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Michael Landon wore four-inch lifts in the series.
The real-life Laura Ingalls Wilder was born on February 7, 1867, and died on February 10, 1957.
The show was a hit in its first season. In its second season, ratings dropped so low, that the show was in danger of cancellation. NBC moved it from Wednesday to Monday nights to attract a wider audience, and the ratings recovered in its third season. NBC intended to end the show after its fourth season, but the ratings stayed high enough to renew the show for a fifth season. It remained in the top thirty until it was finally cancelled in 1983.
Michael Landon had a unique way of inspiring child actors and actresses to cry when required for a scene. Melissa Gilbert described how he would work himself up emotionally, face her with his eyes full of tears and ask her, "Do you know how much I love you?" to which she would get all teary and emotional in response.
Alison Arngrim originally auditioned for the role of Laura Ingalls, then for Mary Ingalls. When she auditioned for Nellie Oleson, she was hired on the spot.
Although apparently based on the books by Laura Ingalls Wilder, the show took many liberties with different characters. For example, Albert Ingalls, the Garveys, and Adam Kendall never existed. Although Mary Ingalls went to blind school, she never married.
According to Karen Grassle, Michael Landon considered his television son Matthew Laborteaux as his actual son.
The real Mary Ingalls never got married.
In her autobiography "Prairie Tale", Melissa Gilbert said Michael Landon, and many of the show's crew members, abused alcohol on the set of this show everyday. "He was always a hard worker and hard drinker", she writes, "and he and the crew would regularly have a few drinks of alcohol on the set, which is probably part of why he might have developed pancreatic cancer at such a young age." Landon was known to smoke three to four packs of unfiltered cigarettes a day.
Dean Butler remarked that the first kiss between him and Melissa Gilbert was so nerve-racking for everyone that there were chaperones on the set to make sure nothing unseemly was going on. From the sidelines, Melissa's mother Barbara was wailing "My baby!" so much, that she had to be consoled.
Out of the many young girls who auditioned for the role of Laura Ingalls, Michael Landon was so certain that Melissa Gilbert was the perfect candidate, that hers was the only screentest he sent to the producers at NBC.
Melissa Gilbert appeared in 191 of the series' 205 episodes, more than anyone else. Michael Landon appeared in 177 episodes.
Linwood Boomer (Mary's husband Adam Kendall) was a script writer with several credits to his name. He is most famous for creating Malcolm mittendrin (2000).
According to Alison Arngrim, the writers intended for Mary Ingalls and John Sanderson to get married. Melissa Sue Anderson and Radames Pera had no romantic chemistry, so the storyline was replaced by Mary going blind and going away to school.
Laura Ingalls (Melissa Gilbert) and Willie Olsen (Jonathan Gilbert) are adopted brother and sister in real-life.
Despite the religious themes in the series Michael Landon never practiced any religion as an adult.
Melissa Gilbert was impressed by Michael Landon's habit of putting out cigarettes on his gloves. Landon smoked sixty to eighty unfiltered cigarettes a day.
While working on an episode of the show, Garett Brown, inventor of the Steadicam, chatted with former NFL player Merlin Olsen between scenes. Olsen mentioned how limited he thought television coverage of football was, because the static cameras couldn't give the audience any sense of the speed and flow of the game. With that in mind, Brown eventually designed what became known as Skycam, the floating hydraulic camera system that flies around the stadium above the players, with a 360 degree viewing angle. It has since become an essential tool in the coverage of live sporting and stadium events.
Michael Landon did not know how to play a fiddle (violin).
The character Charles Ingalls was ranked number four in TV Guide's list of the "50 Greatest TV Dads of All Time" (June 20, 2004 issue).
Alison Arngrim and Melissa Gilbert were good friends real-life. They used to play territory wars on the set.
Alison Arngrim wanted to date Radames Pera when he appeared in the series, but he felt she was too young for him.
Back in the 1800s, one of the main evening meals was beef stew. Throughout the series, when the Ingalls sat down to eat, they were eating Dinty Moore Beef Stew, and on the nights they would have fried chicken for dinner, they were eating Kentucky Fried Chicken.
