Little House on the Prairie was a TV show based on a series of nine books that were published primarily between 1932 and 1943. The series, known as the Little House series, was written by Laura Ingalls Wilder, who intended it as a historical drama to represent her childhood in the Midwest. She lived in the Midwest between 1870 and 1894, when she was a child.
The United States bought much of the Midwest from France in 1803, in an event known as the Louisiana Purchase. However, much of that land was uncharted by Americans, and it remained unsettled for some time. The practice of homesteading became popular when families moved into the great unknown and built homes on the land. Homesteaders focused entirely on self-sufficiency, and they built their own homes, grew their own food, and sometimes even produced their own clothes.
While the US government romanticized this lifestyle to encourage citizens to begin settling the Midwest, it was a difficult way of living. Laura Ingalls Wilder and her family settled in Kansas when she was just three years old, and they faced many hardships. However, Laura learned many things growing up, and it inspired her to write a book series later on in her life.
The book series was immensely popular across America. It was so popular that a man named Ed Friendly was inspired to create a television series based on the books. After he gained the rights to the books, he wasted no time in producing the series.
Little House on the Prairie aired on September 11th, 1974, and concluded after eight seasons on March 10th, 1982. A slightly different version of the series called Little House: New Beginnings ran the following year. The series was a family-favorite in households across America because people loved learning what life was like during the age of pioneers. Even today, children and adults alike love the series.
Much of the show’s success is owed to the talented cast members. But did you know about some of the relationships that took place behind the scenes? In today’s video, we’re going to delve into some of the on-set romances on Little House on the Prairie. We’ll also take a look at some of the friendships and rivalries that took place between cast members. Make sure you stick around until the very end, where we’ll reveal which cast members were siblings in real life!
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Facts Verse Presents: On-Set Relationships on Little House on the Prairie
Melissa Gilbert and Michael Landon Had a Turbulent Friendship
Melissa Gilbert played the star of the series, Laura Ingalls, while Michael Landon played “Pa” Ingalls. When Melissa was only eleven years old, her adopted father committed suicide, although she was told at the time that he had suffered a stroke. As a result, Melissa felt that she was lacking a father figure. Once she was cast to play Laura Ingalls, however, she found that she greatly looked up to Michael Landon.
The two grew incredibly close on-set, and Michael Landon even told her that he loved her like a father. The two engaged in all sorts of antics while the camera crew wasn’t filming. However, their relationship took a turn for the worse. Michael divorced his wife to pursue a romantic interest on-set; a makeup artist by the name of Cindy Clerico.
Melissa, whose parents had divorced when she was only eight, felt betrayed by Michael’s decision. She became so angry with him that she cut off all forms of contact. While the two lost their close relationship for some time, however, Melissa eventually decided it was time to let bygones be bygones. When Michael was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, Melissa made up with him. After his death, she even named one of her children Michael in memory of him.
Melissa Gilbert Had a Hard Time Portraying Romance
While many young actresses are still cast to play romances with much older men even today, it was even more of a problem while Little House on the Prairie was being produced. This made on-screen romances quite difficult for poor Melissa Gilbert.
Melissa Gilbert was only fifteen when she had to perform her first stage kiss. However, it was her first real-life kiss, as well. In Little House on the Prairie, Melissa’s character Laura married Almanzo Wilder. Almanzo Wilder was played by the actor Dean Butler, who was twenty-three at the time. This made the experience very uncomfortable for Melissa, who was terrified to kiss a man who was so much older than her. She confided in her close friend and father figure at the time, Michael Landon, who also worked as a director for many of the episodes. Michael took her concerns seriously and discussed the kiss with the producers.
Thankfully, the producers were willing to listen to Melissa, and they ultimately decided that the on-screen kiss would be changed to a light kiss on the cheek.
