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Monday, December 19, 2016

My Favorite Christmas Movies - The Homecoming

The Homecoming

On this day 45 years ago, The Homecoming made its television debut and I, at the tender age of 10, became a devoted fan of the Waltons.   While the Homecoming differed in cast with Patricia Neal, as Olivia Walton, Andrew Duggan as John Walton, and Edgar Bergen as Grandpa, all of the other cast members are the same both in the movie and the series.  I was so happy when all the original cast for the children reprised their roles in the series, but I must say I never cared for Patricia Neal or Andrew Duggan, they both seemed completely miscast to me, especially Neal, so I was glad when Ralph Waite and Michael Learned took over the roles in the series, and you just can't do better than Will Beer as Grandpa Walton, although I did like Edgar Bergen well enough in the movie.

Though the cast is little different there are already elements of what this tv series so great that are present in the movie, Earl Hamner's narration, and the familiar closing scene of the exterior of the house as one by one the lights go out and the family all say good night to each other.

Edgar Bergen and Ellen Corby as Grandpa and Grandma Walton
Edgar Bergen would be replaced by Will Geer in the tv series.

Richard Thomas as John Boy, Judy Norton Taylor as Mary Ellen,
John Walmsley as Jason, Eric Scott as Ben, Mary McDonough as Erin,
David Harper as Jim Bob and Kami Colter as Elizabeth.
All of the original cast members who portrayed the children reprised
their roles in the tv series.

Patricia Neal as Olivia Walton and Andrew Duggan as John Walton.
Though I LOVE this movie, I do not care for either of these actors
and felt they were terribly miscast, especially Neal who I find completely
unbelievable as Olivia.  Thankfully neither of them went on to make
the tv series and were replaced by Ralph Waite and Michael Learned.

The Homecoming takes place during Christmas, 1933, during the Great Depression, and the Walton's, like many families, are struggling to make ends meet.  As such, John Walton has taken a job about 50 miles from home and the family is eagerly awaiting his arrival home on Christmas eve.  As they day turns into evening and still no sign of John, Olivia hears on the radio that there has been a bus wreck and several people have been injured and one passenger even died.  Knowing John was taking a bus home naturally arouses great concern and she finally confides in John Boy, revealing the news, and asking him to go and find his father.  In his attempts he borrows a car that then runs of out gas, stops by a church looking for help and watches a nativity play, and ends up at the Baldwin Sister's in search of gas only they take him out in their papa's sleigh to continue to looking for his father, but to no avail.  Finally, shortly after John Boy returned home, John Walton walks through the door loaded up with gifts for everyone which he says he had to wrestle Santa Claus for.

In probably my favorite scene in the movie, John Boy opens up his gift to find a stack of Big Chief writing tablets.  Though John Boy had feared that he would be letting his father down by wanting to become a writer, and was even keeping his writing a secret, his observant father knew and encouraged him to pursue his passion by providing him with the tools to do it.  Very touching!

Watching this movie again earlier this week reminded me of Big Chief writing tablets, which were still a thing and available to purchase when I was a child, I remember seeing them every year when we went shopping for school supplies.  Though I haven't seen them in stores in years, they are still available on Amazon.

If you've never watched The Homecoming I highly recommend it. I own it on DVD and you can purchase it as well for a fairly reasonable price.  But I just happen to have found it recently on You Tube as well, so if you want to try it out first, here it is!

~ Enjoy! 

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