Episode 15: The Actress


(4 January, 1973)

Writer: William Bast

Director: Vincent Sherman

Music: Jerry Goldsmith.


The Actress


"When I was growing up on Waltons Mountain I used to dream of all the faraway places I would one day visit. New York City captured my imagination most completely because it was a Mecca for young aspiring artists and writers. I wasn't to stray that far from home for several years but I was due for a special preview. One day without any warning a New York hurricane hit our peaceful community".


John-boy drives a man toward a stranded car while a woman impatiently stands beside it. The car’s driver obviously dislikes his female employer. When John-Boy meets the woman he recognizes her as Alvira Drummond, his “almost favorite” actress. Rex, the driver, hooks the car to John’s truck so John-Boy can tow it to Ike’s store. After looking at the engine Ike states that it will take twenty-four hours to fix it. John-Boy offers to take the actress home. When they arrive Grandma is “up-in-arms” about bringing an actress into the house. Mary Ellen counters that she might be a nice person. The children look from the window as Alvira stands waiting in the front yard. John tells John-Boy to “ask the lady in”. Much to the dismay of Grandma, Grandpa gazes at the woman, saying he’s going to change into another shirt for supper. While eating chicken stew, Alvira talks about the roles that she has played, such as the one in the movie “Private Lives”. Although the car is expensive, she mentions that it was a gift from an admirer, who since had died and left his money to his wife. Grandma tells John-Boy to go to Ike’s store and ask when her car will be ready. Grandpa pays a lot of attention to Alvira, making Grandma mad who places a dishcloth over her revealing dress. Ike tells John-Boy that a new part from Chicago must be ordered, arriving in a week. Ike also tells him that the driver hitchhiked with Yancy toward Richmond. John-Boy tells Alvira what happened, prompting her to say that she trusted him with all of her possessions. Now she has no money for train fare.


In the morning Miss Mamie and Miss Emily meet Alvira while picking up mail at Ike’s store. They tell her that they have been fans since seeing her in “Crimson Lady”, and later in “Romeo and Juliet”. Alvira calls her New York City agent Harry, asking him to send money to Charlottesville. He refuses, but Alvira hides the fact, saying all is fine. But telephone operator Fanny Tatum listens in, hearing what really was said. Back home, Alvira is looking for money when Mary Ellen shows her “My Memory Book”. Alvira writes something special to Mary Ellen on of one of her pictures. As Mary Ellen looks over her silky scarf, Alvira says that it has brought her good luck. Able to relate to Mary Ellen’s awkward years, Alvira shows her “tricks of the trade” at looking prettier. At the supper table Mary Ellen shows off the result, but Grandma declares that she is “painted up like a carnival doll”. Mary Ellen leaves crying, while Alvira apologizes. Olivia asks her to join them for supper so John afterwards can drive her to Charlottesville. Knowing she has no money, Alvira fakes a fall down the steps, injures her ankle, and postpones her departure.


John-Boy searches upstairs for his writing tablet. Downstairs he finds Miss Drummond reading from it to the children. John-Boy tells her that rarely does anyone read his writings, but Alvira is sorry that nobody has read such good writings. At the same time Grandma and Olivia wash more of her “frilly things”. At Ike’s store John-Boy and Mary Ellen learn from Sheriff Bridges that he found out nothing at “The Flamingo”, a local roadhouse, where Yancy dropped off the driver. Ike tells the pair what Fanny Tatum heard. They return home where John-Boy borrows the truck to visit the roadhouse. Meanwhile Alvira looks over magazines when Miss Emily arrives with a jar of the Recipe. Alvira exclaims that it is “an answer to my prayers”. After downing most of the contents, Olivia hears singing coming from the living room. Grandpa, Grandma, and John enter to hear Olivia say that she wants her “out of the house”. John says that it looks like she got hold of the Recipe. But Grandpa says, “It appears that it got a-hold of her!”


