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Little House on the Prairie (TV Series 1974–1983) Poster

Trivia

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The show transitioned from Paramount to MGM studios in the late 1970s. As they were tearing up the old MGM sets so they could build new Paramount/Little House sets over them, they uncovered the Yellow Brick Road from the Wizard of Oz. Melissa Gilbert and the other kids on the set went nuts.
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Karen Grassle (Ma/Caroline Ingalls) has talked in interviews about Michael Landon's decision to blow up the Walnut Grove set as a spiteful show of protest against NBC; who decided to cancel the show. She has said Landon's blowing up the set was very "sad"; and she "wishes he hadn't done that."
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Michael Landon wore four-inch lifts in the series.
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According to Karen Grassle, Michael Landon considered his television son Matthew Laborteaux as his actual son.
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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.
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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.
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The real-life Laura Ingalls Wilder was born on February 7, 1867, and died on February 10, 1957.
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Laura Ingalls (Melissa Gilbert) and Willie Olsen (Jonathan Gilbert) are adopted brother and sister in real life. Just as Laura and Willie were enemies onscreen, Melissa and Jonathan reportedly had a problematic relationship offscreen as well. In her autobiography "Confessions of a Prairie Bitch", Allison Arngrin recounts a story when she was eating dinner at the Gilbert house; and Melissa said to her, "I hate my brother, do you want to keep him?" She said this within earshot of Jonathan, on purpose. Not surprisingly then, a few years after the show wrapped, when Melissa's brother turned 18, he reportedly moved away and lost contact with Melissa. Melissa now admits they are now estranged; and she hasn't talked to him in years.
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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.
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According to Allison Arngrim(Nellie)'s autobiography "Confessions of a Prairie Bitch", Katherine 'Scottie' McGregor (Harriet Oleson) was a nice lady, but also a disruptive element on the set. She would always give other actors and actresses direction. Even onscreen husband Richard Bull (Nells Oleson), who had to put his foot down when this happened. She would also 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, so he tolerated it, and McGregor stayed on as the villain for the run of the show.
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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.
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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, as well as to notoriously step out on all his wives.
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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.
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Despite the Christian religious themes in the series Michael Landon was actually raised Jewish. He never practiced any religion as an adult.
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Melissa Gilbert appeared in 191 of the series' 205 episodes, more than anyone else. Michael Landon appeared in 177 episodes.
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Alison Arngrim and Melissa Gilbert were good friends in real life. They used to play territory wars on the set.
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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. However; although Mary had no career, Carrie did. The real life Carrie Ingalls would become a successful real estate agent much later in life.
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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.
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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.
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Linwood Boomer (Mary's husband Adam Kendall) was a script writer with several credits to his name. He is most famous for creating Malcolm in the Middle (2000). Allison Arngrin called him "impossibly handsome" in a recent interview. Boomer was brought in as Mary's boyfriend #2; after boyfriend #1; Redames Pera, struck out with Melissa Sue Anderson. Reportedly (according to Allison Arngrin's account in "Prairie Bitch") Anderson complained to Michael Landon that she didn't enjoy being Redames' girlfriend; and in particular kissing him; at which point Redames was fired and Linwood Boomer was brought in as Mary's new beau.
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Michael Landon (rather obviously) did not know how to play a fiddle.
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Melissa Gilbert said of her on- and off-screen chemistry with Landon, "He was very much like a 'second father' to me. My own father passed away when I was 11, so, without really officially announcing it, Michael really stepped in." When not working on the Little House set, Gilbert spent most of the weekends visiting Landon's real-life family. She once said, "The house was huge. We ran like banshees through that house, and Mike would hide behind doorways and jump out and scare us." In a 2015 interview, Gilbert said of Landon, "He gave me so much advice...the overall idea that he pounded into me, from a little girl, into my brain was that nothing's more important than 'Home & Family'; no success, no career, no achievements, no accomplishments, nothing's more important than loving the people you love and contributing to a community. Though we were working, really, really hard, we were 'Not Saving The World', one episode of television at a time, we're just entertaining people and there are more important things to do.... and have fun; no matter what."
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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.
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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.
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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)
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When she was offered the role of 'Caroline Ingalls,' Karen Grassle was working under the professional stage 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.
