Michael Landon had a unique way of inspiring child actors 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.
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.
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 30 until it was finally cancelled in 1983.
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 TV 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.
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.
In her autobiography "Prairie Tale," Melissa Gilbert said Michael Landon, and many of the show's crew members, abused alcohol on the set of Little House 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 3-4 packs of unfiltered cigarettes a day.
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 screen test he sent to the producers at NBC.
Various critics have complained about how many embellishments there were by Michael Landon from the original true story. Landon's response? "Have you read the books? There's a chapter in there about how to make an apple fritter. I can't film that!"
Melissa Gilbert, Allison Arngrin and Radames Pera have all said that Melissa Sue Anderson was a primadonna on the set, bratty, unfriendly, snobbish to her coworkers. For her part, Melissa Sue Anderson has said that she was not aware of any rivalry with Melissa Gilbert, but she acknowledges that they weren't very close. "We were just very, very different", she says.
Rose Wilder, Laura's onscreen daughter was a real person. In fact, she co-wrote the Little House series with Laura. In fact, many people think Rose ghost wrote the books alone, and that they pretended Laura wrote them as a way of marketing the books as true life autobiographies from a real pioneer girl.
The only prime-time 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 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 Highway to Heaven (1984), which he owned. NBC didn't use his new episodes during the fall of 1988, though.)
Hersha Parady, debuted in the show in a one- off role as Charles Ingalls sister -in- law Eliza, in the third season episode Journey in the Spring, returning in season four as Alice Garvey,who would eventually die in the blind school fire episode, May We MakeThem Proud. 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.
Melissa Gilbert and her on-screen dad Michael Landon developed substance abuse problems. Michael was drinking heavily everyday on the set, according to Melissa anyway. And Melissa would develop a drug problem after leaving the show.
According to Allison Argron's autobiography "Confessions of a Prairie Bitch" Katherine (aka "Scottie") McGregor was a nice lady, but also a disruptive element on the set. She would give other actors 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.
In 1979 when "Little House" was still on the air Melissa Gilbert won an Emmy for Producing a TV movie version of "The Miracle Worker". Still a teenager at the time she's one of the youngest people to win a producing award from the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences.
According to Melissa Sue Anderson in her autobiography " The Way I See It" there was tension on the set between Karen Grassle and Michael Landon. "Their's was not an equal relationship", she writes. 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.
Victor French (Isaiah Edwards) left the show for 2 years, from 1977 to 1979, to appear in the TV show "Carter Country". During this period Merlin Oleson's Jonathon Garvey was brought in to became Charles' sidekick. When French came back after the failure of " Carter Country ", Oleson was phased out of the series.
When she was offered the role of Caroline, Karen Grassle, was working under the name of 'Gabriel Tree'. Michael Landon and NBC thought this name sounded a little too unconventional and 'hippyish' for a traditional family show like LHOTP and asked her to revert back to her real name , which she did.
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 TV shows for nearly a hundred years. Its appearances include High Noon, The Virginian, The Great Race, Back to the Future Part III, Unforgiven, Petticoat Junction, Rawhide, Bonanza, Gunsmoke and many others.
In the 1990's, after the show had long been in syndication, Kevin Hagen (Doc Baker) led an ultimately unsuccessful campaign, supported by several regular cast members, to force NBC to make what they considered fairer and increased residual/royalty payments to them.
Both Kim Richards and her sister Kylie make appearances on Little House on the Prairie. Kim plays Olga, Laura's disabled friend, and Kylie plays Mr. Edwards' adoptive daughter. Coincidentally, Ike Iseman, Kim Richards's on-screen brother from Escape from Witch Mountain, also appeared in Little House.
David Rose wrote the beloved theme song. He also wrote the theme song to Bonanza (students of music will hear the similarities between the two themes), as well as the theme song to Highway to Heaven. His most famous song is the very un-Little House type song "The Stripper". " The Stripper" has become famous in every strip joint in America where it is used to this day.
Back in the 1800s one of the main evening meals was beef stew. Through out the series when the Ingalls sat down to eat, they were actually eating Dinty Moore Beef Stew. And on the nights they would have fried chicken for dinner, they were actually eating Kentucky Fried Chicken.
The Little House books, once almost universally revered, have come under fire in more recent years for their racism; particularly Pa's minstrel ditties that he plays on his fiddle, and ma's hatred and fear of Native Americans. They have even been banned in some schools. The TV series sidesteps most of the racism of the novels.
"Little House" was marketed as NBC's answer to "The Waltons". They were both supposed to be family friendly counter- programming to shock dramas like "All In The Family", "Maude", " Sanford and Son," "Starsky and Hutch, " and the like.
Victor French (aka Mr Edwards) left to star on Carter Country. After he left Michael Landon brought in Merlin Oleson to play his new sidekick, Jonathan Garvey. When French came back, after the failure of Carter Country, Mr.Edwards became Ingalls' sidekick again, and Oleson left to star in the Little House spinoff, Father Murphy.
Veteran Hollywood bit-part actor Eddie Quillan, who began his movie career in silent films in the 1920's, appeared in the show numerous times in different small cameo roles. A favourite of Michael Landon , he also appeared three times in Highway to Heaven, including the pilot episode.
The trivia items below may give away important plot points.
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.
In her autobiography "Prairie Tale," Melissa Gilbert said she confronted former co-star and onscreen 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.
The season one episode, "Doctor's Lady" and the season nine episode "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 relationship's due to the age difference.