No one had ever thought that toppling down a grassy hillside would be so much fun until Carrie, Laura, and Mary Ingalls rolled down the prairie in the opening credits of NBC's popular TV show, Little House on the Prairie.
Released after an unanticipated success of the TV movie of the same name, Little House on the Prairie premiered on September 11, 1974. The show was an instant hit and millions of families tuned in to NBC every week to watch the Ingalls.
The stories of the Ingalls still are resonant today. Their themes of enjoying simple, home-made pleasures and respecting the natural world, while cultivating community bonds continues to create an impact. Loosely based on the autobiographical children's novel by Laura Ingalls Wilder, Little House on the Prairie ran for nine seasons until it was canceled on May 10, 1982.
This year marks the 45th anniversary of the show, and in honor of the show, today we take a look at what the cast of the beloved family drama is doing now.
Mary Ingalls (Melissa Sue Anderson)
Eldest of the Ingalls siblings, shy Mary Ingalls was played by beautiful Melissa Sue Anderson. Melissa was just 11 when she landed the role of Mary on the show.
In 1978, she received her first Emmy nomination for Best Leading Actress in a Drama Series for her portrayal of Mary. Before Little House, she had made some appearances on shows like Bewitched, The Brady Bunch and Shaft.
Melissa left the show after eight seasons, and guest starred in numerous TV shows, including Finder of Lost Loves, Murder, She Wrote, Glitter, and The Equalizer. She also appeared in movies like Happy Birthday to Me, First Affair, Chattanooga Choo Choo, and Dead Men Don't Die.
She published her autobiography titled, The Way I See It: A Look Back at My Life on Little House, which chronicled her life during the filming of Little House on the Prairie. The 56-year-old currently resides in Montreal, Quebec with her husband Michael Sloan and two kids, Piper and Griffin. Melissa last appeared in the 2018 movie, The Con Is On, which starred Uma Thurman and Tim Roth.
Laura Ingalls “Half-Pint” (Melissa Gilbert)
Melissa Gilbert grew up portraying the role of spunky Laura Ingalls in Little House on the Prairie. Thanks to Melissa, the tomboy-like character of Laura who loved to go fishing with her Pa and wrestle with Nellie Oleson will always stay in our hearts.
Not only that, Melissa even got a Golden Globe nomination for Best Actress in a Television Series Drama in 1981. Following Little House, Melissa continued appearing in TV movies, and guest starred in numerous shows like Family Secrets, Little House: Bless All the Dear Children, Penalty Phase, and Killer Instinct.
From 2001 to 2005, she served as the President of the Screen Actors Guild. In 2009, she also published an autobiography, Prairie Tale: A Memoir, where she opened up about her substance uses and famous boyfriends, including Rob Lowe and Tom Cruise.
In 2012, she competed in the fourteenth season of Dancing with the Stars and finished in fifth place. Although acting has always been her first love, she tried pursuing a career in politics and ran for U.S. Congress as a Democrat in Michigan's 8th congressional district in 2016. She won the Democratic primary but later dropped out citing health problems.
The 55 years old actress currently resides in New York City with her husband, Timothy Busfield.
Carrie Ingalls (Lindsay and Sidney Greenbush)
The third and youngest child of the Ingalls family at the beginning of the show, Carrie Ingalls was brought to life by Greenbush twin sisters, Lindsay and Sidney. The Greenbush sisters shared the role from 1974 until 1982.
Between them, Lindsay played the role of Carrie more than her sister. In the show, they can be distinguished by the space between Sidney’s upper front teeth. After the show ended, they appeared in numerous commercials. In 1983, Sidney appeared in the film, Hambone and Hillie, and Lindsay had a guest appearance in one of the episodes of Matt Houston. After that, they took leave from acting and focused on schooling. They graduated from Santa Monica High School in 1988.
In 2014, Lindsay got married to Daniel Sanchez, and they have the most romantic love story. During the filming of Little House, Lindsay used to play with a boy named Danny who lived near the filming area. When the show ended, the two lost touch with each other, but thirty years later they were reintroduced, fell in love and got married under the very same tree they used to play around on the set.
Her sister, Sidney was married to ranch owner and horse breeder, William “Rocky” Foster. They were married for nine years until Rocky died of suicide at the age of 55 in 2009. Nowadays, the sisters often visit the Big Sky Ranch and meet with fans.
Caroline Ingalls “Ma” (Karen Grassle)
“My home is where you are. And you and the children are my family,” Ma said in one of the episodes of the show, and it is still regarded as one of the best lines in the history of the small screen.
The matriarch of the Ingalls family and a good neighbor to many Walnut Groveians, Caroline “Ma” Ingalls was played by the talented Broadway actress, Karen Grassle in 182 episodes of Little House on the Prairie.
After the show ended, she guest starred in many TV shows and TV movies like Cocaine: One Man's Seduction, Hotel, and reprised her role of Caroline in Little House: The Last Farewell. She also guest-starred in Murder, She Wrote in 1987 and 1988.
She continued working in theater after Little House and co-founded Resource Theatre Company in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Her last acting credit was in a 2018 horror movie, Lasso. The 77 years old actress currently resides in California, where she is actively involved in Broadway shows.
Charles Ingalls “Pa” (Michael Landon)
Loving and ruggedly handsome family patriarch Charles “Pa” Ingalls was portrayed by Michael Landon in 161 episodes of the show. Apart from acting, Landon was also one of the directors of the show.
Before bringing Pa to life, Landon had spent 10 years on the set of Bonanza, where he appeared as Little Joe in 14 seasons of the show. Following Little House, he created a new show, Highway to Heaven, where he served as executive producer and starred as Jonathan Smith.
In 1984, he wrote a semi-autobiographical film, Sam’s Son, which was loosely based on his early life. Landon passed away at the age of 55 due to lung cancer, on July 1, 1991.