When Little House on the Prairie came on the air, actress Alison Arngrim was tasked with playing the antagonist to main character Laura Ingalls. That antagonist’s name was Nellie Oleson, and she was a school bully who made life a living hell for Laura at school. The two performers did their job so well on the show that people were shocked to later learn they were real-life friends! Join Facts Verse as Alison Arngrim tells all secrets from Little House on the Prairie.
Were Alison Arngrim and Melissa Gilbert Really Enemies?
Little House on the Prairie is a television series that came on the air in 1974 and became a major hit for the NBC network, saying on the air until 1983 a yielding a total of nine seasons. The show was based upon the best-selling book series of the same name, which was written by Laura Ingalls Wilder. Like the books, the show aimed to offer a glimpse into the author’s own life growing up on a farm in the prairie.
The show followed Laura Ingalls over the course of her coming of age, with the character being played by a young actress by the name of Melissa Gilbert. Michael Landon played her father, Charles Ingalls. Though Michael Landon got first billing, it was Melissa who was the star of the show. At show, a bully character tormented Laura. This bully was named Nellie Oleson, and Alison Arngrim is the name of the actress that played her. The tension between Laura and Nellie struck a chord with audiences, who loved seeing what new and despicable things Nellie would do to tease Laura on the schoolyard. However, the hatred that the two young performers displayed towards each other while the cameras weren’t rolling wasn’t at all matched in their actual friendship.
Alison Arngrim and Melissa Gilbert were so good and play-fighting that the two actress fooled much of the world into believing that they actually hated each other. Part of this might’ve stemmed from just how much Alison relished playing her villainous character. Whereas other performers would’ve tried to play the role more sympathetic so as to keep the audience somewhat on their side, Alison knew that there was no greater power than making the audience afraid.
An Unlikely Friendship
Despite the fact that Alison and Melissa were always at odd with each other on the screen during the early years of Little House on the Prairie, the two performers grew to have a special bond. Both actresses were around the same age, and they grew to become friends outside of the production. According to Alison, her and Melisa would have slumber parties during their days off from filming. The two would sometimes be out in public together. At one point, Alison alleges, fans that seemed worried about Melissa’s wellbeing approached the two girls. These fans apparently thought that Alison was just like the character she played on the show.
It’s been decades since Alison Arngrim and Melissa Gilbert first struck up their friendship on the set of Little House on the Prairie. The two are apparently still pretty close, and they’re still turning the heads of fans that think that they weren’t really acting when they bickered on fought on the screen all those years ago. Alison has shared a story recently wherein she and Melissa were attending a party and an attendee remarked on how well the two were getting along. The remark made it seem as if the two actresses had previously been embroiled in some kind of feud. However, it appears that there hasn’t been any period since their first meeting when the two stars didn’t get along swimmingly.
When Alison and Melissa heard this remark from the party attendee, they couldn’t help but laugh. According to Alison, the woman who made the remark was someone who worked within the Paramount offices. Alison and Melissa couldn’t believe that someone in the entertainment industry would be so easily coerced into believing that what they were seeing on the television screen had any real-life merit. The two actresses put the matter to rest, telling the Paramount employee that they were longtime friends that never fought.
As Little House on the Prairie went on, the character of Laura Ingalls began to grow up. Eventually, it no longer seemed appropriate for the character of Laura and Nellie to maintain the relationship that they once had. Laura was maturing, and so was Nellie. However, as Nellie became nicer towards Laura, she also became less interesting in the eyes of the audience.
The Reason Alison Quit Little House on the Prairie
By the end of Little House on the Prairie’s seventh season, a good deal had changed on the show. The character of Nellie Oleson was no longer the schoolyard antagonist that she once was, and the writers didn’t really have much else that they wanted to do with the character. Nellie was given a love interest. Once their storyline resolved in married, the character was seen less and less. As one might expect, this didn’t sit well with actress Alison Arngrim. Alison had made waves with her villainous work as Nellie during the show’s early years, and her reward for this was to be given an increasingly reduced role as it went on. Alison went to she series’ creative staff and complained, but none of her complaints led to any action being taken on their part to make Nellie back into a compelling character. Now that being a bully was out of the question no one had any ideas about what to do with Nellie Oleson’s storyline.
Alison signed on for seven seasons of Little House on the Prairie, and the time came for her to renegotiate her contract once the seventh season was up. As established, Alison was looking for more than she was getting from the series as of that time. However, the producers were unwilling to budge in their unwillingness to give the character of Nellie any more time on the screen than she already had. In addition, they weren’t willing to negotiate the terms of Alison’s salary whatsoever, with her pay remaining the same as it had been previously. If Alison went forward with renewing her Little House on the Prairie contract, she would have no choice but to waste away her remaining years on the show in the small cubicle that the creative staff had confined her to. Still, she did have the choice of whether or not she wanted to sign.
As it turns out, Alison Arngrim ended up deciding not to renew her contract. Little House on the Prairie continued for two more seasons after Alison left, and this meant that Melissa Gilbert had to be without her behind-the-scenes best friend. Alison knew that she was going to have to break the news of her departure to Melissa gently. Thankfully, Melissa ended up understanding Alison’s need to move onto greener pastures. Still, that didn’t stop Melissa from making jokes to Alison about the decision. According to Alison, Melissa sent her a gift to commemorate the event of her quitting the show, and the gift was wrapped in newspaper wanted ads.
Alison and Melissa Are Still Great Friends!
Today, Alison Arngrim is still fondly reminiscing about her time on Little House on the Prairie. Recently, Alison wrote a memoir about her time on the series, and the memoir even led to the creation of a one-woman show based around her memories! If her creative endeavors and her ongoing friendship with Melissa Gilbert are any indication, it seems as if Alison is doing pretty well for herself at the age of 60.
Over the course of Little House on the Prairie’s production, Melissa Gilbert wasn’t the only costar that Alison Arngrim developed a close relationship with. Alison also developed a pretty serious friendship with the actor who played her aforementioned love interest. The character that Nellie Oleson fell in love with and then married on the show was named Percival Dalton, and an actor named Steve Tracy played him. Though the two were close, they weren’t lovers in real life like they were on the screen. Instead, they were simply very good friends. Alison alleges that she would’ve married Steve he had wanted to. However, there was one caveat. That caveat was that Steve Tracy was gay!
Even though Steve Tracy wasn’t romantically interested in women, Alison Arngrim claims that she had a better relationship with the actor than she has any other man over the course of her life. Sadly, this relationship ended in tragedy when Steve passed away from a devastating illness in the 1980s. Those that are aware of Steve Tracy’s story will know that the actor was one of the earliest notable victims in the entertainment industry to be claimed by the AIDS virus.
Alison Arngrim and Steve Tracy were close enough that the actor couldn’t hide the fact that something was wrong, but he was still hesitant to tell his longtime friend the truth about his affliction. At the time, very little was known about AIDS. Steve first told Alison that he had been diagnosed with cancer, though the actress was hesitant to believe him. After a while of keeping up the façade, Steve eventually decided to tell Alison the truth. Around the same time, he came out to the public and revealed the illness that he was suffering from. The actor ended up passing away in 1986.
Though Alison Arngrim and Melissa Gilbert played characters that hated each other on Little House on the Prairie, they have always been great friends in real life. Now it’s time to hear from you: did you know that Little House on the Prairie’s Alison Arngrim and Melissa Gilbert have remained friends after all these years, and that this fact is still blowing the minds of fans due to the tumultuous relationship of their characters? Comment down below!