She was born Ellen Hansen to Danish parents in Racine, Wisconsin but grew up in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. An interest in amateur theater while in high school led her to Atlantic City in 1932 where she briefly worked as a chorus girl. She moved to Hollywood that same year and got a job as a script girl at RKO Studios. She held that position for the next twelve years and took acting lessons on the side.
Her career as an actress began in 1946 when she appeared as a maid in the film Cornered. Two years later, she received an Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actress playing a lovelorn aunt in I Remember Mama (1948). Over the next four decades, she worked steadily in both film and television, often playing maids, secretaries, waitresses or gossips. She was a favorite in western films and had a recurring role as Henrietta Porter in the western television series Trackdown (1957-1959). Other television appearances included Wagon Train, The Rifleman, I Love Lucy, The Virginian, Alfred Hitchcock Presents, and The Andy Griffith Show. Her most famous role came in 1972 when she was cast as Grandma Esther Walton on The Waltons. The role would win her three Emmy Awards as Best Supporting Actress.
She suffered a serious stroke in 1977 but recovered and went on to appear in several television films based on The Waltons. Her last appearance was in A Walton Easter (1997).
She died at the age of 87 at the Motion Picture & Television Country House and Hospital in Woodland Hills CA. She was buried at Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Glendale, California.
She was married to Francis Corby from 1934 to 1944.
Ellen Corby Facts
|Birth Name||Ellen Hansen|
|Birthday||June 3, 1911|
|Birthplace||Racine, Wisconsin, USA|
|Date of death||April 14, 1999 (age 87)|
|Awards||1974 Golden Globe Awards: Supporting Actress In A Television Series (for The Waltons)|
|1949 Golden Globe Awards: Best Actress in a Supporting Role - Motion Picture (for I Remember Mama)|