Michael Landon cast several child actors when he created Little House on the Prairie in 1974. Melissa Sue Anderson (Mary Ingalls) and Alison Arngrim (Nellie Oleson) were co-stars on the historical drama though apparently never formed a close bond. When the two ran into each other at Landon’s funeral in 1991, Arngrim got the feeling that their relationship would remain distant.
Melissa Sue Anderson wasn’t close with her ‘Little House’ co-stars
Melissa Gilbert also starred on the show as Laura Ingalls, Mary’s younger sister. Despite playing siblings on Little House, the two child actors never became BFFs. Anderson pointed out that Gilbert had more of a connection to Arngrim.
“Melissa [Gilbert] and Alison were always running around together,” Anderson told Entertainment Weekly in 2014. “I was more friendly with the crew.”
Arngrim was a bit more descriptive when commenting on her relationship with Anderson, sharing that she felt some disdain coming from her cast mate.
“[Anderson] looked at Melissa Gilbert and me like we were total juvenile delinquents,” Arngrim remarked. “I think she thought we would get her in trouble if she hung out with us, which is perfect for her character because Mary was such a little narc.”
Alison Arngrim and Melissa Sue Anderson crossed paths at funeral
Landon revealed his diagnosis of pancreatic cancer in 1991 and died shortly after sharing his health condition. Arngrim attended Landon’s funeral and recalled seeing many of her Little House co-stars.
“Almost the whole cast was in attendance,” she wrote in her memoir, Confessions of a Prairie B****. “It was good to see my old friends and colleagues, even under these circumstances. Some of us hadn’t seen each other since the show ended in 1983, and nearly went to pieces.”
Arngrim saw Anderson had arrived with her new baby and tried to reconnect by starting a conversation about her infant daughter.
“I thought, ‘She’s married and has a baby now, so she must finally be happy,’” Arngrim remembered. “I approached her cautiously and said, ‘What a beautiful baby!’ (No lie there.) ‘How old is she?’ All mothers like to talk about their babies. Give them a chance, and they’ll talk your ear off.”
The Little House alum got a quick reply in return. “‘Six months’, [Anderson] said curtly and turned away,” Arngrim recounted. “And she never said another word to me.”
‘Little House’ cast unintentionally recreated church scenes
With the majority of Little House alums present for Landon’s funeral, Arngrim noted that each co-star instinctively assembled as they used to on set.
“We filed in and wandered around uncomfortably for a minute before sitting down,” she wrote. “When we settled and looked around, we all noticed it. We had taken our seats in exactly the same positions we sat in when we did our church scenes on the show. The women sat down in the same pew as their TV husbands… and we all sat the same number of rows back from the front.”
Arngrim noted how Landon’s presence was strongly felt, sharing, “It was as if Michael had called us with his old megaphone, and we’d all gone on autopilot and gotten into formation.”