|Melissa Gilbert played the role of Laura Ingalls Wilder on the NBC-TV series Little House on the Prairie from 1974-84.|
|Birthname:||Melissa Ellen Gilbert|
|Born:||May 8, 1952|
|Birthplace:||Los Angeles, CA, U.S.|
|Family/Relatives:||2 children; 3 stepchildren|
|Spouse (s):||Bo Brinkman (m. 1988–1992) |
Bruce Boxleitner (m. 1995–2011)
Timothy Busfield (m. 2013)
|Appeared as:||Laura Ingalls Wilder|
|Appeared on/in:||Little House on the Prairie|
|No. of appearances:||All 205 in series|
Melissa Ellen Gilbert (born on May 8, 1952) is an actress, writer, and producer who is best known for playing Charles Ingalls' (Michael Landon) second daughter, Laura Ingalls Wilder on Little House on the Prairie. Her half brother, Jonathan Gilbert also played on the show as Willie Oleson, the son of Nels and Harriet Oleson.
After Little House, Gilbert played Gerda in the Faerie Tale Theater adaption of The Snow Queen. She also has done voice work for the roles of Clara in the Nutcracker Fantasy and Barbara Gordon in Batman: The Animated Series.
From 2001 to 2005, Melissa Gilbert was also the president of the Screen Actors Guild.
Early life and career
Born in Los Angeles, CA to a newly engaged couple, Kathy Wood and David Darlington, Melissa was placed for adoption immediately after birth.Melissa was adopted as a new-born baby by Paul Gilbert and his wife, Barbara Crane. Her parents divorced when she was eight and her adoptive father died when she was 11.
The couple later adopted a son, Jonathan, who co-starred on Little House on the Prairie. Gilbert's adoptive parents divorced when she was 8 years old. Barbara Crane Gilbert then married Harold Abeles, and together they had biological daughter Sara Rebecca Abeles (the actress known professionally as Sara Gilbert) on January 29, 1975. On February 13, 1976 Paul Gilbert died. Although 11-year-old Melissa was told that he had suffered a sudden stroke, she found out years later that the 57-year-old had been a VA patient who dealt with constant pain and that he had taken his own life. The marriage of Barbara and Harold Abeles later ended in divorce. Per her biography, Gilbert was "lightly raised" in her adoptive mother's Jewish religion (her adoptive father was a Gentile), but did not have any formal religious education or conversion ceremony.
She made her first appearance at the age of 3 on a television commercial. A few years later she auditioned for Little House along with 500 other young actresses, and she got the role. The pilot film Little House on the Prairie: The Pilot, was shot in early 1973, airing on March 30th of that year, becoming a huge Nielsen Ratings success. Almost a year later, by early/mid 1974, she began filming the series, which NBC-TV picked up for the 1974-75 fall TV season.
The show was nominated for several Emmy and Golden Globe awards. After eight seasons, Little House was retooled by NBC in 1982 as Little House: A New Beginning, which focused on the Wilder family and the entier Walnut Grove community. Though Landon remained the show's executive producer, director and writer, A New Beginning did not feature Charles and Caroline Ingalls. A New Beginning was actually the final chapter of Little House, as the series ended in 1983. The following year, three made-for-television movies aired.
Relationship with Michael Landon
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."
Gilbert became extremely close to the Landon family after her adoptive father died. However, a rift developed between Michael Landon and Gilbert after the revelation of Landon's affair with Little House's young makeup artist, Cindy Clerico. Gilbert had limited contact with Landon after Little House ended during the 1983–84 season. Seven years later, she was contacted by Landon's family and upon news of his condition, paid him a heartfelt visit following his May 9, 1991, appearance on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson where he discussed his pancreatic cancer. She visited Landon at his Malibu, CA home where he was, by then, bedridden, and they spent the afternoon together. Landon died one week later. When Gilbert gave birth to her son with second husband Bruce Boxleitner on October 6, 1995, they named him Michael, in honor of Landon.
Career after Little House
Melissa has continued to work regularly, mainly in television. She starred as Jean Donovan in the biopic Choices of the Heart (1983), and as Anna Sheridan in three episodes of Babylon 5 with then husband Bruce Boxleitner in 1996. She also provided the voice of Batgirl on the 1990s Batman: The Animated Series, though she would be replaced by voice actress Tara Strong for the series' follow-up The New Batman Adventures.
For her contribution to the television industry, Gilbert received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6429 Hollywood Blvd in 1985. Her then-fiance, Rob Lowe, was present with her when her star was unveiled during the ceremony.
In 1998, she was inducted into the Western Performers Hall of Fame at the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. In 2006, Gilbert appeared as Shari Noble, a patient looking to reconstruct her nipples after committing zoophilia with her dog in a season four episode of Nip/Tuck.
In 2008 and through 2009, Gilbert played Caroline "Ma" Ingalls (played by Karen Grassle on the TV series) in the musical adaptation of Little House on the Prairie. This world premiere production at the Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis was directed by Francesca Zambello and also starred Kara Lindsay as Laura. The show ran through October 19 and was on a US National tour for 2009–10. The tour ended in June 2010 at Starlight Theatre in Kansas City, Missouri.
- Melissa Gilbert Interview | Archive of American Television. Emmytvlegends.org. Retrieved on 2014-05-19.
- Famous Adoptions
- Gilbert 2009m p.114
- Interfaith Family: "Interfaith Celebrities: The Talk's Hosts and David Schwimmers Bride" By Nate Bloom. October 26, 2010
- Gilbert 2009, pp.5–6
- E! Entertainment's "Celebrity Profile:Melissa Gilbert," 1999.
- Little House on the Prairie. Guthrie Theater (2008). Archived from the original on September 27, 2011. Retrieved on March 21, 2012.
- Gans, Andrew (September 20, 2009). Gilbert, Blanchard, Lindsay, Massey, Loprest Explore a Musical Prairie at Paper Mill, Opening Sept. 20. playbill.com. Archived from the original on October 3, 2009. Retrieved on March 21, 2012.