You might not have seen it in the past, but we bet that you have heard of Little House on the Prairie at the very least. It was a western drama set in Minnesota that charmed millions of Americans from across the nation. In the ‘70s and ‘80s, it was considered one of the most successful and popular shows on the air! Read on to learn more about it. You might even feel the need to start watching the show after this!
It Hit A Chord Among Fans
The show turned many cast members into stars. Its story was autobiographical, which is the reason it hit a chord with a lot of viewers. It explored various themes that you do not see on TV very often, especially for the time that it was on the air. A lot of famous celebrities appeared on the show as well, although most of them were still unknown at the time. Where could they be now?
Karen Grassle As Caroline Ingalls
After Karen Grassle earned the role of the matriarch, she must have assumed that she was going to make it big. She played Caroline Ingalls for nearly the whole show. Can you believe that it was her first real acting role? It is safe to say that the casting directors of the show discovered her. Not anyone can play a character like this! The actress was also in Gunsmoke and Harry’s War.
Karen Grassle Now
The actress kept acting once the show came to an end. In fact, she continues to act to this day! You might have seen her in Hotel, Western Wyatt Earp, and Murder, She Wrote. She reprised her old role in a TV movie called Little House: The Last Farewell. After the turn of the millennium, she decided to focus more on theater productions instead.
Melissa Sue Anderson As Mary Ingalls
When Melissa Sue Anderson started to play Mary Ingalls, she had a solid acting career of her own. She was just 12 years old but had already been in The Brady Bunch and Bewitched. How impressive is that? However, it is true that she only became a household name after starring in Little House on the Prairie. Aside from these shows, she was also in The Hanna-Barbera Happy Hour and The Love Boat.
Melissa Sue Anderson Now
Once the show was over, Melissa was nearly 20 years old! She had the whole world ahead of her. She decided to go into primetime TV and starred in a movie called Happy Birthday to Me. When it comes to recent projects, she was also in The Brits Are Coming. Did you know that she is a published author as well? In 2010, she realized her very own autobiography called “The Way I See It.”
Shannen Doherty As Jenny Wilder
You might be surprised to hear that Shannen Doherty was a cast member on the show. The teen idol actually brought Jenny Wilder to life in the final season. She was 11 years old when she started to play this character. Before that, she only appeared in three other shows. It was said that Michael Landon helped the young actress snag the role after he watched her performance in Father Murphy.
Shannen Doherty Now
She went on to be one of the biggest Little House on the Prairie for fans of the show. She cemented her status as a teen icon when she starred in Beverly Hills 90210. In the late ‘90s, she became the star of a show called Charmed. Aside from that, she was also in Mallrats and Jay. She recently started to talk about how hard it is to live with breast cancer. We hope that she is doing much better in the meantime!
Alison Arngrim As Nellie Oleson
On the show, Allison Arngrim played Nellie Oleson. The character on the show was known as the nemesis of Laura Ingalls! It made the actress a star, and her character became a mainstay on the show. In fact, Nellie has gotten so big that she ended up returning for the ninth and final season of the show. Prior to Little House on the Prairie, she only had a single acting credit to her name for a feature film called Throw Out the Anchor.
Alison Arngrim Now
When the show came to an end, she decided to act only every now and then. However, she has largely transitioned into the world of standup comedy. She liked to poke fun at her time on the show during her routines, but she seems to look serious. You might want to check out her comedy album, “Heeere’s Amy.” As a survivor of abuse, she has decided to step out and help other people in need.
Dean Butler As Almanzo Wilder
As Almanzo Wilder on the show, Dean Butler made a lot of women swoon! This might have been a big role, but it was only his second acting credit. He got to play the character for 65 episodes from the sixth season until the ninth. He was also in The Love Boat. Based on this photo alone, you can probably see why so many people had been falling in love with him! You might have also seen him in Here’s Boomer and Fantasy Island in the past.
