Little House on the Prairie ran from 1974 to 1983. Melissa Gilbert and Michael Landon starred in the show together. On Little House on the Prairie, Landon played Charles Ingalls and Gilbert portrayed his character’s daughter Laura Ingalls Wilder.
Off camera, Landon was a father figure to Gilbert and he played a large role in her life. While Landon greatly influenced Gilbert, she later admitted that she had no idea Landon drank “vodka from his coffee mug” while filming Little House on the Prairie.
Melissa Gilbert on being a child actor on ‘Little House on the Prairie’
Little House on the Prairie ran for nine seasons, and in its ninth season the show was renamed Little House: A New Beginning to focus on Laura’s family with Almanzo Wilder (Dean Butler).
Landon left the show as an actor after the eighth season, but he remained on the series as a writer, director, and producer. Gilbert was only 10 years old when the show first premiered in 1974 and she grew up on the set of Little House on the Prairie.
“By child-actor standards, mine was probably the best experience that you could have,” Gilbert told Today in 2009. “I had a fairly grounded home life. In fact, I was the opposite of what you would expect a child star to be.”
She continued, “I was a total dork. I was the girl in the one-piece bathing suit with cotton pajamas over it and a hat, eating a baloney sandwich with mayonnaise dripping down my hand, and I was like 15 years old at that point.”
Michael Landon drank on set while filming ‘Little House on the Prairie’
In 2009, Gilbert published a book titled Prairie Tale: A Memoir. In the memoir, Gilbert describes her life during and after she starred in Little House on the Prairie and how much Landon impacted her life.
“I’ve realized his influence on me extended beyond the set,” she wrote in her memoir according to Today. “As a kid, I didn’t know he sipped vodka from his coffee mug… but I’m sure he’s one reason why, as a young adult, I almost always picked men who smelled like alcohol.”
Part of the reason Gilbert was unaware that Landon drank while filming Little House on the Prairie is because she never actually saw him drunk.
“To his credit, I never saw him get drunk, I never saw his personality change. He didn’t have that switch. I did later on when I began drinking,” she said on Today. “I would reach a point where that switch would flip and my personality would change — but Michael was able to maintain no matter what.”
Melissa Gilbert named her son after Michael Landon
Gilbert married actor Bo Brinkman in 1988 and the two had one son named Dakota Paul Brinkman. Gilbert and Brinkman divorced in the 1990s. In 1995, Gilbert married actor and writer Bruce Boxleitner.
Landon died in 1991 from pancreatic cancer. In October 1995, Gilbert gave birth to her son Michael Garrett Boxleitner. According to ABC News, Gilbert named her son in honor of Landon, her late father figure.
“He was an amazing man, an amazing talent, an incredible director, actor, writer, a great boss, an incredible human being,” she told Today in 2009.
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