In the movie, Little House: The Last Farewell (1984), they really did blow up the town. Producer and leading star, Michael Landon didn't want the bulldozers to crush the buildings. So he wrote a story which gave the inhabitants the chance to destroy their town themselves. They did not however destroy the home that the Ingalls had lived in. That was destroyed by the fires in California in late 2003.
Alison Arngrim originally auditioned for the role of Laura Ingalls, but was not successful. She then tried out for the role of Laura's sister Mary, to the same avail. However, when auditioning for the role of "Nasty" Nellie Oleson, she was hired on the spot for playing mean so convincingly.
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.
The show was a hit in its first season. In the second season the ratings dropped and the show was in danger of cancellation. NBC decided to move the series from Wednesday to Monday nights to attract a wider audience and the ratings recovered in its third season. NBC again 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 its cancellation in 1983.
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.
Although loosely based on the real stories penned by Laura Ingalls Wilder, the show took many liberties with different characters. The biggest example of this is the characters of Albert Ingalls and Adam Kendall, neither of whom ever existed: Charles and Caroline Ingalls were the parents of four daughters, Mary, Laura, Carrie, and Grace; and Mary Ingalls remained single all her life. They also had a son, Charles Frederick, who died as a baby.
According to Alison Arngrim, it was planned for Mary Ingalls (Melissa Sue Anderson) and John Sanderson (Radames Pera) to get married, and Mary would not go blind, but Melissa Sue Anderson had no romantic interest in Radames Pera, and as a result, the story line was abandoned.
Out of the many young girls who auditioned for the role of Laura Ingalls, Michael Landon was convinced immediately that Melissa Gilbert was the perfect candidate. In fact, he was so certain that Gilbert's was the only screen test that he sent to the producers at NBC
The series was (indirectly) responsible for a major development in the television coverage of the NFL. Garett Brown, the inventor of the Steadicam, was working on an episode of LHOP and in between scenes was chatting to (former NFL player) Merlin Olsen. Olsen mentioned how limited he thought TV coverage of football was, because the static cameras couldn't give the audience any sense of what it was like to be involved or the speed and flow of the game. With this in mind, Brown went away and eventually designed what became known as Skycam, the floating hydrolic camera system that could fly around the stadium above the players with a 360 degree angle of view. It has since become an essential tool in the coverage of major sporting and live stadium events.
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.)
Mary's husband, Adam Kendall (who didn't exist in real-life) went blind from a head injury, then regained his eyesight from another head injury. He then studied law, passed the bar in the top 1%, then later practiced law in Walnut Grove.
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 Laboryteaux, who also made his Little House debut in Journey In The Spring, playing a young Charles Ingalls, in a flashback sequence.
In a 1982 episode, the stuttering character "Gideon Hale", was played by Peter Billingsley. Peter is best known for his character "Ralphie", in the movie A Christmas Story. He is also know as "Messy Marvin" in the early commercials for Hershey's Chocolate Syrup.
As the show started in 1974 Michael Landon played Charles Ingalls. A year before the show started, the TV show "Bonanza" (1959-1973) ended which Michael Landon also starred in as Little Joe Cartwright, along with Dan Blocker, up until his unexpected death in 1972. Blocker co-starred alongside Landon as his giant, but gentle brother, Big Hoss Cartwright. Had Dan Blocker not died in 1972 and been alive at the time when "Little House on the Prairie" (1974) first started airing two years later, he most likely would have been offered the part of Isaiah Edwards that eventually went to Victor French. Had Blocker been alive to have taken the part, it would have marked the second time in television history that he and Landon did a TV show together that went over a ten year period. After Little House on the Prairie ended in 1983, a year later, Michael Landon and Victor French would both go on to do the show "Highway to Heaven" (1984-1989).
In a scene from the season six episode, Crossed Lines, 'Nellie' (Alison Arngrim), is sitting at the piano and plays a slightly wobbly and off-key version of the LHOTP theme music, before being told to shut-up by her father 'Nels', (Richard Bull).
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.
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!"
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.
The most controversial "Little House" episode involved a serial rapist in a harlequin mask who stalked (and brought about the death of) Albert's girlfriend. The episode is called "Sylvia", and it came out in 1981 at the height of the Slasher genre, and this was Michael Landon's obvious concession to that trend. The episode caused fans to be outraged at the liberties Landon was taking with the original novels, and it continues to infuriate fans of the novels. It is frequently referred to as the worst Little House episode.
In the 1990's, after the show had long been in syndication, Kevin Hagen (Doc Baker) led an (unsuccessful) campaign, supported by a number of cast members, to get NBC to make fairer and increased royalty payments to them.
Veteran Hollywood bit-part actor Eddie Quillan, who began his movie career in silent films in the 1920's, appeared in the show seven times in different small cameo roles. A favourite of Michael Landon , he also appeared three times in Highway to Heaven, including the pilot episode.
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.
"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 (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.
In her autobiography "Prairie Tale" Melissa Gilbert said she confronted former Little House co-star and onscreen daughter Shannen Dougherty (Rose) at one point about how she slept with her husband Bruce Boxleitner. "Well you know I always wanted to be you", Shannen Dougherty answered. Melissa then stormed off and never spoke to Shannen again. " It was a little too Single White Female for me", she said.
In her autobiography "Prairie Tale" Melissa Gilbert said Michael Landon (and many of the Little House crew members) would abuse alcohol on the set of Little House everyday. He was always a hard worker and hard drinker, 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. In addition Landon was known to smoke 3-4 packs of unfiltered cigarettes a day.
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.
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.
Rose Wilder, Laura's onscreen daughter, played by Shannen Douherty, 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 Little House books, once almost universally revered have come under fire lately 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. Fortunately the TV series sidesteps most of the racism of the novels.
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.
The most successful member of the "Little House on the Prairie" cast is Jason Bateman. Bateman started his career on "Little House" over 35 years ago. He's gone on to star in "Arrested Development", " Identity Theif" and a variety of other hit movies and TV shows that have vaunted him into Hollywood's A-List.
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.
The original TV movie/pilot episode which aired on NBC in 1974 did not use the familiar classic David Rose theme song. It had a different theme song, but fans of the series will recognize it as a musical trope that reoccurs regularly throughout the series.