Will Geer's daughter once described growing up with Grandpa Walton

Ellen Geer on her childhood: "We used to have a spigot inside of the mountain."

On The Waltons, we’ve told you how you can catch Zeb Walton actor Will Geer’s real daughter Ellen Geer appearing in two episodes, "The Pledge" and "The Ceremony."

It’s fun for fans to note the features she shares with her father — even the lines on their foreheads seem to wrinkle in the same manner to express concern — when you catch these appearances.

For Ellen, stepping into The Waltons world must’ve reminded her a little of home, and not just because her dad was right there on set during her first appearance.

She once described the simple life she experienced during her childhood when Geer moved their whole family to a deserted canyon in the Santa Monica Mountains after being blacklisted as an actor.

Ellen told The Associated Press in 2001 that at the time, their family was penniless and homeless, and the move to the canyon was out of Geer’s desperation to keep them all together as they rode out the hard times.

For Ellen, her childhood was a time of truly roughing it.

"We used to get our water down at the bottom of the canyon," Ellen said. "We used to have a spigot inside of the mountain."

Although times were tough, Geer kept his family entertained by starting a makeshift Shakespeare theater right there in the desert.

Not having the funds, he didn’t even have a proper building for the theater. Instead, he’d put on shows under the stars, in a meadow by a dry creek, right by their home.

To draw attention to the stage, though, he planted a lush garden, similar to the garden he planted onset of The Waltons.

He called this new desert theater destination the Will Geer Theatricum Botanicum, and Ellen said she’d watch as he would "Put up a sign in the road. Get an actor up there in costume. Wave ‘em down and – you know – say, ‘Hey, please come to our show.’"

Geer’s plan remarkably worked, and he drummed up a loyal audience of fans for the theater, which also featured Woody Guthrie sometimes showing up and playing guitar.

An even after Geer regained success as an actor in the Sixties and Seventies, he never shut down the theater and he never moved back to Hollywood. Instead, he continued living in the canyon, and his daughter Ellen stepped in as director when needed, ultimately taking over control after he passed away.

In fact, the theater was such a special place to Geer that his family buried his ashes beside a bust of the actor that’s likely still positioned in the same place at the Topanga, California, theater today.

His daughter Ellen Geer remains a producing artistic director at the Will Geer Theatricum Botanicum.

In her acting career, she’s taken on many roles from the 1960s through this decade, most recently appearing on TV in 2020.

Though her childhood was unlike what most people experience in terms of enjoying modern conveniences, like plumbing, Ellen was always proud of her dad for holding the family together during hard times.

And when she took over the theater and started inviting young actors to come out and practice their craft under the stars, she felt confident her dad would have approved.

"I think Pop would have liked it," Ellen said. "I think he would have been very proud."

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Michael 24 months ago
When she was on the first time, playing the wife in a Jewish couple escaping from Germany, her father goes to her "husband" and tells him what he's losing by denying his Jewishness. It actually sounds like Will Geer's words, rather than something the script said
DeborahRoberts 24 months ago
Finally saw the 1971 cult classic "Harold and Maude" last night. Ellen Geer's part was small, but hilarious. She made good use of her Shakespeare experience.
Michael 24 months ago
The movie Bound for Glory is based on Woody Guthrie's autobiography, which is about his life before fame. One character, Ozark Buel, is a composite. At the end of the film, Woody auditions at the Rainbow Room (in California? But it's in NY), and then decides it's too commercial. He leaves, and Ozark follows. My memory of the book is that it's Will Geer with him, and whosays "where you going to go?" , and probably the "take it easy, but take it".

