These two deceased acting veterans played husband and wife on a very popular family TV show a number of decades ago.
The irony is that both were bi-se.xual or gay which was pretty well known.
The male actor died during the show’s run while the female actor had serious health problems. The actress lived with another woman all throughout her time on the show.
The man had a high profile gay relationship early in his life but was married and had children by the time of the TV show.
This didn’t stop him from sleeping with several male members of the crew and at least one underaged male cast member.
Show: The Waltons
Male actor: Will Geer
Female actor: Ellen Corby
Will Geer: Queer, Communist, and American as Apple Pie
What a feast of riches it is acquainting oneself with the life and career of Will Geer (William Aughe Ghere, 1902-1978): actor, folksinger, political activist, and — wait for it — horticulturist. Like most Americans, I adored him during his late career Renaissance when he played Grandpa on The Waltons (1972-78) and appeared in movies like Jeremiah Johnson (1972). He seemed the very soul of rural America, in particular the good parts. He was kindly, gentle, wise, funny. And he was eccentric: with his long white hair, droopy mustache and penchant for wearing his overalls with only one strap buttoned. Onstage he had played Walt Whitman and Mark Twain; he clearly channeled those guys into his late career persona. What was not much publicized at the time (even though it was the hippy-dippy 1970s) was that he was bisexual and, for a time, a communist. I reiterate, because this is important and it needs to be heard and digested: Will Geer was simultaneously queer, communist and as American as apple pie.
He was an extra in a few Hollywood movies (1932-35)
He met Harry Hay while performing in a production at Tony Pastor’s Theatre Club. This was a theare founded in Los Angeles by John Decker and J. Belmar Hall in homage to the original Tony Pastor’s in New York, specializing in old time melodramas and the like. The venue opened in spring 1934 and only lasted a few months. At any rate, Hay was both a communist and a homosexual. The pair became lovers and Geer joined the communist party that year. Both were involved with the 1934 West Coast Waterfront Strike and the San Francisco General Strike. Hay later became a founder of the Mattachine Society, one of the earliest gay rights organizations in the U.S. (1950), and the Radical Faeries (1979), who rate a post here of their own. On my calendar for pride month!
Also in 1934, Geer met Herta Ware at a maritime union benefit and the pair were married. This is what I mean by the timeline being tough to reconcile. The affair with Hay and the marriage to Ware seem to have happened around the same time, maybe even AT the same time. Hey, they were free-thinkers and bohemians! Ware was also a communist. She was the granddaughter of Mother Bloor (Ella Reeves Bloor, 1862-1951), an early suffragette, and a founding and key member of several left wing American parties, most notably the Communist Party USA. Ware also had an interesting career later in life, to which we will return. At any rate, the Geers had a real marriage. They had three biological children and were together for twenty years, then reunited again late in life. – Source
True Facts About The Waltons That Would Have Shocked The Waltons
Grandma Walton was a Lesbian
She was also a chain-smoking, hard-headed woman, with a penchant for cursing.
Image: Ellen Corby as Grandma WaltonWhen Ellen Corby died in 1999, the chief mourner at her funeral was Stella Luchetta. If this lady was mentioned at all in the press, it was as friend and/or caretaker.
However, it was an open secret in Hollywood that Stella was much more than that. The couple had been in a committed relationship for forty-five years by then.
Ellen’s last words were spoken to Stella. They were ‘love you’.
Ellen Corby had once been married. She was born Ellen Hansen, and tied the knot with film director Francis Corby in 1934. It was largely for the sake of her reputation. Fans and studio executives would not have embraced a lesbian in the 1930s, as they might do today.
The marriage lasted just ten years and didn’t produce any children. She met Stella in 1954 and they stayed together until the end.
In the show, Grandma Walton was a fussy, God-fearing woman, prone to abstinence of all suspected vices. She didn’t even approve of dancing, as it might lead to temptation. She also famously stated that, “If the good Lord had intended us to smoke He would have put a chimney in our heads!” – Source