The character Nellie Oleson was ranked number three in TV Guide's list of "TV's 10 Biggest Brats" (March 27, 2005 issue).
E.J. André appeared on the series seven times, in five different roles: Zachariah, Jed Cooper, St. Peter, Matthew Simms, and Amos Thoms. Eddie Quillan also appeared in seven episodes, but each in a different role: Buffalo Bill, Old Timer, Kavendish, Shorty, Gargan, Judge Picker and Jed Haney.
The only primetime non-reality series to stay in production during the 1980 actors' strike and the 1981 writers' strike, which delayed both fall seasons. Michael Landon, representing NBC rather than a studio, negotiated deals with SAG and WGA to allow the show to continue filming under a separate contract, while the actors, actresses, and writers continued to boycott the studios. (He did the same with the Writers Guild of America, purchasing scripts from the new members of the union, on the final season of Ein Engel auf Erden (1984), which he owned. NBC didn't use his new episodes during the fall of 1988, though.)
Laura's favorite perfume was lemon verbena. Mr. Edwards gave it to her in two episodes. Once when she was a little girl, and again after she was grown up.
The characters of Mary and Albert had their own theme music, which often played during their scenes.
According to Melissa Sue Anderson in her autobiography, " The Way I See It", there was tension on the set between Karen Grassle (Caroline) and Michael Landon (Charles). "Their's was not an equal relationship", she wrote. Allegedly Grassle was resentful of Michael Landon's power on the show, and she resented the fact that her character was basically a "June Cleaver" submissive type.
According to Allison Arngrim's autobiography "Confessions of a Prairie Bitch" Katherine (Scottie) McGregor was a nice lady, but also a disruptive element on the set. She would give other actors and actresses direction. She would argue with the directors a lot. Eventually Michael Landon seriously considered firing her. But her performance as the show's villain was just too perfect to let her go.
The black locomotive used as a train in many episodes, notable from the red-and-gold enamel "3" medallion in front, is the famous Sierra #3 locomotive, used in numerous movies and television shows for nearly a hundred years. Its appearances include High Noon (1952), The Virginian (1962), The Great Race (1965), Back to the Future Part III (1990), Unforgiven (1992), Petticoat Junction (1963), Rawhide (1959), Bonanza (1959), Gunsmoke (1955), and many others.
Eight Oscar winning actors and actresses appeared as guest stars on various episodes: Ernest Borgnine, Patricia Neal, Burl Ives, Red Buttons, Eileen Heckart, Louis Gossett, Jr., Ralph Bellamy, and Sean Penn.
The series often reflected Michael Landon's right-wing political views. Landon endorsed Richard Nixon in the 1972 presidential election, and campaigned for Ronald Reagan in 1980.
The theme song was penned by David Rose, who wrote many theme songs. However, he is best known for the 1962 Burlesque classic, The Stripper.
When she was offered the role of Caroline, Karen Grassle was working under the name of "Gabriel Tree". Michael Landon and NBC felt this name sounded too unconventional for a traditional and conservative family show like this, and asked her to revert to her real name.
The first dog the Ingalls owned was Jack. After he died, they adopted a stray black and white dog named Bandit.
Victor French (Isaiah Edwards) left the show for two years, from 1977 to 1979, to appear on Carter Country (1977). During this period, Merlin Olsen's Jonathan Garvey was brought in to become Charles' sidekick. When French came back after the cancellation of Carter Country (1977), Olsen was phased out of the series, and eventually given his own show, Father Murphy (1981), which was also produced by Michael Landon.
Since Walnut Grove did not have a jail of its own, Nels Oleson's (Richard Bull's) ice house served as such for anyone awaiting trial.
Melissa Sue Anderson was the only one on the show who was nominated for an Emmy, for her heartbreaking turn on season four, episodes twenty-one and twenty-two, "I'll Be Waving as You Drive Away: Parts 1 & 2", the episodes when Mary went blind. She didn't win.
There were three or four sets of siblings on the set everyday.
