The TV show Little House on The Prairie charmed American families every week when it aired on NBC from 1974-1983. Viewers loved watching the Ingalls Family from the beloved children's book series on the screen, tuning in for the latest happenings in the town of Walnut Grove, Minnesota.
The Little House books were autobiographical, set in the late 19th-century. The central characters included patriarch Charles Ingalls, his wife Caroline, and their three daughters, Mary, Laura, and Carrie. Daughter Grace joins later in their series as well as adopted children Albert, Cassandra, and James. Many of the stories focus on daughter Laura, played by Melissa Gilbert, and how she grows up to become Laura Ingalls Wilder. Here are ten things you probably didn't know about the beloved television series.
1. There were some on-set cliques
Melissa Gilbert and her on-screen nemesis Alison Arngrim (i.e., Nellie Oleson) became instant real-life best friends. The two girls would even have sleepovers at each other's houses. Meanwhile, Gilbert and Melissa Sue Anderson, who played Mary Ingalls, reportedly didn't like each other one bit. Since the tv series ended, the two have apparently never reconnected.
2. Michael Landon directed nearly half of the episodes
Following his success on Bonanza, Landon was approached to direct the pilot episode. He only agreed to it if he could also play the role of Charles Ingalls. He went on to direct 87 of the 204 episodes.
3. The town was blown up after the series ended
Producers agreed with the landowners before the first season that they would restore the land to its original condition after the series wrapped. At Michael Landon's suggestion, they just blew it up. That's one way to do it.
4. Melissa Gilbert had her first kiss on screen
Laura's first kiss with her on-screen husband, Almanzo Wilder, played by Dean Butler, was also Gilbert's first when she was 15. It probably didn't help the situation that Butler was 8 years older than Gilbert, causing her to be shy and reserved during their romantic interactions.
5. The heat on the set was unbearable
Filmed at the Big Sky Ranch in Simi Valley, California, the temperatures would get up to 100 degrees in the warmer months. Due to the heavy fabrics used for frontier costumes, it was common for cast members to pass out on set.
6. Nellie wore a wig
Those beautiful golden curls were completely fake -- but don't be too jealous. The wig that Alison Arngrim wore was incredibly painful because of how tight it was and would regularly cause her scalp to bleed due to the pins used to secure it to her head.
7. Ma had a stage name
After securing the part of Caroline Ingalls, Karen Grassle had been working under her stage name, Gabriel Tree. Landon suggested that she change it back to her original name because it would look better on the credits for the show.
8. The show featured an Oscar winner's acting debut
Leo Penn was asked to direct an episode and ended up casting his wife to play the role of Mrs. Kennedy. His son Sean (maybe you've heard of him) ended up playing an uncredited schoolboy.