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‘Little House on the Prairie’ turns 50: Secrets from the set!

So much drama!
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Little House on the Prairie was the ultimate feel-good family show but behind the scenes there was plenty of drama.

From onscreen clashes to secret affairs and even a star with a serious drinking problem, life wasn’t always easy for Ma and Pa Ingalls and their family!

To celebrate 50 years of Little House on the Prairie, we’re catching up with the stars of the show to take a walk down memory lane and find out what really happened on Walnut Grove…


Little House on the Prairie's Michael Landon and Cindy Clerico fell in love on set.
Michael Landon’s on-set affair with Cindy Clerico rocked the cast. (Image: Getty)


Karen Grassle, who played Ma Ingalls, recalled how Michael Landon used to boast about his libido on set. She soon discovered why – he was having an affair with 18-year-old actress Cindy Clerico, who was 20 years his junior.

The relationship rocked the cast, with most of them good friends with Michael’s wife, Lynn. When Lynn discovered the affair, she followed the pair to their secret love nest and threw a bottle of vodka at Michael’s head.

Michael eventually married Cindy but his nice-guy image was ruined forever.

Little House on the Prairie's Alison and Melissa were best friends.
Melissa Gilbert and Alison Arngrim were enemies on screen but besties in real life. (Image: Getty)


Life didn’t imitate art for stars Melissa and Alison, who played enemies on the show but were besties off it!

“Here’s Melissa Gilbert and I playing mortal enemies, beating each other senseless all week,” says Alison Arngrim, who played schoolyard bully Nellie Oleson to Melissa’s Laura Ingalls Wilder.

“And then on the weekends, we’d go to each other’s houses for a slumber party.”

The women also bonded over not liking Melissa Sue Anderson.

“You have three teenage girls at the worst of the pre-teen years, and you’re thrown into this thing and you’re in competition, we’re child stars… I’m amazed we didn’t kill each other,” says Alison of their long-running feud.

Little House on the Prairie's Ma and Pa Ingalls hated each other.
Michael and Karen had a tense relationship. (Image: Getty)


Tensions ran high between Michael and Karen, aka Pa and Ma Ingalls. Karen had a drinking problem, which wasn’t helped by the bar on set. She later admitted to and became sober, with her father sadly dying of alcoholism.

They also clashed over pay and Michael refused Karen’s request for a raise, saying her earnings should be in line with the child actors.

“I felt insulted as his co-star on a hit series… I expected a fair wage,” said Karen, who began to be left out of scenes and storylines.

He also mocked her, especially in their bedroom scenes. “As a woman in the 1970s film industry,

I was so accustomed to these putdowns.”

Katherine MacGregor told people what she thought.
Katherine MacGregor wasn’t afraid to critique people’s acting on set – some of the cast loved it and some hated it! (Image:Getty)


Katherine MacGregor, who played Harriet Oleson, let it be known that she had studied acting in New York with famous acting coach Sanford Meisner – and imparted her wisdom to everyone!

“Most actors do not do this, certainly not unrequested,” Alison Arngrim, who played Nellie Oleson, says.

“I’ve never seen anybody do it to this extent, not before or since. She was quite insistent and would tell people they were ‘doing it wrong’.”

Michael liked Clairol nice'n easy.
Michael was a fan of a home-dye job! (Image: Getty)


He was the show’s designated heartthrob, but the late Michael Landon’s silky mane had already gone grey by the time he was in his 20s.

His saviour? Home dye job Clairol Medium Ash Brown.

Everything was smooth sailing until the scorching California sun began to give his bottle-brown mane a purple glow and they had to call in the professionals to fix it!

Ma's homecooked meals were finger-licking good!
Dinner on set was always finger-licking good! (Image:Getty)


Food was a huge deal for the Little House On The Prairie stars.

On screen, Ma Ingalls’ dinners came from their own flock but in reality it arrived in a bucket from KFC!

Melissa Gilbert (aka Laura) says it turned her into a chicken fanatic and it’s her favourite dish to cook. “All my friends ask for the recipe!”

Little House on the Prairie's Alison Arngrim, Leslie Landon, Karen Grassle, Wendi Lou Lee, Melissa Sue Anderson and Matthew Labyorteaux reunited at the 63rd Monte Carlo TV Festival.
Little House’s Alison Arngrim, Leslie Landon, Karen Grassle, Wendi Lou Lee, Melissa Sue Anderson and Matthew Labyorteaux reunited at the 63rd Monte Carlo TV Festival. (Image: Getty)


Alison Arngrim, Leslie Landon, Karen Grassle, Wendi Lou Lee, Melissa Sue Anderson and Matthew Labyorteaux reunited at the 63rd Monte Carlo TV Festival last month to celebrate the 50 year anniversary of the show!

Some of the cast hadn’t seen each other since the show ended in 1983.

The cast shared which keepsakes they took from the set, with Karen revealing her hairdresser gave her Caroline’s hair!

Matthew, who played the Ingalls’ adopted son Albert, said Michael gave him a chunk of wood from the final episode when the town was blown up.

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