Dean Butler Now
After his time on the show, he went on to enjoy an even more successful acting career. He appeared in various TV shows and films after this. He is probably best known for playing Hank Summers, Buffy’s dad, in Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Aside from that, he has given theatre a shot and has starred in some Stephen Sondheim shows. He was in West Side Story, Into The Woods as well. The actor met Katherine Cannon at an audition, and they are now happily married.
Jason Bateman As James Ingalls
This actor also got his start on the show. Jason Bateman played James Ingalls on the seventh and eighth season of the show. He was supposed to play an orphan that the Ingalls adopted. Before the show, the actor only appeared in ads. It is not a stretch to call him the most successful actor from the show, save for the various famous guest stars who have graced the TV show in some form or another.
Jason Bateman Now
After the end of the show, Jason enjoyed a very successful career. He is probably best known for starring in the hit sitcom Arrested Development, but he was also in Tropic Thunder, The Gift, Horrible Bosses, and Identity Theft. He continues to be active in the industry to this day! As for recent projects, the actor was in Ozark and Central Intelligence as well.
Kyle Richards As Alicia Edwards
Alicia Edwards showed us that it is possible to be so cute that you can’t stand it! She was on the show in a few seasons. Before that, the star was in an episode of Police Women in the past. During her time on the show, she received various film and TV awards. Among other things, she was also in The Car and Eaten Alive. By the age of 13, she already worked on 20 projects.
Kyle Richards Now
After leaving the show, her career grew in a bunch of different directions. She has been in various projects in film and TV. There was even a time when she was in ER and Down to Earth. However, her biggest claim to fame would be starring in The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills. Aside from that, she also joined The New Celebrity Apprentice.
Madeleine Stowe As Annie Crane
Did you know that Madeleine Stowe was on the show? She was in an episode called “Portrait of Love” from the seventh season. It was an early role and took place before she branched out into mainstream movies. In the show, she played a blind artist called Annie Crane. It was a complex role that showed off how much depth and range she had as an actress! All of this happened when she was still young.
Madeleine Stowe Now
We have mentioned some of the most successful actors and actresses on the show. But Madeleine might have been the biggest of them all. After a guest appearance in Little House. She got to play the female lead in a sci-fi noir film called 12 Monkeys in 1995. She eventually went back to TV shows and appeared in Revenge and the 12 Monkeys show.
Little House On The Prairie Cast Reunion
A lot of people in the cast enjoyed very successful careers. On the other hand, many of them went on to do things not related to acting. After working together for years on end, it must have been sad to call it quits. The kids turned into adults on the show and formed deep bonds with one another. Michael Landon is missing in this photo. He passed died of cancer in 1991, and the rest of the cast members missed him very much.
Michael Landon As Charles Ingalls
Before Michael Landon appeared on the show, he was best known for starring in Bonanza. While working on the western show, he started to direct and write. This was a great idea that came in handy once he started playing Charles Ingalls on the show. In the past, people said that he was tough to work with. At any rate, he has gone on to direct, produce, write, and act in Little House on the Prairie. If it had not been for him, the show would have been very different!
Michael Landon Later
Unfortunately, he died from pancreatic cancer at the age of 54 in 1991. The actor left a huge legacy that includes acting, directing, producing, and writing a hit show called Highway to Heaven. He was also voted as one of the 50 Sexiest Stars of All Time by TV Guide. He got to grace the cover of Life magazine and talk about his career, life, and illness. His headstone in Culver City, California reads, “He seized life with joy. He gave to life generously. He leaves a legacy of love and laughter.”
Sean Penn As An Uncredited School Kid
The show also earned a reputation for its guest stars. A lot of these actors and actresses had been pretty unknown at the time, but they enjoyed great fame in the future. Sean Penn was one of these people. He appeared in an episode called “The Voice of Tinker Janes.” With his dad Leo Penn as the director, he landed his very role. It was such a minor role that he did not even appear in the credits, however.
Sean Penn Now
The actor has since become one of the biggest influences in Hollywood. He has tried his hand at becoming a filmmaker as well! We also admire him for his political activism. Fun fact: he has two Oscars to his name thanks to his performance in Milk and Mystic River. Aside from that, he was also in Dead Man Walking, I am Sam, and more!
