Melissa Gilbert grew up on the set of Little House on the Prairie after being cast as Laura Ingalls in 1974 at just 10 years old. When Dean Butler joined the series in season 6 as Laura’s love interest (Almanzo Wilder), Gilbert experienced her first onscreen kiss when the two characters locked lips. Though everyone assumed this was her initial smooch in real life. Gilbert admitted she had some practice puckering up with a different cast member before her scene with Butler.
Dean Butler thought his scene with Melissa Gilbert was her first kiss
Butler reflected on the popular season 6 episode, “Sweet Sixteen”, where Almanzo and Laura officially become a couple. Little House viewers finally get to see the two lovebirds share their first kiss.
“The audience loved this episode and I think it was number one [in the Nielson TV ratings] for the week,” Butler told Daily Planet. “It ran twice in primetime that summer. Then of course there’s this famous first kiss that happens at the end of the episode. TV Land gave us an award years later for the most memorable kiss in television history.”
While Butler was 23 years old at the time, Gilbert was just on the cusp of 16. With such a young co-star, Butler assumed their lip lock was a first for Gilbert in real life and took note of her mom hovering nearby on set.
“It was a funny kiss because Melissa’s mother was offscreen nearby crying,” he remarked. “She was seeing her little girl have her first kiss ever, both onscreen and off so that was a big deal.”
Melissa Gilbert recalled her iconic ‘Little House’ scene with Dean Butler
Gilbert had no problem remembering the high-pressure scene with Butler, and revealed she was a bit nervous.
“This episode was shot several months before I turned 16 myself,” the Little House alum wrote in My Prairie Cookbook. “This is the episode where the romance between Laura and Almanzo really begins. In fact, they have their first kiss. I remember shooting that kiss and it was really a big deal. It was kind of scary, but it ended up being very sweet and tender.”
Noting their age difference, Gilbert praised Butler’s demeanor during their performance and pointed out the intensity of the scene riding on his shoulders. The former Little House star also spilled an important secret about herself.
“Bless Dean Butler’s heart,” she remarked. “He was a grown man. having to kiss a child. I can only imagine the pressure he felt. If only I’d been able to tell him that I had already kissed a boy in real life — Tim Maier.”
Tim Maier appeared in ‘Sweet Sixteen’ episode
By season 6, Laura was teaching a full classroom of students. Chad Brewster was one of Laura’s pupils that needed extra help, so he had some one-on-one time with the teacher. Apparently, Gilbert and Maier had some offscreen interaction as well.
“Nobody knew,” she wrote. “But they do now!”