Two Rivalries on the Show Were Best Friends in Real Life
While Melissa Gilbert played the character Laura, a member of the Ingalls family, actor Alison Arngrim portrayed Nellie, who was a member of the Oleson family. In the show, the Ingalls and the Olesons did not get along at all. Laura and Nellie especially had an intense rivalry.
However, while both actors were great at portraying animosity between each other for the camera, they were best friends in real life. The two spent lots of time together when they weren’t busy working, and they got up to all sorts of crazy shenanigans. They were so close, they even had sleepovers at each others’ houses!
Amazingly, the two young actors who were such close friends were able to act so horribly to each other on-screen. They may have been young, but their performances remain a true testament to their talent. Click the like button if you’re impressed by these girls’ acting skills!
Other Cast Members Made Fun of Melissa’s Innocence
It was no secret that Melissa had difficulty portraying her on-screen romance with Dean Butler. While most of the cast members respected this fact so as not to embarrass her, a couple of Melissa’s friends and fellow actors thought it was a great way to tease her.
Alison Arngrim, who was one of Melissa’s best friends, played the character Nellie, who later married another character named Percival.
Percival was played by actor Steve Tracy, who was also good friends with Alison. The two decided to play up their romance both on-screen and behind the scenes, just to annoy poor Melissa. They engaged in joking, heated make-out sessions to make her uncomfortable. Of course, it was all in good fun, although Melissa likely felt quite embarrassed.
While Steve Tracy and Alison Arngrim had no trouble pretending to be madly in love, the real-life situation could not be further from the truth. While they were great friends, Steve Tracy was gay, and any chance of an on-set romance with Alison Arngrim was out of the question.
Not Everyone Was Friends On-Set
While Melissa Gilbert and Alison Arngrim were best friends behind the scenes, not everyone could be expected to get along so well. While all of the actors were able to put aside their differences for the sake of the show, there were still some tensions when the cameras weren’t rolling.
Melissa Sue Anderson played Mary Ingalls, the older sister of Melissa Gilbert’s character, Laura Ingalls. While the two appeared quite close in the show, they didn’t get along at all behind the scenes. While nobody knows the exact reason for the feud, whatever differences the two actors ran deep. Even years after the show ended, neither actor was willing to extend a hand in the name of friendship.
Melissa Gilbert explained her dislike towards Melissa Sue Anderson in Prairie Tale, where she explained that she was cold and bratty. However, we never got Melissa Sue Anderson’s side of the story, so the real reason behind the feud may forever remain a mystery.
While Melissa Gilbert and Melissa Sue Anderson had the most pronounced dislike towards each other, Melissa Gilbert wasn’t alone in her feelings. Other cast members reportedly announced that Melissa Sue Anderson was icy towards them. However, some have speculated that, due to Melissa Sue Anderson’s protective mother and sheltered upbringing, she may not have learned how to behave in a friendly manner towards others.
The Cast Members Loved to Joke Around
Despite a few differences, most of the cast members had a great time together. Michael Landon especially was known for his practical jokes. He would chase cast members on-set and set up all sorts of pranks. Melissa Gilbert and Alison Arngrim learned a few tricks from Michael Landon, and in one incident, they pranked their fellow actors by putting saran wrap over one of the toilets!
William Oleson and Laura Ingalls Were Siblings in Real Life
William Oleson was played by Jonathan Gilbert, whose shared last name with Melissa Gilbert is no coincidence. In real life, the two were adopted siblings! Sadly, however, Melissa Gilbert revealed in her autobiography that the two became estranged later in life. Despite their close upbringing, some relationships fade over time. However, the two still have time to connect. Maybe someday, they will be as close as they were as the time they both acted in Little House on the Prairie.
The actors behind Little House on the Prairie had plenty of opportunities to get on each others’ nerves, but for the most part, they remained close friends. Were you more surprised to hear about the times the actors didn’t get along, or about the times where the actors were very close friends? Let us know in the comments below, and don’t forget to subscribe to Facts Verse for more!