It is the 40th anniversary of the Christmas TV movie The Homecoming: A Christmas Story. (Click here to see my review of this movie again). This 1971 TV movie adapted from the book by Earl Hamner received such high ratings and praise that it inspired the TV series The Waltons. The much beloved TV series ran on CBS for nine seasons followed by six more TV movies. As you know, last Friday December 2, in Jersey City, NJ, The Homecoming was screened at the Legendary Loews Jersey Theatre followed immediately by a 13 member Waltons cast reunion and panel discussion. As the Christmas TV expert, I was asked to be the panel discussion moderator.
Before the screening of The Homecoming, that night began with a reception/photo opportunity for the sponsors with the special guests. The above group photo was taken at that event and I grabbed Marsha Mann (Radames Pera's wife) to join me to slip in line to get my picture taken with the Waltons cast. Yes, Richard Thomas is not there--he would join the cast reunion panel discussion later in the evening. (That night he was performing in the Off-Broadway play Standing On Ceremony and joined us after his show was over). Actor Hal Williams who played Harley Foster on The Waltons is also missing from the photo but he would later join the panel discussion later that night.
|Paul Hamner reading the introduction from Earl Hamner. Photo credit: John J. Buxbaum|
|Michael Learned during her tribute to Patricia Neal. Photo credit: John J. Buxbaum|
|The cast on stage singing Christmas carols--that's me still seated on the right. Photo credit: John J. Buxbaum|
|Some of the cast during the panel discussion--I'm actually just to the left of Jon. left to right: Jon Walmsley (Jason), Richard Thomas (John-Boy), Judy Norton (Mary Ellen), Eric Scott (Ben).|
|Jon Walmsley and Judy Norton singing|
|The marquee outside the Legendary Loews Jersey Theatre in Jersey City, NJ|
This once-in-a-lifetime event was amazing. I still feel giddy and exhausted from the week's events that lead up to the special event on Friday Dec. 2nd. Seeing this TV movie on the big screen was thrilling and emotional. When I was growing up, The Homecoming (1971) and The House Without A Christmas Tree (1972) were the two Christmas TV movies we most looked forward to watching. It really feels exciting to know that so many others still love and appreciate this movie as much as I do.
Stick around for Part 2--for more highlights from The Waltons cast reunion event.
**Special thanks to John J. Buxbaum who took many of the photos from the event. Obviously, I couldn't take photos during the event that I participated in. See more of his photos HERE.
Joanna Wilson is a TV researcher and book author specializing
in Christmas entertainment. More about the TV programs mentioned on this website can
be found in her book "Tis the Season TV: the Encyclopedia of Christmas-themed Episodes, Specials, and Made-for-TV Movies." Her latest book "Triple Dog Dare:
Watching--& Surviving--the 24-Hour Marathon of A Christmas Story"
was released in 2016. She is currently updating and expanding the
encyclopedia for a 2021 release. Her books can be found at the publisher's website:
*Support this website and its research by purchasing the books at 1701 press.com