Harriet Oleson was a lovable antagonist that appeared throughout all nine seasons of Little House on the Prairie. Despite this fact, the character didn’t show up in the final few episodes of the series, which include the show’s finale. Many fans have since wondered why this was the case, and we now know the answer! It had to do with the burgeoning spiritualism of the actress that played the character. Join Facts Verse as we explore why Harriet Oleson wasn’t in the final episode of Little House on the Prairie.
Everyone Loved to Hate Harriet Oleson
Over the course of Little House on the Prairie, there were many supporting characters that helped keep the audience tuning in week after week. One of the most lovable and reliable of these characters was Harriet Oleson, who was portrayed over the course of the show’s nine seasons by an actress named Katherine MacGregor. Despite the fact that Harriet was antagonistic towards the show’s lead characters, Katherine performed the role with such zest that audiences at home couldn’t help but fall in love with her portrayal. Viewers found they loved to hate the character. However, Harriet Oleson was sorely missing from the show’s finale.
When the series finale of Little House on the Prairie aired in 1983, fans were expecting a solid send-off for all of the characters that they had come to know and love over the course of the series. Sadly, fans wouldn’t be able to get this closure for the character of Harriet Oleson. Though Harriet had been a reliable presence on the show throughout all of it’s nine season, the character wasn’t anywhere to be found in the final episodes. This included the very last episode, which went by the name of “The Last Farewell”. Fans were understandably disappointed by Katherine MacGregor’s lack of involvement in Little House on the Prairie’s final episode. Still, the actress had a reason for not being there.
Though the character that Katherine MacGregor played was an antagonistic presence on Little House on the Prairie, the actress herself was a friendly figure on the show’s set. Still, the actress was incredibly boisterous, having come from a background in theater. Being one of the more experienced performers on the set, Katherine offered a great deal of advice to her costars. The actress would offer this advice whether said costar asked for it or not, though it was appreciated the majority of the time. In fact, one of Katherine’s fellow performers allegedly coaxed as much advice as he could from her while working on the show. That performer is Dean Butler, who played Almanzo on the series.
Katherine MacGregor’s Advice Was Mostly Appreciated
Some performers actively sought out the advice of Katherine MacGregor while working on Little House on the Prairie, though others had to tell the actress that she needed to mind her own business. One performer that fell firmly in the latter camp was the actor that portrayed her on-screen husband. On the show, the character of Harriet Oleson was married to Nels Oleson, and the two ran the local general store. Their daughter was Nellie, who always antagonized main character Laura Ingalls at school. The Oleson’s were an antagonistic bunch, and the actor who portrayed Nels was named Richard Bull. During the filming of Little House on the Prairie’s first episode, Richard apparently confronted Katherine MacGregor after she kept offering unwanted advice. The actor simply told her that the advice wasn’t wanted, and the two got along fine after that.
Little House on the Prairie revolved predominantly around the Ingalls family, the patriarch of which was portrayed by Michael Landon. Michael Landon was also a creative force behind the show. In many ways, Michael was an authority figure on the set of the show. While portraying the character of Harriet Oleson, actress Katherine MacGregor always wanted to change lines. Whenever she wanted to do so, one of the people that she had to go through was Michael. The star typically approved of Harriet’s additions to the script, though her habit of making changes made her a nuisance.
Having to go through Michael Landon to get approval for script changes might have turned Katherine MacGregor against him, though it’s possible that the actress simply hated him from the beginning. The late actress could be quoted as saying that she had a negative impression of Michael from the start due to the cocky way that he walked. Still, Katherine’s hatred towards Michael Landon wasn’t the reason that her character didn’t appear in the final episodes of Little House on the Prairie! If you’re enjoying this video so far, be sure to hit the like button to show your support! Also, subscribe to the channel if you’d like to be among the first to know when more Facts Verse videos are on their way!