That night John and Olivia talk about Alvira’s predicament when Grandpa and Grandma join them. John-Boy soon returns with a bloody mouth and a black eye. He fought with the driver, but later found out that Alvira had no money or jewelry to steal. Olivia insists she cannot stay at the house because she has “young children to consider”. Mary Ellen becomes angry, saying that they wouldn’t turn away a homeless dog. Olivia says that, “some people are their own worst enemy”. Alvira listens in the background and finally says, “Bravo, the last thing the world needs is another Alvira Drummond.” But with no money she doesn’t know what to do. Olivia suggests that people would pay to get a glimpse of the actress and John-Boy knows that Ike would allow them to use the store as a stage for a performance.


The event is quickly prepared and a sign posted outside Godsey’s store stating: “GALA EVENT – PRESENTING - MISS ALVIRA DRUMMOND - STAR OF STAGE AND SCREEN - SATURDAY SEVEN THIRTY - SELECTED READINGS - TICKETS ON SALE INSIDE”. That night Grandpa takes tickets as the audience gathers, including the Sheriff, the Baldwin sisters, Ike, and the Waltons, except for Mary Ellen who is mad at her mother. John-Boy prepares the stage, and then presents Alvira with a poem. The curtains are drawn and John-Boy announces Miss Alvira Drummond. The actress reads dramatic excerpts from Shakespeare and other authors. During the performance Mary Ellen enters the store, and stands in the rear. Grandma notices her presence and motions to Olivia. At the closing Miss Drummond reads an excerpt from “Walton’s Mountain by John-Boy Walton”:


At night across the mountain when darkness falls and the winds sweep down out of the hollows, the wild things with their shiny eyes come to the end of the clearing. At such an hour the house seems safe and warm, an island of light and love in a sea of darkness. At such an hour the word “home” must have come into being, dreamed up by some creature that never knew a home. In his yearning there must have come to mind the vision of a mother’s face, a father’s deep voice, the aroma of fresh-baked bread, sunshine in a window, the muted sounds of rain on a roof, the cry of a newborn babe, the sign of death, and the voice calling “goodnight”. Home, an island, a refuge, a haven of love.


At the end of the reading, John and Olivia exchange glances of love and pleasure with their son’s descriptions. As the audience applauds, Alvira and John-Boy bow on stage.


The next day Alvira says goodbye to the family. She gives Mary Ellen the silky scarf and kisses John-Boy as Jason looks on. John prepares to take her to the train station, when she says that this place makes one feel like a new person.


"Alvira Drummond was to entertain audiences again on the New York stage, but I doubt if she ever found an audience as appreciative as that group in Ike Godsey's store on Waltons Mountain".


Erin: Mama, Mary Ellen's been crazy again, acting like she's sticking a knife in her stomach and flopping all over the floor and pretending she's dead.

Mary Ellen: You don't know acting when you see it. I'm being Juliet.

Olivia: Settle down there, girls.

Mary Ellen: Mama d'you think I could be an actress when I grow up?

Olivia: I think you could be anything you want to be, doll.

Mary Ellen: Goodnight Mama.

Olivia: Goodnight, Mary Ellen.



Alvira Drummond’s car is a Cadillac that is worth ten thousand dollars when it was new.

Alvira had car trouble after leaving a performance in Atlanta, while on her way back to New York City.

NOTE 1: The character of Fanny Tatum appears very briefly in this episode. The character returns as a semi regular from Season 5 but is played by a different actress.

NOTE 2: This episode was nominated for an Emmy for the Make Up. The make up artist involved was Robert A. Sidell.


Also appearing:

Ike Godsey (Joe Conley), Sheriff Ep Bridges (John Crawford), Fanny Tatum (Dorothy Neuman), Miss Mamie and Miss Emily Baldwin (Helen Kleeb and Mary Jackson), Miss Alvira Drummond (Pippa Scott), Rex McKay, the driver (Ray Sutton).


(synopsis written by William Atkins and edited by Arthur Dungate)