The Homecoming: A Christmas Story
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Set on a Depression Christmas Eve in 1933, this heart-tugging story centers around the Walton. They’re a rural American family preparing to celebrate Christmas together. Though times are tough, love and sharing are abundant in this family. An inspiring tale of love, hope and spirit, this deeply moving story goes far beyond the boundaries of time and place to reach out and touch everyone, everywhere.
A true television classic, The Homecoming was the second movie (after 1963's Spencer's Mountain) based on Earl Hamner's autobiographical writings about love, pride, faith, and survival in rural America during the Great Depression. The Homecoming introduced the Walton family, a 1930s mountain clan living a hardscrabble existence that forces patriarch John Walton (Andrew Duggan) to seek work, far from home, in the city. When John fails to return home, as promised, on Christmas Eve, his iron-willed wife Olivia (Patricia Neal) keeps a lid on their children's worry. Oldest son John-Boy (Richard Thomas), who privately dreams of becoming a writer but worries about disappointing his parents, is dispatched to find his dad. Graceful yet harder-edged than the subsequent TV series The Waltons (which recast several characters and ran for nine years), The Homecoming reveals, albeit understatedly, much about the pain of poverty even as the family draws strength and closeness through endurance. --Tom KeoghSee all Editorial Reviews
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If you are remotely a TV series 'WALTON' fan, and haven't seen this DVD, which certainly appears to be a 'pilot' for the entire Walton TV series, you will absolutely LOVE this movie. All of the children are the SAME actors, with all of the TV adult series actors different, except for Grandma, (Ellen Corby). Patricia Neal is fantastic as the Mother, Olivia Walton.
After I saw this, and later re-viewed the TV Walton series, I then realized that there are (2) great scenes from this Pilot movie that were edited into Season 5 of the TV Walton series. One is with Richard Thomas, on the last show of season 5 (The Achievement), when his book is finally accepted in NY for publishing, and he and his parents know he is soon to leave home for good to live in NYC. The scenes go back through his life of always wanting to become a writer, and what lead up to this final show when he actively becomes one. It is so sad to view his life long journey, that led to this moment. And the best of these scenes, comes directly from this 'Homecoming' DVD, where Richard Thomas's original scene are shown of him, and they edit in Michael Learned as his Mother in place of Patricia Neal's performance. It is GREAT. They do the same thing with Mary Ellen, (when she is married in 'The Wedding' show). Again, they edit in from this original 'Homecoming' movie, (Ralph Waite for Andrew Duggan), a scene with Mary Ellen as young as you ever saw her, while showing a summary of her life that led up to her getting married.
This is a Must have DVD, if you are a Walton fan.
When I saw it here on Amazon, I figured it was probably nostalgia and it would not be nearly as good as I remembered. Sometimes you watch an old movie and wonder "Why did I think this was so good"? Not in this case. The movie, the story, the acting (where it counts), and the Christmas sentiment all hold up perfectly well in this made for TV movie. In some ways, its hard to believe the quality of a made for TV movie.
The Homecoming was good enough to be thought of as the pilot of The Waltons even though it was never intended to be a pilot. But much of the cast did go on to act in The Waltons series based on the same Earl Hamner, Jr. book Spencer's Mountain which was also made into a movie years earlier. The Homecoming is a simple, touching tail of a family dealing with hard times. It can really put things into perspective when you see how different and tough life was during the depression. But the story never feels like its trying to be sad or pull at your heart strings. But it will. Of course in the end, like most Christmas movies, its very uplifting.
After a viewing this year, there is no doubt in my mind that this belongs right up there with my other annual Christmas favorites, Miracle on 34th, Its a Wonderful Life, and the similarly titled but vastly different A Christmas Story (you'll shoot your eye out kid). And of course all the claymation classics. But you don't see this one run for 24 hours straight like some of those others. So, its well worth picking up and making it part of your traditional holiday viewing.
I know a few fans of the TV series have a hard time accepting that there are some cast differences between this and the TV series. However, Patricia Neal is terrific as Olivia Walton and gives a truly wonderful performance along with the rest of a top-notch cast. Besides, if it weren't for The Homecoming there likely would never have been the TV show.