The final episode of the series, "The Last Farewell", was aired as a two hour movie. After a railroad executive comes to town claiming ownership of Hero Township, the town's residents dynamite all of the buildings. This was Michael Landon's idea. He thought it would be a more fitting ending, rather than have the town razed by bulldozers (as well as an ideal way to restore the set to its original state, as agreed)
In the 1990s, after the show had long been in syndication, Kevin Hagen (Doc Baker) started an (ultimately unsuccessful) campaign, supported by several other regular cast members, to force NBC to make, what they considered, higher residual and royalty payments to them.
CASTLE THUNDER: Heard every time it storms.
The episode "I'll be Waving as You Drive Away" was so memorable that the TV Guide placed it at 97 in the '100 Greatest Episodes of All Time' list of 1997.
Matthew Labyorteaux (Albert Ingalls) is the younger, adopted brother of Patrick Labyorteaux, who played Andrew Garvey on this show.
Season one, episode seventeen, "Doctor's Lady" and season nine, episode ten, "Love", are virtually identical in plot, as both deal with an older man (Doc Baker and Mr. Edwards respectively) falling in love with much younger women and deciding to sacrifice the relationships, due to the age difference.
The series got a lot of inspiration from another show that was popular at the time, called "Bonanza." Michael Landon originally became famous from his appearance on "Bonanza", and he would take scripts that were intended to be used for that, and made some change.
Father Murphy (1981) was a spin-off of this show, Executively Produced by Michael Landon, and starred many of this show's regulars, Merlin Olsen, Shannen Doherty, and Carl Dixon.
The series finale "The Last Farewell" ended with the town's residents marching out of town singing "Onward Christian Soldiers". The only buildings left standing were the church/schoolhouse and the Ingalls/Carter house.
Blanche Hanalis wrote the script for the original pilot episode in 1974. However, although she had no further involvement with the series beyond the pilot, she continued to receive the opening titles credit: "Developed For Television By....." for every episode, including the TV movie specials.
Charles and Isaiah's nickname for Laura was "Half-pint".
The two closest towns to Walnut Grove were Sleepy Eye and Mankato.
Each 45 minute episode took, on average, seven days to shoot requiring four days on location at Big Sky Ranch in Simi Valley for 'Walnut Grove' exteriors (and various Hollywood studio backlots for "Sleepy Eye", "Mankato" "Winoka", etc.), and three days in the studio for all interiors.
In her autobiography "Prairie Tale", Melissa Gilbert said she confronted former co-star and on-screen niece-in-law Shannen Doherty about sleeping with Gilbert's then-husband, Bo Brinkman. Doherty answered "Well, you know I always wanted to be you." Gilbert stormed off and never spoke to Doherty again. "It was a little too Single White Female for me", she said.
Hersha Parady debuted in the show in a one-off role as Charles Ingalls' sister-in-law Eliza, in season three, episode six, "Journey in the Spring", returning in season four as Alice Garvey, who would eventually die in the blind school fire episodes, season six, episodes twenty-one and twenty-two, "May We Make Them Proud: Parts 1 & 2". The fire was started accidentally by Albert, played by Matthew Laborteaux, who also made his Little House debut in "Journey in the Spring", playing a young Charles Ingalls, in a flashback sequence.
|Complete series cast summary:|
|Melissa Gilbert||-||Laura Ingalls / - 205 episodes, 1974-1983|
|Michael Landon||-||Charles Ingalls / - 187 episodes, 1974-1983|
|Karen Grassle||-||Caroline Ingalls 183 episodes, 1974-1982|
|Rachel Lindsay Greenbush||-||Carrie Ingalls / - 183 episodes, 1974-1982|
|Sidney Greenbush||-||Carrie Ingalls / - 183 episodes, 1974-1982|
|Melissa Sue Anderson||-||Mary Ingalls / - 163 episodes, 1974-1981|
|Katherine MacGregor||-||Harriet Oleson 153 episodes, 1974-1983|
|Richard Bull||-||Nels Oleson 146 episodes, 1974-1983|
|Jonathan Gilbert||-||Willie Oleson 140 episodes, 1974-1983|
|Kevin Hagen||-||Dr. Hiram Baker 113 episodes, 1974-1983|
|Alison Arngrim||-||Nellie Oleson / - 104 episodes, 1974-1982|
|Matthew Labyorteaux||-||Albert Quinn Ingalls / - 89 episodes, 1976-1983|