Mary Jackson

Emily Baldwin in 'The Waltons'


Mary Jackson, actress: born Milford, Michigan 22 November 1910; married 1937 Griffin Bancroft Jnr (marriage dissolved); died Los Angeles 10 December 2005.

Misses Emily and Mamie Baldwin were the two genteel sisters in the sentimental television saga The Waltons who concocted a bootleg whiskey they called "the Recipe", which they offered to neighbours and passers-by - leaning over to watch for a reaction. They were based on two real women recalled by the father and uncles of Earl Hamner Jnr, whose wholesome children's series about hillfolk in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia during the Depression - following an earlier novel, Spencer's Mountain (1961) - was a fictionalised account of his childhood.

The lovelorn younger sister, Miss Emily, was played by Mary Jackson, who was already in her sixties when she landed the role in The Waltons (1972-81). Helen Kleeb, who died in December 2003, acted Mamie. The eccentric Baldwins, who lived in a mansion left to them by their father, were two of the satellite characters built around the sawmill-owning Walton family, headed by the strong but quiet father, John (Ralph Waite), and hard-working earth-mother, Olivia (Michael Learned), with events seen through the eyes of their eldest son, John Boy (Richard Thomas, later Robert Wightman), an aspiring novelist. Miss Emily carried with her the memory of her long-lost suitor, Ashley Longworth, from whom she had received her first kiss, on her 19th birthday. Later, his son, Ashley junior, arrived on Walton's Mountain, but she never met his father again.

Jackson was once surprised at the effect of television and, especially, The Waltons, which was screened worldwide, when she was asked by a member of the public on a New York bus: "Did Ashley ever come back?" She recalled of Earl Hamner Jnr's popular creation:

Earl gave me two things that I will always cherish and be thankful for: Helen Kleeb as my older sister and the TV series The Waltons - and he gave me Ashley Longworth. I think you ought

to know that Ashley has never come back. In case you see him out there, please tell him to return. I have some of the Recipe waiting.

Born in Milford, Michigan, in 1910, Jackson worked as a schoolteacher for a year before studying acting at Western Michigan University, then moving to Chicago, where she began her stage career. After a film début in Friendly Persuasion (1956, the story of a Quaker family in 19th-century Indiana), Jackson's big-screen roles included a nun in Airport (1970) and Jane Fonda's mother in Fun with Dick and Jane (1977). She took character roles in dozens of American television series, including Alfred Hitchcock Presents (1956), My Three Sons (1961), Barnaby Jones (three roles, 1973-77), Hill Street Blues (1987) and L.A. Law (1989).

Although Dorothy Stickney and Josephine Hutchinson played Misses Emily and Mamie Baldwin in the Waltons pilot television film, The Homecoming: A Christmas Story (1971), Jackson and Kleeb took over the roles for the series and reprised them in the sequels A Wedding on Walton's Mountain (1982), A Day for Thanks on Walton's Mountain (1982), A Walton Thanksgiving Reunion (1993), A Walton Wedding (1995) and A Walton Easter (1997).

Anthony Hayward

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