The Reason for Harriet Oleson’s Absence
During the many years that Katherine MacGregor played the character of Harriet Oleson on Little House on the Prairie, the actress had a few spats with her coworkers regarding both creative control and her penchant for offering unwanted advice. However, for the most part, the performer was a beloved presence behind the scenes of the show. The reason that Harriet Oleson didn’t appeared in the final few episodes of the series had nothing to do with problems Katherine was experiencing related to the show. However, it did have something to do with problems that the actress had been experiencing in her personal life over the course of the show’s run. You see, Katherine was an alcoholic!
Over the course of the nine seasons that she portrayed Harriet Oleson on Little House on the Prairie, Katherine MacGregor’s alcoholism grew worse and worse. By the final season of the show, Katherine had made the choice to put her alcoholism behind her for good. She turned to spirituality and began practicing the Hindu faith. In turn, this led to the actress scheduling a pilgrimage to India. Sadly, this pilgrimage just so happened to coincide with the filming of Little House on the Prairie’s final few episodes.
Katherine MacGregor wished she could’ve been there to portray the character of Harriet Oleson in the final few episodes of Little House of the Prairie, and the rest of the people working on the show wished she could’ve been there, as well. However, Katherine ended up deciding that making her pilgrimage to India was more important than performing in the series finale. Though the decision undeniably disappointed fans of the show, it seems like the trip was very beneficial for the actress. Katherine never had any relapses, and she lived to be 93 years old.
Katherine Helped Expand Upon Her Character
All in all, Katherine MacGregor played the character of Harriet Oleson for 152 episodes of Little House on the Prairie. There were just over 200 episodes of the show, meaning that the character of Harriet appeared in about three quarters of them. It would’ve made sense for Harriet to be missing from a handful of episodes, but the exclusion of the character from the series’ very final episode was felt.
Some might not know that Katherine MacGregor had actually been given the freedom to flesh out the character of Harriet Oleson herself. During the filming of the show’s first season, Katherine impressed so much with her performance that the behind-the-scenes staff asked her is she wanted to expand upon her character using her own backstory. The actress then apparently wrote up an eight-page character bible, with much of the content being derived from her own past.
According the late Katherine MacGregor, it was also her idea to make the character of Harriet Oleson more of a comic foil than a traditional villain. Without Katherine’s input, the character of Harriet may have been a little bit too much of a bully for fans of the show. As it stands, there were many fans that grew to detest Katherine simply for the villainous role that she played on the screen. Though Harriet did some messed up things to the Ingalls, she was fun to laugh at.
Katherine Retired After Playing Harriet Oleson
Harriet Oleson was a villainous oaf of a woman that wasn’t mean to be taken too seriously, but there were also aspects that softened the character’s edge. As we’ve already established, Harriet ran the general store alongside her husband, Nels. The two of them knew how to run a business. Harriet was a woman to be feared and respected amongst the townsfolk, even if she sometimes bit of more than she could chew when it came to antagonizing the Ingalls.
Katherine MacGregor adored her time portraying Harriet Oleson, but she was ready to say goodbye to acting professionally after Little House on the Prairie came to an end. The actress spent the remaining decades of her life out of the spotlight. For a time, she worked at a children’s theater company based in Hollywood. During this time, she lived right across the street from a Hindu temple that she could worship at. The retiree was certainly living the life!
In November of 2018, Katherine MacGregor passed away. As we’ve already touched upon, she was 93 years old at the time of her passing. Despite her brief battle with alcoholism, she lived the last decades of her life in peace and comfort. At the time of her death, she was living in a reputable retirement facility. Upon her passing, Melissa Gilbert commemorated the fallen star on social media. Of course, Melissa portrayed the character of Laura Ingalls on Little House on the Prairie. Like the majority of other stars from the show, Melissa had great experiences with Katherine.
Many have speculated about why Harriet Oleson wasn’t in the last episode of Little House on the Prairie, but we now know the truth! Now it’s time to hear from you: did you know that the actress that played Harriet Oleson on Little House on the Prairie practiced the Hindu faith, and that she went on a pilgrimage to India? Comment down below!