When Woody died in 1967, Will appeared at one or both of the memorial concerts/fundraisers. He recites some of Bound for Glory. And the samerecording is at the end of the film.
AuntySuz63 24 months ago
I loved this show. It gently focused on love, family, being non-judgmental. Even Olivia Walton with her stern Baptist principles learned to value and respect people from all walks of life.
Deleted 24 months ago
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AuntySuz63 24 months ago
And your point is?
Michael 24 months ago
What, he kept some pens?
Coldnorth 24 months ago
I know he stole the eggs the chickens laid. He was probably hungry and wanted an omelette
hinspect 25 months ago
I didn't know he was homosexual after he divorced his wife. His partner was Harry Hay shown on wikipedia wearing a dress
hinspect 25 months ago
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Mac2Nite fuzzball329 25 months ago
Really?.. I mean does EVERYTHING have to be so uncivil? I miss common decency. And Will was a good man and yes... a liberal democrat... nowadays good man/woman=liberal democrat is a badge of honor.

A Conservative says: "it hasn't happened to me so I don't care" while a Liberal says: "it shouldn't happen to anyone and that's why I care"
harlow1313 fuzzball329 25 months ago
>"sounds like a liberal democrat."< While I'm not big on tribalism, I appreciate your admiration for that particular label.
Michael hinspect 25 months ago
Actually, it looks like he was involved with Harry during his marriage. They were together for about 20 years. People can be flexible. All I've read has him involved with Harry Hay, not "he was a homosexual". So it could mean anything.

I think they were more than sex/love, they had an interest in acting and politics.
714thegooch fuzzball329 24 months ago
He was a full blown communist.
harlow1313 714thegooch 24 months ago
"From each according to his ability. To each according to his needs." Such a romantic notion. Sadly, likely unworkable on a large scale. C'est la vie.
Archmartyr Mac2Nite 24 months ago
Well, unless it's a baby in the womb. Then a liberal says die
JustGeri 25 months ago
I had not known Will Geer was blacklisted. Good for him he was able to keep his family together and creates a whole new artistic venue that still stands today.
WordsmithWorks 25 months ago
I've been to the Will Geer Theater many times, including a few performances by my daughter and her summer campmates. It is a gorgeous setting with great staff. Not to nitpick, but regarding the "makeshift Shakespeare theater right there in the desert." Topanga Canyon is hardly what I would consider a desert.
MrsPhilHarris 25 months ago
I can remember going to our cabin pre-electricity and running water. You had to walk to a communal well to get water. Never bothered us kids. We loved it. It was a kids’ paradise going into the woods and exploring, rope swings, forts, swimming, catching snakes and frogs, etc.
Michael MrsPhilHarris 24 months ago
A lot has changed in sixty years. In 1963 or 64, we spent weeks camping in the rain in Oregon. The toilets were outhouses. One family actually had a wooden floor under their tent, what luxury. That's a lot closer this story than it is to now.

I remember going to someone's big house in Vermont about 1970. I think the heat was only by wood fireplace. Nice and and warm sitting in front of it, but cold on the back.
MrsPhilHarris Michael 24 months ago
Yeah we had an outhouse for years. The cabin was heated by a fireplace. In those days everyone with cabins cooked on a wood burning stove or a Coleman stove. We still cook on the wood stove during power outages. As kids we collected seashells, driftwood, rocks, sea glass and eagle feathers. These treasures were all over the mantle, tables, in jars, etc. Simpler times. I’ve watched tv shows where people buy a cottage, or lake house for weekends and these things are mansions with all the bells and whistles, manicured lawns, etc. Different than what I grew up with.
Andybandit 25 months ago
Wow, I didn't know Will Greer lived like that. I thought he had
enough money from the Waltons.
Cowgirl Andybandit 25 months ago
That was long before The Waltons.
Michael Andybandit 25 months ago
It was the fifties, that blacklist has a bite
Michael 25 months ago
Her mother was Herta Ware, maybe best known for being in Cocoon.

Woody Guthrie lived there after being diagnosed with Huntington's disease. So he was in decline. For some time, people thought he was drunk, the diagnosis helped. Marjorie sent him away, fearing for the children. That was about 1952. I remember some incident involving Arlo, but can''t remember details. Woody was hospitalized in 1956, and except for some day trips, stayed until his death in 1967.
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