Waltons: The Actress

I don’t normally watch the Waltons, but there was an episode today that somewhat grabbed me. It was from the first season, and it concerned a big-time movie star who stayed with the Walton family.

Why did it grab me? For one, the actress was giving her driver a hard time, so I thought she may be a social snob. Consequently, I wanted to see how she’d treat the poor, seemingly backward Walton family. Second, I’m interested in shows that depict clashes between two different worlds: liberal and conservative, red and blue, religious and atheist, rich and poor, white and non-white. (You can probably gather that I’m a Norman Lear fan, even though I disagree with his politics!) What happens when two people from completely opposite backgrounds encounter one another? And how does each side change and grow through the interaction?

In this case, a big-city Hollywood actress was spending time with the rural, homey Walton family. She had to stay with them because her car was not running, and her connections were letting her down because they disliked her temper and the way she mistreated them. As far as her interaction with the Walton family was concerned, she was really nice to them. A few of the family members were fans of hers, and she enjoyed being appreciated (and gawked at by the Walton men).

Some of the family enjoyed having a celebrity in their home, but others wanted her to move on, and fast. Grandma in particular didn’t like the way that she slept past noon, brought worldliness into the home, imposed extra housework on the Walton women, and attracted Grandpa’s wandering eye. And Ma Walton thought the actress was a bad influence on Mary Ellen.

Although the actress was rich and successful, she didn’t really like herself. When Ma Walton said that the world only needs one Alvira Drummond (the actress’s name), Alvira overheard and replied, “I couldn’t agree more.”

But Alvira and the Walton family grew through their mutual interaction. Alvira was touched by the small-town values and wholesome sincerity that she encountered among the Waltons and their neighbors. The town organized a local performance to raise money for her trip to New York, and all the residents really appreciated her rendition of Shakespeare. Moved by conviction of sin and the kindness of strangers, she learned that she needed to treat people better.

But the growth was not one-sided, for Alvira had a positive effect on the family as well. Grandma and Olivia eventually liked her. And Alvira expressed admiration for John Boy’s writing, which he was hiding from everyone else. When Alvira read one of John Boy’s works in her performance, the audience was astounded by his eloquence. And so Alvira helped John Boy gain confidence as a writer, as he came to realize that he had something valuable to contribute.

Each side tended to admire the other. Alvira liked the wholesomeness of rural and small town America. And most of the Waltons were drawn to the glamour and importance of the big city. Alvira recognized that her life was missing something. And John Boy appreciated the validation of someone from a culture he considered more sophisticated than his own.

When Alvira read a passage from one of John Boy’s writings, something he wrote stood out to me. He said that the word “home” was probably invented by someone who did not have a home. This fit Alvira, who didn’t belong to any family. She was rather shallow and narcissistic, and so she learned the values of love, sacrifice, and giving from the Waltons. But the passage also made me think about Michael Landon, who had a horrible childhood, yet depicted a happy family on Little House on the Prairie. He was showing the world what he wished he had as a child. He knew what a home was partly because he did not have one.

That’s why I enjoy reading non-Christian books about Christianity, or the part of Christian testimonies in which the narrator describes his pre-Christian, “spiritually searching” stage. Whenever I see The Ten Commandments, I like Moses when he went to seek his God better than Moses after he found his God. There is a certain purity to a spiritual quest–a conviction that the world has to make sense, coexisting with a disappointment that it often does not; a growing disenchantment with the idols of this world; a sense that there is something deeper and wholesome that gives life meaning. But, at the same time, it’s good when people find what they’ve been looking for. That shows that desire is not all there is, for it can be fulfilled by someone real.

Growth. Desire. This Waltons episode touched on a lot!

About jamesbradfordpate

My name is James Pate. This blog is about my journey. I read books. I watch movies and TV shows. I go to church. I try to find meaning. And, when I can’t do that, I just talk about stuff that I find interesting. I have degrees in fields of religious studies. I have an M.Phil. in the History of Biblical Interpretation from Hebrew Union College in Cincinnati, Ohio. I also have an M.A. in Hebrew Bible from Jewish Theological Seminary, an M.Div. from Harvard Divinity School, and a B.A. from DePauw University.
This entry was posted in Books, Little House, Michael Landon, Religion, Television, Waltons. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Waltons: The Actress

  1. Pascalian Awakenings says:
  2. James Pate says:

    Good article, Yvette!


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