The Homecoming was the pilot movie for The Waltons. Although it was not expected to be a pilot for a series, it was popular enough for a series to be commissioned. The movie began with John Boy and his brothers and sisters, trooping through the snow. It is 1933, during the Depression, and being Christmas Eve, the Walton family are in the midst of their Christmas preparations and hoping to celebrate it together. The problem is that there are many events which seem to prevent John Walton (Daddy) from arriving home to share this Christmas with his family. The majority of the film then, has Olivia wishing and hoping that he will make it home, the children rushing to the door to see if the noises they hear are their Daddy, and John Boy heading out into the snowy night to try to find him. Eventually Daddy walks through the door, and the first Walton Christmas "miracle" has occurred.
This episode provides us with quite a bit of background to the Walton family. Livvy says that she planted the Christmas cactus she finds in the basement, the same year that she and John were married, 1916. We also learn from John Boy that he is 15 years old. They are struggling to make ends meet with the saw mill having closed, and John Walton has had to move away from home to find work. He is only coming home on the weekends. Livvy tells the children that she and John eloped because her family didn't approve of him but they were so in love that they wanted to marry. John wasn't religious says Olivia, but of course Grandma disputes this saying that he simply wasn't a churchgoer.
We are also introduced to the little old ladies, the Baldwin sisters, the makers of bootleg whisky, a venture that doesn't go down at all well with Olivia. We learn that John Boy writes down all his secret thoughts, but tries to keep this from his parents, especially his father. He wants to go to University but feels that there is no way that his family would be able to manage this. The surprise for John Boy comes, though, when his father comes home with a special present for him: packs of writing paper.
It is a lovely film, very simple and warm hearted, about a family who simply want to be together at Christmas time. The role of "Daddy" is certainly not a large one as he turns up in the last few minutes of the movie. There are some lovely moments between the children in the film too. The film won a Christopher award for Patricia Neal and several Emmy nominations for Patricia Neal, the director, Fielder Cook and for Earl Hamner Jr, the author.
Hawthorne Dooley (Minister)