The Little House on the Prairie series touched hearts of generations. Both the books and TV show are a beloved part of the entertainment world to this day. While the show may have stopped filming in the early ‘80s, audiences of all ages continue to embrace the pioneer lifestyle. We’ve rounded up 25 behind-the-scenes secrets all Little House on the Prairie fans will want to know.
30. Melissa Gilbert Was Only 15-Years-Old And Nervous When Her Character (Laura Ingalls) Had To Kiss Actor Dean Butler
Melissa Gilbert was only 15-years-old when her character, Laura Ingalls, married Almanzo Wilder. The actor who played Wilder, Dean Butler, was actually a 23-year-old. This, and the fact the on-stage kiss marked only the third time Gilbert had kissed a boy, made the teenager extremely nervous. After the scene, she asked if the affection could be limited to hugs and pecks on the cheek.
29. Actress Alison Arngrim (Nellie Oleson) Passed Out From Heat Exhaustion On Set
The women wore the traditional 1800’s styles, including: stockings, petticoats, pinafores, and bonnets. The temperatures would range from the 90s to the 100s at the California ranch where the show was filmed, which made for a very warm work day. Both Alison Arngrim and an assistant director passed out on the first day of filming.
28. The Crew Went Through Two Cases Of Coors A Day While Filming
The crew and actors were known to indulge in beer and Wild Turkey on set while the younger actors napped during breaks.
27. Alison Arngrim And Actor Steve Tracy, Who Played Her Husband Percival, Would Openly Make Out Just To Disgust Melissa Gilbert
Young Melissa Gilbert hated seeing co-stars Alison and Steve open-mouth kiss during their scenes. So, of course they made sure to do it as often as possible.
26. Melissa Gilbert Ended Her Friendship With Michael Landon Following His Real-Life Divorce
The Laura Ingalls actress had become close with actor Michael Landon’s wife and kids while filming Little House on the Prairie. She quit associating with him after he divorced his wife when his affair with an on-set makeup artist went public.
25. Alison Arngrim’s Broken Arm Was Real In The “Bunny” Episode
Alison Arngrim had a real cast on after breaking her wrist skateboarding. Her screams in the scene were also real as a crew member claimed the safety rope, which was holding her wheelchair as Melissa Gilbert pushed her down a slope, had snapped.
24. Michael Landon Loved To Show Off His Body In More Ways Than One
The actor who played Charles Ingalls wasn’t shy about filming his shirtless scenes. It’s reported he also liked skipping undergarments when wearing the tight fitting trousers.
23. Toddler Carrie Ingalls’ Fall During The Opening Credits Was Accidental
The twin who was playing Carrie Ingalls during the opening credits accidentally tripped and fell while running down the hill. The director thought it was cute and left it in the credits.
22. Michael Landon Wore Four-Inch Lifts In His Boots
The 5’ 9” actor didn’t want any to stand taller than him on the show. His “swagger” while filming Little House on the Prairie is due to these special boots.
21. Actor Sean Penn Got His Start On The Show
A then 13-year-old Sean Penn made his acting debut on the series in the episode “The Voice of Tinker Jones” when his dad, director Leo Penn, cast him in a small role.
20. The Simi Valley Ranch Set May Have Been Contaminated With Radioactive Waste
It’s rumored the Big Sky Ranch was a disposal site for radioactive materials, which some blame for the cancer rates among the cast and crew.
19. Rachel And Sidney Bush Played The Part Of Carrie Ingalls At Just Age Three
Due to California law regarding minors, the director had to rotate the twins out every few hours. It’s said he would call for a “fresh” twin before shooting some scenes.
18. Actor Michael Landon (Charles Ingalls) Dyed His Hair For The Role
Actor Michael Landon went prematurely grey in his 20s, and started dying his hair using Clairol Medium Ash Brown while starring in Bonanza. He continued this practice until a professional was needed to step in and help with the dye jobs. It’s said his hair would fade under the California sun into a lavender color while filming Little House on the Prairie.
17. All The Food In The Dinner Scenes Was Dinty Moore Beef Stew
Except the time Ma fried chicken, that was Kentucky Fried Chicken.
16. Nellie Oleson And Laura Ingalls Were Really Best Friends
The young actresses had sleepovers and were best of friends despite Melissa Gilbert “punching” out Alison Arngrim’s character throughout the series.
15. Actress Melissa Sue Anderson’s Mother Was Overprotective On Set
Because of this, the other actors reported nobody ever became friends with Melissa Sue, who played Mary Ingalls, during filming.
14. Michael Landon Asked Karen Grassle To Change Her Name When She Auditioned
The actor requested the actress who played Caroline Ingalls to change her name back to her real name, Karen Grassle. She auditioned under her stage name, Gabriel Tree.
13. A Memo Was Sent Out Saying Melissa Gilbert And Dean Butler Didn’t Have Believable Chemistry On Set
Because of Melissa Gilbert’s previously mentioned nervousness about kissing scenes, the production staff was concerned the lack of chemistry between Laura Ingalls and her new husband would be apparent to viewers.
12. An Old-Fashioned Curling Iron Heated In An Oven Was Used To Achieve Nellie Oleson’s Curls
Hairdressers used old-fashioned curls and curling iron to “torturously” style actress Alison Angrim’s hair into the perfect curls of Nellie Oleson.
11. After A Few Episodes, They Decided To Use A Wig To Give Alison Angrim Perfect Curls, But It Made Her Scalp Bleed
Poor actress Alison Angrim went through a lot to make her role as Nellie Oleson seem authentic. After dealing with the old-fashioned curling iron, the crew decided to use a wig to style the actress’s hair. The wig was held into place with metal combs and pins that cut into Alison’s scalp.
10. Michael Landon’s Daughter Played The Role Of Etta Plum
Actor Michael Landon’s real daughter received a part as Etta Plum after playing several other roles.
9. Melissa Gilbert Learned How To Drive A Stagecoach
The actress, who played Laura Ingalls, knows how to drive a real stagecoach.
8. Michael Landon Was Known For Playing Pranks On The Cast And Crew
The actor is said to have a “wild” sense of humor.
7. Melissa Gilbert Had To Hide Her Curves
The producers wanted character Laura Ingalls to appear more youthful, so they had Melissa bind her chest to hide her curves.
6. Melissa Gilbert Named Her Son After Michael Landon
Despite their falling out after Michael Landon divorced his wife, actress Melissa Gilbert reportedly named her son after him.
5. Actress Melissa Gilbert Is Related To The Actor Who Played Willie Oleson
The actor who played Willie Olseon— Jonathan Gilbert— is Melissa Gilbert’s adopted brother.
4. The Real Laura Ingalls Did Live In Walnut Grove, Minnesota
The Ingalls family lived in the real Walnut Grove for awhile in 1874.
3. Michael Landon Used Old ‘Bonanza’ Scripts For ‘Little House on the Prairie’ Episodes
Michael Landon, who starred in both Bonanza and Little House on the Prairie, used several of the same scripts for both series. Bonanza’s “A Matter of Circumstance” episode was “A Matter of Faith” on Little House.
2. They Included The Demolition Of The Set Into The Last Episode
In the final episode of the series, the town of Walnut Grove was destroyed— literally.