Little House on the Prairie has been part of many households over the years. Fan-favorite characters include Charles Ingalls (played by Michael Landon), Laura Ingalls (played by Melissa Gilbert), and Nellie Oleson (played by Alison Arngrim). Another character fans enjoyed watching was Harriet Oleson (played by Katherine MacGregor).
One thing you likely noticed was that MacGregor wasn’t in the final installment of Little House on the Prairie. Some reports said she was on a trip, but one cast member says that isn’t the real reason why MacGregor was missing.
Katherine MacGregor as Harriet Oleson on ‘Little House on the Prairie’
Katherine MacGregor breathed life into the character Harriet Oleson. She starred on Little House on the Prairie from 1974 to 1983. Harriet was the snobby business owner at Walnut Grove and the mother of Nellie Oleson, the town bully (Nellie also had a brother named Willie).
One of MacGregor’s early television roles was in a 1951 episode of Love of Life. Some of her other acting roles include appearances in East Side/West, The Student Nurses, The Traveling Executioner, and Emergency! Her final appearance was in the 2014 production The Lottery.
Why Katherine MacGregor didn’t appear in the final ‘Little House on the Prairie’ special
Michael Landon decided to create a TV special titled Little House: The Last Farewell. In her book, Bright Lights, Prairie Dust, Karen Grassle (she played Caroline Ingalls) says Landon wanted to gather all the cast members so they could put together a final show. However, MacGregor told her she wouldn’t be there. Grassle says she decided not to return for the special because she had a personal conflict with Landon.
MacGregor didn’t feel appreciated by Landon, according to Grassle. Over the years, she became bitter about how she was treated. “[Katherine MacGregor] refused to appear,” wrote Grassle. “Her bitterness over Mike’s lack of appreciation had bled so deeply into her spirit that she couldn’t bear to be there.”
The media reported MacGregor didn’t appear in the finale because she was on a pilgrimage in India. However, Grassle knew the primary reason was MacGregor and Landon didn’t get along. Another source of conflict between the actors was MacGregor’s tendency to change the script, according to Alison Arngrim in her book Confessions of a Prairie B*tch.
Katherine MacGregor retired after ‘Little House on the Prairie’
After Little House on the Prairie ended, MacGregor decided to retire from acting. Charlotte Stewart, who played schoolteacher Mrs. Beadle, developed a close friendship with MacGregor. Stewart says MacGregor retired because she was drained from the rigors of acting on a show like Little House on the Prairie. The role was emotionally and physically demanding, according to Stewart. MacGregor felt she needed rest from the demands of the entertainment industry.
“She loved playing Mrs. Oleson and threw everything she had at the part, physically and emotionally,” wrote Stewart in her book Little House in the Hollywood Hills: A Bad Girl’s Guide to Becoming Miss Beadle, Mary X, and Me. “Once the show was over, she says she just felt wrung out. She didn’t do any more television or film; instead she got involved with a children’s theater company in Hollywood.”