By Woody Greenberg
A screening of “Earl Hamner – Storyteller,” a documentary on the life of the creator of “The Waltons,” took place in Richmond March 3 at the State Library of Virginia. The private screening drew two members of Earl’s family, Audrey Hamner and Nancy Hamner Jamerson, who served as models for the characters in his award-winning television series, as well as many other well-wishers. A previous screening in Los Angeles drew many of the actors who had been on the various television shows and movies Hamner had produced or written for. They appear in the documentary, singing the praises of the man who has been called “one of a lost generation of Virginia gentlemen.” Hamner attended the Los Angeles event.
Sandy Treadway, director of the State Library, which in 2011 honored Hamner with a lifetime achievement award, recounted the day Hamner was honored by the Virginia General Assembly. “Senators and Delegates lined up on the floor of the House of Delegates to show their appreciation” for the honor he had brought to the state of Virginia, she said.
Justin Peters, who co-wrote the song “Virginia Dreams” with Jimmy Fortune, Nelson County’s other nationally-known personality, read the audience a letter praising Hamner from Gov. Terry McCauliffe. Fortune appears in the documentary, on the sound track singing “Virginia Dreams,” and singing hymns at Schuyler Baptist Church before members of his own and Hamner’s family. Other scenes were shot at the old Alberene Soapstone plant, where Hamner’s father worked, at “The Walton’s Mountain Museum,” at the former Schuyler Hospital, now a private residence, and in the kitchen and living room of the Hamner family home.
Above, Woody’s March 2015 story in the printed edition of Blue Ridge Life with more about the proiduction of the documentary and the Los Angeles screening where Earl Hamner got the chance to see the story about his life. Click on the pages to read.
Jim Person, author of “Earl Hamner: From Walton’s Mountain to Tomorrow,” a biography, recalled a scene from “Spencer’s Mountain,” a movie Hamner had written that was the template for the television series “The Waltons.”
Person described a scene in which “Clay-Boy,” later to be John-Boy on the tv show, recalls the sacrifices his father had made to allow him to go to college. “When Clay-Boy gets on the bus to go to college, an older man asks, ‘Goin’ far son?’ ‘Right far,’ the young man replies.” Indeed, the documentary traces Hamner’s journey from rural Depression-era Schuyler to New York City, World War II in Europe, and eventually Hollywood where he was hired by Rod Serling to write for “The Twilight Zone.” Both “The Waltons” and “The Twilight Zone” have had lasting impacts on television history. The documentary also covers other aspects of Hamner’s career as a writer and producer, and includes interviews with the stars of “Falcon Crest,” “Apple’s Way,” the movie “Palm Springs Weekend,” and a number of other products of Hamner’s fertile imagination.
Ray Castro, who produced the documentary along with Michael McGreevey and Tim McAbee, said they were still in the process of negotiating with movie and tv studios for the rights to use clips from many of the productions Hamner had a hand in, so the documentary cannot yet be screened for the public. However, Castro said he expected to have the DVD of “Earl Hamner – Storyteller” ready for distribution in the spring of this year.