Matthew Labyorteaux As Albert Ingalls
Actor Matthew Labyorteaux got his big break by playing Albert Quinn Ingalls on the show! What made him different from the other Ingalls family members was that the character was not based on a real person. No, this meant that he was crafted particularly for the show. The actor first appeared in the fifth season in the role of the adopted son. He went on to play this character for five seasons.
Matthew Labyorteaux Now
Once the show went off the air, Matthew kept acting. He was in Highway to Heaven, which was directed, produced, and written by his former colleague Michael Landon. Aside from that, he also did voice-over work for Mulan and the like. The most interesting about him was that he was the 1982 U.S. Pac-Man champion! Together with his brother, he founded a charity called Youth Rescue Fund back in 1992. It is now a partner of the Los Angeles Youth Supportive Services.
Victor French As Isaiah Edwards
Who would have guessed that Victor French got his start as a stuntman? He made a name for himself by starring in Westerns such as Gunsmoke. After some time, he got to play the part of Isaiah Edwards in Little House on the Prairie from 1974 to 1977. He took a break from it to play a police chief in Carter County. He got to reprise his old role after that from 1981 to 1984.
Victor French In Later Years
Sadly, the actor died a couple of years after the end of the show. He was a lifelong smoker and found out that he only had two months to live once he was diagnosed with lung cancer. He died at the tender age of 54. Before his passing, he played Mark Gordon on Highway to Heaven, a show that was directed, produced, and written by Landon. It was French’s final role.
Leslie Landon As Etta Plum
Since Michael Landon did not have it easy in life, he wanted to give his kids the best opportunities from the get-go. He took his daughter Leslie under his wing! She played guest characters on the show from 1975 to 1981 until she landed the role of a regular character called Etta Plumb. Aside from that, she played minor characters such as a plague victim, Kate, Marge, and Pam.
Leslie Landon Now
While her dad was an actor, writer, director, and producer, Leslie did not really get into acting. Her only other credit was for an episode of Father Murphy. She decided to focus on her studies and obtained her undergraduate and MA degrees from Pepperdine University. Aside from that, she also holds a Ph.D. in marriage and family therapy courtesy of the California Graduate Institute. After her wedding, she changed her last name to Matthews. She also co-wrote a book called “When Children Grieve: For Adults to Help Children Deal with Death, Divorce, Pet Loss, Moving, and Other Losses.”
Melissa Gilbert as Laura Ingalls
We are sure that it was not easy for Melissa Gilbert to shoot to stardom at the age of 9. The young girl beat more than 500 other child actresses for this role. This was how she earned the part of Laura Ingalls, which is pretty incredible on its own. The show followed the character as she grew up. You can even call it a coming-of-age story that details her development into adulthood. Needless to say, the show would not have been the same without her acting chops!
Melissa Gilbert Now
The actress kept working even once the show was over. She was on the drama for nearly a decade, and it took up nearly all her teenage years! She went on to star in Heart of the Storm and The Diary of Anne Frank. Aside from those projects, she was also in Batman: The Animated Series, Nip/Tuck, and Babylon 5. She has also entered politics by running for Congress in Michigan and winning the primary. Sadly, she dropped out because of health problems.
Jonathan Gilbert As Willie Oleson
Willie Oleson is the son of Harriet and Nels Oleson, which makes him the sister of Nellie Oleson. Jonathan Gilbert kicked off his career when he was seven years old. He played this character for all nine seasons! Aside from this recurring role, he was also in three TV movies of the series. He went on to reprise the same character in Little House: Look Back to Yesterday, Little House: The Last Farewell, and The Little House Years.
Jonathan Gilbert Now
He was on the show for a long time, but he did not have a huge career outside of it. Maybe this was because his family already had too many actors! His last name probably sounds familiar to you. After all, he is the adopted brother of actress Melissa Gilbert, who played Laura Ingalls Wilder on the show. His adoptive parents were actors as well. He only starred in one movie outside the franchise: The Miracle Worker. He is now a stockbroker. Sadly, Melisa said that he cut off all contact with her.
