Set in 1800s Minnesota, Little House on the Prairie became an almost instant viewer favorite when it debuted on NBC in 1974. The cast, over the show’s nine-year run, became tight-knit and as close as a family.
Since its farewell in 1983 after nine seasons, the cast has reunited throughout the years at various events. One star, however, has notoriously kept their distance from the get-togethers.
Here’s what a fellow actor on the series had to say.
Melissa Gilbert said this cast member wanted to ‘kill her’
Keep in mind, Gilbert was 9 years old when she made the statement that her cast mate, Melissa Sue Anderson, wanted her dead. The Laura Ingalls Wilder actor was bringing Alison Arngrim, who had been hired to play nasty Nellie Oleson, up to speed on who to watch out for on the set. And Anderson was at the top of her list.
“Whatever you do, you watch out for that Melissa Sue Anderson,” Arngrim in her memoir Confessions of a Prairie B*tch quoted Gilbert as saying. “She’s very dangerous. She’s evil, and I hate her.”
Arngrim’s aunt, who Gilbert had been speaking to as well, tried to jolly the youngster out of her awful opinion of her co-star. Gilbert wasn’t having it.
Gilbert added, “Yes I do! I hate her, and she hates me. She tried to kill me, you know. And she’ll kill you, too, if she gets the chance!”
The actor elaborated more on that moment when she spoke with host Andy Cohen in 2014 on Watch What Happens Live.
“[Melissa Sue Anderson was] “hateful, horrid, mean, terrible, mean, difficult,” Gilbert said. “She hated me. She knocked me off the wagon when I was 9.”
Gilbert felt Anderson could be distant and cold
In her own memoir Prairie Tale, Gilbert touched lightly on the topic of the actor who played her television sister. It bothered Gilbert that the two never grew closer during the run of the show but it wasn’t for lack of trying on the Laura Ingalls actor’s part.
“There was a distance to her, a coldness, though sometimes I wonder if it was just that I never knew how to get her to let me in,” she wrote.
Gilbert added, “She wasn’t easy to get along with. I think her reserve came across on screen and was certainly apparent off screen.”
Anderson refused to attend reunions
As Nellie Oleson actor Arngrim stated in her book, the cast of the show has had many opportunities to gather together and reminisce. And they do it with gusto. One can almost see Arngrim shaking her head as she notes that Anderson simply hasn’t cared to join them at any time.
“Over the years, the cast of Little House had reunited several times – often because a fan group or an event planner wants to fly us all out to speak and sign autographs (most of us are happy to oblige, hang out, reminisce, and catch up on our lives),” she wrote.
Arngrim tallied the various gatherings she has attended, and apparently, she hasn’t missed one.
“The first was in Sonora, California, in September 1998, fifteen years after the show went off the air… A few years later, much of this group along with [Almonzo Wilder actor] Dean Butler, would reunite in Beatrice, Nebraska, in June 2005.
“A month later, Melissa [Gilbert] brought her entire brood to the Tombstone, Arizona, Western Film Festival. This one was a huge party,” she noted.
Arngrim remarked that “just about every year” a Little House event finds her reunited with her old friends, “and we’re all very grateful and look forward to it.”
She said dryly, however, “The only one who has never come to a reunion? Melissa Sue Anderson. Big surprise there.”
Interestingly in 2014, four years after Arngrim’s memoir was published, Today hosted a Little House reunion in their Rockefeller Center studios. Many of the show’s principal actors were there, with Anderson notably in attendance. And she looked as though she was having a wonderful time.
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