From 1974 until its end in 1983, “Little House on the Prairie,” was a dominant part of the lives of millions of television viewers, and it proved so popular that TV Guide even included the episode "I'll Be Waving As You Drive Away" at 97 on its 100 Greatest Episodes of All Time list.
A wholesome show which explored the complexity of the human heart and societal issues such as alcoholism, drug addiction, poverty and faith, LHOTP was based on four American youth novels by Laura Ingalls that were set in the Midwest during the 1870s and 1880s.
Thus, to celebrate such a brilliant series, OMG Lane has compiled some great facts about the series you probably weren't aware of.
1. Melissa Gilbert appeared in a musical adaptation of the show
One of the fan's favorite characters was the beautifully talented Laura Ingalls Wilder. Played by Mellisa Gilbert, the star continued to appear in a number of television movies and series after LHOTP and even served as president of the Screen Actor’s Guild in 2001.
Serving with the SAG for two terms, Gilbert then penned a memoir of her time on the show titled “Prairie Tale: A Memoir" and also starred in “Little House On the Prairie: The Musical.”
2. Michael Landon blew up the Walnut Grove set
Michael Landon loved the show just as much as any fan, and as well as forging great relationships with the cast and crew, Landon was known for playing pranks on them!
Many are also unaware that his daughter Leslie was cast as Etta Plum, which must have made the show an even more personal experience for the star, who was so sad to see it finish that he blew up the famed Walnut Grove set so other production companies could not use it.
3. Melissa Sue Anderson beat out a lot of hopefuls for the part of Mary Ingalls
Melissa Sue Anderson portrayed Mary Ingalls for a whopping 163 episodes from 1974 to 1981 and was one of the show's stars after joining the NBC series at just 11-years-old.
Not only did Anderson beat out 200 other actresses for the role, but for most of the episodes, she had to don a wig made from yak hair!
4. Jason Bateman started out on the show
Jason Bateman of Arrested Development fame played Charles and Laura Ingalls’s adopted son James Cooper, which provided a platform for Bateman to showcase his talents to a broader audience.
Now a bonafide movie star, Bateman has more than 40 film credits to his name, and also went behind the camera for the first time to direct a film called “Bad Words."
5. It was a surprise hit in Spain
Shortly after gaining popularity in America, La Casa de la Pradera (Little House on the Prairie) soon became one of Spain's most-watched series, so much so that in 1976, Karen Grassle (Caroline Quiner Ingalls) was the proud recipient of Spanish television's prestigious TP de Oro award for best foreign actress.
The series also won best foreign series and raised the profile of the actors who had previously seen their celebrity limited to America.
6. Michael Landon was incredibly vain!
Hollywood heartthrobs are known for being self-aware of their good looks, and Michael Landon was no different. In fact, he was obsessed with his appearance and well-toned body and would relish showing it off in the more steamy scenes.
According to some, he even went commando at times!
7. The series' hot location sometimes made shooting dangerous
The clothing the actors were required to wear consisted of stockings, petticoats, bonnets, pinafores, long skirts, and long sleeve blouses- not ideal when shooting in daytime California temperatures!
In fact, some of the cast were so hot in the filming process they even passed out which is hardly surprising when you learn that “Little House” was filmed in Simi Valley, California, where daily temperatures can exceed 90 degrees Farenheight.
8. Nellie Arngrim's wig caused her scalp to bleed
Just like Melissa Sue Anderson's character, Nellie Arngrim’s blond locks were also a wig, and in her case, caused her hair to bleed!
This was because the wig was held together by metal combs and long, sharp metal hairpins, which dug into her scalp. And with the heavy clothing and scorching sun beating down on her, we can imagine it must have been agony! That's one way of showing dedication to your craft!
9. Michael Landon was a ladies man
Okay, so maybe this isn't much of a surprise considering how handsome he was, but few know that he shot himself in the foot of a possible romance with co-star Melissa Gilbert due to his Casanova ways.
While Melissa Gilbert loved and respected Landon as a friend and colleague, the fact he got around so much was a massive turnoff to Melissa. However, considering Mellissa was under the age of 18 for most of the series, it would be pretty creepy if they got together!
10. Melissa Gilbert and Alison Arngrim would sleep over at each other's homes
Despite reports of on-set catfights, Melissa Gilbert and Alison Arngrim were best friends and became very close after being introduced to each other in a trailer!
They would even sleep over at their respective homes when filming commenced and would often team together to play pranks on their famous co-stars.
11. The show's success was built on its simplicity
Given its 1800s setting, the show's main premise was primarily built around the idea that love and friendship are paramount, and while times have no doubt changed since Ingalls penned the books, critics believed the show's depiction of simpler times was a large reason for the show’s success.
And with homely characters and the depiction of healthy, trusting communities, you can almost understand why some people would prefer to live in the same period.
12. Walnut Grove is actually a real place
Like many authors, Laura Ingall's experiences growing up lent kindly to her fiction, and she embedded many of her hometown's charms into her popular series of novels- and that included the setting of Walnut Grove.
While Ingall grew up in Minnesota and not California, her hometown was called Walnut Grove, a place she clearly took much inspiration from, as she chose the small California town with the same name as the setting for her famed novels.
13. Growing pains
When child stars spend a large portion of their growing up on a television show, growth spurts are inevitable, which means crew working on their appearance have to make sure they look identical to the age of their actual characters.
For girls, they tend to shoot up and develop at a much younger age than boys, and this was the case with Melissa Gilbert, who hit puberty earlier than expected. To keep her looking as young as her character, the team even went as far as flattening her chest!
14. A film adaptation is in the works
While no actors have been hired, Paramount Pictures have announced that they intend to go ahead with plans for a long-awaited movie adaptation, much to the delight of hardcore fans.
While there is yet to be news of any cast developments, Sean Durkin has been hired as the director, Scott Rudin as the producer, and Abi Morgan as the screenwriter.
15. Since its finalle in 1983, the show has remained in syndication
As one of America's most popular series, the show was quickly syndicated, allowing it to remain on the air in the U.S. continuously since its original run.
American viewers can often find the series on their local channels or on INSP and the Hallmark Channel. It has also aired on TV Land and TBS.