Bonnie Bartlett As Grace Snyder Edwards
When her dad was young, he tried to make it in the acting industry but failed. Bonnie Bartlett wanted to live out his dreams and started to take acting lessons once she was done with high school. She started to make a name for herself on soap operas. At first, she took on small roles to focus on her kids. In 1974, she snagged the part of Grace Snyder Edwards and continued to portray this role until 1977.
Bonnie Bartlett Now
Her time on the show opened more doors for her. Her career picked up a lot by the ‘80s. She appeared in North and Sound: Book II, Boy Meets World, and V. Another claim to fame was the role of Ellen Craig in St. Elsewhere. She won an Emmy alongside her real-life and onscreen husband for their individual portrayals of Mark and Ellen Craig!
Lucy Lee Flippin As Eliza Jane Wilder
Actress Lucy Lee Flippin took on a lot of roles over the course of her career, but the most famous one must be Eliza Jane Wilder, the sister of Almanzo and stepsister of Laura. She was more significant in the books, but the star did stay on the show from 1979 to 1982 for 18 episodes. This was her first big role in a TV show even though it was not particularly big. She also had a small role in Annie Hall.
Lucy Lee Flippin Now
After her time on the show, she got to do more TV roles. For example, she got to play Fran Castleberry in Flo and made guest appearances in Charmed, The Golden Girls, Beverly Hills 90210, and Full House. She was also in Soccer Dog: The Movie, Rat Race, and Little Black Book. Lastly, the actress also got to perform on stage at Geffen Playhouse in Los Angeles.
Katherine MacGregor As Harriet Oleson
This actress is most famous for her humorous performance as Harriet Oleson in the show. She was on Little House on the Prairie from 1974 to 1983. Prior to this, she already had a decent number of acting credits spread across film, TV, and theater. She kicked off her acting career back in the ‘50s. However, she only made her film debut with an uncredited part in On the Waterfront.
Katherine MacGregor Now
Even though she earned a lot of success on the show, she stopped acting after the show came to an end. She had gone through two divorces by the time she was on the show. The first one was from Bert Remsen, while the second one was Edward G. Kaye-Martin. After the end of the show, she decided to quit film and TV projects to star in local stage productions instead. She also focused on her Hindu practice and taught kids how to act at the Wee Hollywood Vedanta Players. Sadly, she died in 2018.
Melissa Francis As Cassandra Cooper Ingalls
At the age of six months old, Melissa Francis kicked off her career in a commercial for Johnson & Johnson shampoo commercial. She then went on to play Cassandra Cooper Ingalls on the show for two seasons. Can you believe that she has been in almost a hundred TV commercials in the past? She was also in TV shows like ALF, St. Elsewhere, and Mork & Mindy. When it comes to film, she was in Man, Woman and Child and Bad Dreams.
Melissa Francis Now
After the ‘80s, she only earned three acting credits. She was in Hardball, Race to Witch Mountain, and The Dictator. Melissa Francis ditched her acting career to study economics at Harvard University. She even went on to be the captain of the polo team and the executive editor of the Harvard College Economist. She eventually turned to TV journalism! In 2012, she published a book with the title, “Diary of a Stage Mother’s Daughter: A Memoir.”
Diary Of A Stage Mother’s Daughter
In the revelatory autobiography, the actress offered more insight into her childhood. She talked about how hard it was to grow up with an abusive mother who went through depressive episodes, threw tantrums, and kicked them out of the car several times. Aside from that, her mother put the neighbor’s dog to sleep and stole the earnings of her children. We are glad that it only motivated Francis to stay strong and work hard.
Lessons From The Prairie
Even though she lived in an abusive household, she found out just how cruel the outside world can also be. She published a second book called “Lessons From The Prairie.” In it, she talked about how she went from a rookie journalist to where she is now. She talked about how her boss once went to her house in the middle of the night and described the sexual acts that he wanted to do to her. The only way she convinced him to leave was to feign illness. The following day, she started to look for a different job! However, she admitted that she still feels bad that she did not report it.