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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).
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The "Olsen's" were a composite of two separate families encountered by the real Ingalls family (and "Nelly" on three separate girls.) The characterisation of "Nels Olsen" as likeable and sympathetic was a fiction, created for the TV series.
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The characters of Mary and Albert had their own theme music, which often played during their scenes. Bandit, the Ingalls' bordie collie, also had his own theme music, as well as Mr Edwards' "Dan Tucker" theme that played during some of his scenes.
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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.
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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.
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The character Nellie Oleson was ranked number three in TV Guide's list of "TV's 10 Biggest Brats" (March 27, 2005 issue).
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Just as Charles always called Laura "Half-Pint" on the show, Michael Landon always called Melissa Gilbert "Half-Pint" behind the scenes during the production also. This was to avoid confusion with the other Melissa, Melissa Sue Anderson. (She was called "Missy" to avoid confusion as well; no one was called Melissa.) Ironically, another Melissa would show up by the end of the show's run; Melissa Francis; she played Caroline and Charles' adoptive daughter Cassandra (and onscreen sister to Jason Bateman).
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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.
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Mrs. Oleson was the only woman who wore a corset; as high society ladies (but not farmer's wives) often did back then. Nellie called her mother "mother"; while Laura (and everyone else in town including Willie) called their's "ma."
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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.
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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.
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Matthew Labyorteaux (Albert Ingalls) is the younger, adopted brother of Patrick Labyorteaux, who played Andrew Garvey on this show.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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Rose Wilder was Laura Ingalls Wilder's real-life daughter. She is featured on this show as well. It is believed now that she was actually the ghost writer for the Little House series; since she was the established writer in the Family, and her mother was the one that had the fascinating "Pioneer Girl" history.
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Alison Arngrim wanted to date Radames Pera when he appeared in the series, but he felt she was too young for him. Which is ironic since she's only two years younger than him! Ironically while Arngrin might have been overly affectionate with Pera; his onscreen love interest Melissa Sue Anderson was cold and distant; Pera would complain about that later in interviews. Pera also has said Anderson refused to do an onscreen kissing scene with him. As of result of all this the planned story arc where Mary was to marry Pera was scuttled; and instead Landon decided to have Mary go blind; as she did in real life.
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In the series it is Laura's great ambition to become a teacher. However, in her autobiography, Laura Ingalls Wilder made it clear she became a teacher largely because of pressure from her parents as the family were continuously struggling, financially, and which was exascerbated with having to care for Mary after her blindness and that she never really enjoyed her teaching career as her real ambition was always to be a professional writer.
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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.
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In real life, Charles Ingalls did not resemble Michael Landon's depiction. He was closer in appearance, build, and temperament to Mr. Edwards played by Victor French. Charles also shared Mr. Edwards' wanderlust and found it hard to settle down.
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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 Highway to Heaven (1984), which he owned. NBC didn't use his new episodes during the fall of 1988, though.)
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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.
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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.
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The theme music was penned by David Rose, who wrote many themes. However, he is best known for the 1962 Burlesque classic, The Stripper.
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The first dog the Ingalls owned was Jack. After he died, they adopted a stray black and white dog named Bandit.
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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.
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There were three or four sets of siblings on the set everyday.
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The real Charles Ingalls wore a beard . According to Michael Landon, he couldn't grow a beard, and didn't want to wear a fake one for each episode, so he decided to do the character clean shaven.
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Several of the the regular cast from Little House on the Prairie also appeared on The Love Boat, except for Michael Landon and Lindsay and Sidney Greenbush , including Karen Grassle, Allison Arngrim, Melissa Gilbert, Melissa Sue Anderson and Matthew Laboretuex.
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In addition to all her semi-autobiographical books about herself, Laura Ingalls wrote a book about her husband, Almonzo Wilder, called "Farmer Boy."
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Katherine "Scottie" McGregor who played Mrs. Oleson, the show's villain, was not in the series finale. The actress had battled alcoholism for the duration of the series; and as a coping mechanism she became a Hindu; which reportedly worked. But one of the tenets of her faith was making a trip to India; and she chose that rather than be in the final chapter of Little House. Series regulars Melissa Sue Anderson, Allison Arngrin and Merlin Oleson did not return either; but Michael Landon and Karen Grassle did; and Charles was in charge in the episode as he had been for most of the series.
