Who didn’t watch Little House on the Prairie during the 1970s? Little House was on TV once a week, and we all watched it. Much like The Brady Bunch, the iconic TV series defined the American family. It delivered “family values” packaged in a way all audiences couldn’t help but love. And it invigorated an American West nostalgia that brought the dreamy idyllic of pioneering families settling a homestead to life. From cowboys and Indians dominating TV screens all through the 50s and into the 60s, to something like an American kumbaya at Thanksgiving, the show defined an era. But what was it like behind the scenes? After the scenes? And what happened to those memorable townsmen in real life once the series ended? Keep reading to find out all of the intriguing details!
The beloved TV series aired on NBC from 1974 up until its last episode on May 10,1982. After that, reruns have played weekdays, every single day, for years on end. The appeal just doesn’t go away – the pioneering spirit is etched into American hearts. Based on the adored book series of her family’s frontier life, by Laura Ingalls Wilder, the pioneering Ingalls family, Pa, Ma, Mary, Laura and little Carrie, finally settle in a quaint mercantile town called Walnut Grove. The prairie-period Minnesotan town and its little house was actually shot in California, at Big Sky Ranch in Simi Valley. It’s there where the TV drama comes to life, with moving scenes between the Ingalls and others of the pioneer-era townsmen, most notably between Laura Ingalls (Melissa Gilbert) and Nellie Oleson (Alison Arngrim). Their bitter and farcical childhood rivalry had everyone taking sides, but mostly against Nellie and for the sweet and kind Laura, who stood her ground against the town’s wealthy bully. Everyone recalls that one time when the girls’ animosity met memorably in the mud fight scene. The riveting dynamic was certainly well played.
Melissa gets irritated
It’ll come as a shock, then, that the two girls didn’t hate on each other off scene. They actually liked each other. And not only that, they adored each other. In an interview with Oprah, Melissa Gilbert opened up and shared the fact that the two girls were the best of friends, and that she hung out with Alison Arngrim exclusively, on and off set. In 2014, Gilbert told the legendary hostess: “We loved each other. We had sleepovers at each other’s houses. We were at each other’s birthday parties.” And things haven’t changed much, now that they’re all grown up, “We’re still really close,” Gilbert said.
So it will be funny to find out the off camera scoop: When Nellie got married and was required to do the kissing scene with her new husband, Percival (played by Steve Tracy), the two took every chance they could find to tease Melissa Gilbert. Steve and Alison knew how squeamish the make-out scene made Melissa, so they practiced in front of her whenever she was around. The fact that Steve, an openly gay man, had zero interest in Alison, made no difference. Their outlandish kissing performances tormented and teased. At the time, 15-year-old Melissa, as Laura, was married to Almanzo Wilder (played by Dean Butler), and, quite frankly, she was mortifyingly averse to kissing scenes. (His 5 o’clock stubble freaked her out). A sweet young innocent thing.