I saw an episode of the Waltons today with Victor French–Isaiah Edwards on Little House on the Prairie, and Mark Gordon on Highway to Heaven. He didn’t have a beard! He didn’t even have a heavy mustache, which he generally had on Gunsmoke. But he had the same gruff, folksy mannerisms, and he was good with kids, as he was on the Michael Landon shows.
On the Waltons, Victor French played the same role that Ned Beatty had in the 1973 episode, The Bicycle. The Waltons often had different people play the same part: Todd Bridges and two other actors played Josh Foster, and there were two John-Boys. But I think Victor French was the right choice for the episode I saw today, The Fulfillment, which was about a man who bonded with an angry orphan.
I’ve not seen too many shows or movies in which Ned Beatty was good with kids. The only one that comes to mind is an episode of Highway to Heaven, in which Beatty plays the perfect television dad, who in real life is anything but. A couple of orphans want Beatty to adopt them, and Jonathan (Michael Landon) works to make Beatty more like his cheerful TV persona. But, even there, Beatty was not a natural with kids, as was Victor French. Who can forget Victor French’s funny faces on Highway to Heaven?