast majority of the other outside requirements for shooting were found dotted around on both the Burbank and Ranch backlots – the school, for example, was the front part of the church (still) prominently visible on the Midwest Street. Occasionally, the show used genuine external locations, especially when the countryside needed to be shown in a bigger context than the backlots allowed. Luckily, California is rich with suitable areas, and The Los Padres (Frazier Park), Sequoia, and Angeles National Forests were all used from time to time. In fact (apart from the interviews with the Hamner family in A Decade Of The Waltons), the series never found it necessary to travel outside of southern California.

In common with most productions of the time, interior shots were done on a film-studio sound stage (over a 6½-day period per episode). Being somewhere in between an interior and exterior, the porch was duplicated on both the backlot house and the sound stage. During its main run, The Waltons used, variously, both stages 20 and 26 of Warner Brothers Burbank studios. The cast were in good company with many famous actors over forty years having filmed there. These stages – constructed in 1935 – had been used for, amongst others, The Big Sleep, A Star Is Born, Dial M For Murder, High Chaparral, Angels With Dirty Faces, Key Largo, The Great Race, and My Fair Lady.

Studio floor plan of the main set.

Studio floor plan of the main set. (Click for an enlargement.)

Most episodes of The Waltons did not use proper night-time shooting; when required, this was usually faked by "day-for-night" trick photography. Filming the final view of the house which closed each episode, where the family said their famous "goodnights", would seemingly have meant inconveniently organizing a special night shoot each time. So instead, a model of the house was made (about the size of a doll's house) and wired with small lights. This could be easily shot for the ending of each episode with an appropriate combination (not always an accurate combination!) of bedrooms shown illuminated. The model was so good, the trickery deceived almost all viewers of the show.



Comparison: Mayberry R.F.D. season 3 (left) versus The Waltons (right). Note the style of the upper windows.

Comparison: Mayberry R.F.D. season 3 (left) versus The Waltons (right). Note the style of the upper windows. (Click for an enlargement.)

After writing the above, a reader sent me these grabs. They appear to show the yet-to-be Walton house in use on the third and last season of Mayberry R.F.D., broadcast in 1970/1, as the home of the lead character, Sam Jones.

(Though a similar house was seen in the previous two seasons of Mayberry, these are credited as being made at Paramount Studios and Cinema General Studios, respectively, rather than at Warner Brothers, so there is doubt as to whether the same structure was used for these earlier seasons. Quite possibly, Warners simply made a house to match the previous one when production switched to their backlot from that used by Paramount and Cinema General, which was the famous old "Forty Acres" backlot.)

The real-life Hamner house in Schuyler, Virginia

The real-life Hamner house in Schuyler, Virginia.

The real-life Hamner family pictured around 1978

The real-life Hamner family pictured around 1978. From top to bottom: Cliff (i.e. Jason), Bill (Ben), Paul (also Ben), James (Jim-Bob), Marion (Mary Ellen), Nancy (Elizabeth), Audrey (Erin), Doris (Olivia), Earl (John-Boy).

Fantastic 2013 reunion photo of the surviving cast

Fantastic 2013 reunion photo of the surviving cast. From left to right: Ralph Waite (John), Michael Learned (Olivia), Mary McDonough (Erin), David W. Harper (Jim-Bob), Eric Scott (Ben), Earl Hamner (creator), Kami Cotler (Elizabeth), Richard Thomas (John-Boy), Jon Walmsley (Jason) and Judy Norton (Mary Ellen). As always, click/touch for a larger version.

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Pre-Series MoviesSeason 1Season 2Season 3Season 4Season 5Season 6Season 7Season 8Season 9“Season 10”Nineties Reunion MoviesCharacter Picture AlbumAdditional ImagesResourcesAlphabetical Title MenuComplete Episode MenuEmail / Search siteImage slideshow for this page


The Documentaries

The House/Filming

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