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Father Murphy (1981) was not technically a spin-off of this show. Although it was executively Produced by Michael Landon, and starred many of this show's regulars, Merlin Olsen, Shannen Doherty, and Carl Dixon; there were no cross over characters or stories. These actors all played different characters than the ones they played on Little House. But it was usually shown on NBC in a block with Little House; and most viewers considered the two shows connected since there were so many common production people and actors involved. The media dubbed this show "Little House's Little Sister."
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Whereas Karen Grassle (and other cast members) thought it was "unfortunate" that Michael Landon decided to blow up the town at the ending; Michael Landon himself was proud of that decision. Landon remarked about this to the The New York Times in 1984: "I think it makes for a good strong pioneer ending. It was also a nice catharsis for the cast and crew. There were lots of tears when we finally blew up the town. The actors had all become very attached to their own buildings, so it was very emotional."
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Michael Landon was given a chance to wrap up the series with three television movies. Oddly enough, because of a scheduling fluke, the second film (a Christmas story; Bless All the Dear Children) ended up airing a year after it was originally intended to run, in December 1984. So the third film, Little House: The Last Farewell - which worked as a series finale, wasn't actually the last to air.
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Albert's last name is Quinn before the Ingalls adopt him.
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In the 1990s, after the show had long been in very successful international syndication, Kevin Hagen (Doc Baker) led a campaign, supported by several other regular cast members, to persuade NBC to siginicantly increase their residual and repeat-fees. However, NBC refused to do so.
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According to Melissa Gilbert on a recent Zoom cast reunion two people fainted on set during the whole history of Little House: Allison Arngrin, and Sean Penn. (Sean Penn was an uncredited extra in a couple episodes.)
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CASTLE THUNDER: Heard every time it storms.
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Little House on the Prairie: Doctor's Lady (1975) and Little House on the Prairie: Love (1982) 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.
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From the very beginning, Karen Grassle had a remarkable chemistry with Michael Landon, until the 2nd season, when Grassle tried to negotiate a pay raise with Landon, and the network, but Landon did his best to get her to stand down. In the midst of contract negotiations, that Grassle had been victorious about, her character had limited screen time and Landon became sulky around her. He was crude with her, after denying it. She also got a raise, right at the same time, she stopped drinking. In spite of all that, they were both reconnected together, after cancelation, and before Landon's death in 1991.
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Charles and Isaiah's nickname for Laura was "Half-pint".
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In the same situation as Michael Landon, Karen Grassle had an alcoholic problem, off-the set, however, she stopped drinking, around the 4th season, after two incidents that helped her realize she had a problem.
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As the show's popularity grew and it became a household view in Iceland, it gradually earned the sardonic nickname "Crying in the crops field", due to its (perceived) excessive display of teary emotions.
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The two closest towns to Walnut Grove were Sleepy Eye and Mankato. These are all real towns in Minnesota.
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Robert Loggia, Tim Maier and Vera Miles were all on Little House on the Prairie; and they were all in Psycho 2 as well.
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Off- the set, Michael Landon had a seizure, due to his excessive drinking of vodka, which, in years, had led him to the pancreatic cancer that succumbed to his own life. He apparently hid it well, so that other cast members had no idea how much he was drinking, both on- and off- the set.
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Michael Landon had stole the elements that worked for Bonanza (1959) and transferred them to the show. He was determined to produce a show audiences would love, so he applied the winning formula he saw on Bonanza and tried to replicate it, suggested Melissa Francis. In her book, Lessons from the Prairie, she said one of the formulas Landon used was creating scenes with "a bunch of dudes" with guns and horses "surrounded by pretty women."
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Robert Conrad had hired Michael Landon to direct some episodes of Black Sheep Squadron (1976), but was too busy working on this show, at the same network that "Black Sheep Squadron" was on, which was NBC.
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Spoilers 

The trivia items below may give away important plot points.

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.
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Matthew Laboryteaux has said in interviews his favorite episode was the one where he (accidentally) kills Mrs. Garvey.
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The real Mary Ingalls never got married.
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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.
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