Little House on the Prairie

NBC Television / Handout / Hulton Archives via Getty Images
NBC Television / Handout / Hulton Archives via Getty Images

When the Bonanza left the airwaves after 14 successful years, Michael "Little Joe" Landon went looking for a new project. NBC execs approached him with the idea of producing a made-for-TV film based on the popular Laura Ingalls Wilder book series Little House on the Prairie. The movie had been a huge ratings hit, and since it had a sort-of cliffhanger ending, the network was deluged with viewer inquiries  asking "What happened next to the Ingalls family?" Thus a series was born. And while the premise of the show was definitely Waltons-level wholesomeness, our mission this week is to go behind the scenes and dish the less-than-vanilla Prairie dirt.

1. Little Hair on the Prairie

The secrets of hair start with Michael Landon, who had gone prematurely grey when he was 20-something during his Bonanza days. If you're wondering how he got that wonderful color, look no further than Clairol Medium Ash Brown- the key to his crowning glory. As for the trademark blonde curls that Alison Arngrim sported as mean girl Nellie Oleson, those were actually part of a wig that was fastened to her scalp so tightly that it often caused it to bleed. Melissa Gilbert also had fake hair to deal with, and was forced to wear girlish braids well after adolescence had added its telltale signs to her body. In fact, she was also forced to bind her chest until the plot line allowed her to "grow up" and become Walnut Grove's premier school teacher.

2. A Very Sick Set

In 1991, Michael Landon was hospitalized for what he thought might be an ulcer. Sadly, medical tests revealed cancerous tumors in both his liver and pancreas. Landon had been a heavy drinker and smoker throughout his life, so although the diagnosis was shocking, it wasn't totally unexpected. However, several years after Little House had stopped filming, many crew members were also diagnosed with rare forms of cancer. LHoTP had been filmed on the Paramount movie ranch near Chatsworth, California. Recent studies have turned up previously suppressed reports that the entire Simi Valley area was exposed to what has been labeled the "worst environmental release of radioactivity ever in the United States" courtesy of an experimental sodium cooled nuclear reactor operated at the time by the Rocketdyne Corporation. Actor Patrick Swayze, who grew up in the Simi Valley area, currently suffers from pancreatic cancer, and Motley Crue singer Vince Neil, who lived in Chatsworth for many years, lost his four-year-old daughter to a rare form of stomach cancer.

3. The Baby Battering Ram

An iconic episode of LHoTP featured the Blind School being engulfed in flames, and Mary's infant son Adam, Jr. trapped in the blaze. As she and her husband waited anxiously outside, TV viewers were treated to a scene that unfortunately, due to the camera angle, looked as though Alice Garvey (who had rescued the baby from his crib) used the infant's head to break the glass. Mrs. Garvey actually had the babe cradled in her arms when she attempted to break the window with her elbow. In any case, let the record show that in real life Mary Ingalls never married and never had children. Actress Hersha Parady, who played Alice Garvey, wanted out of her contract so that she could concentrate on raising her own family. The writers killed her character off in a very dramatic story line that not only "punished" her for leaving (i.e. her character couldn't suddenly reappear years later), but one that also provided for a ratings bonanza.

4. The Blessings of Nepotism

Anyone paying attention to Little House's credits certainly noticed the occasional "family affair" when it came to casting. Some of the branches of the family trees can get a bit convoluted, so pay close attention"¦ Melissa Gilbert played Laura Ingalls. Jonathan Gilbert played Willie Oleson. Both Melissa and Jonathan were adopted as infants by Barbara and Paul Gilbert. (By the way, when Barbara remarried, she and her new husband had a daughter named Sara. Six-year-old Sara saw Melissa get a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and decided there and then that she wanted to be an actress, and she adopted her half-sister's last name with hopes of becoming an actress. Sara Gilbert later landed the role of Darlene on Roseanne.)

Interestingly enough, Matthew and Patrick Laborteaux (who played Albert Ingalls and Andrew Garvey) had also been adopted as infants, this time by the Labyorteaux family.

Also, Michael Landon eventually cast one of his daughters, Leslie, in the role of school teacher Etta Plum. Despite having this "foot up" in the acting industry, Leslie chose to instead pursue her education and eventually obtained a PhD in psychology. She currently specializes in grief counseling for children.

5. Kicking Off Those Goody Two-Shoes

Sometimes actors cast in relentlessly wholesome roles feel the need to stretch their acting wings and show the world that they're not really all that goody-goody. Karen Grassle ("Ma" Ingalls) admitted in some late-1970s interviews that she often grew weary of wrapping her hair into a bun and being subservient to Charles. One of her methods of rebellion was to co-write and star in a made-for-TV movie called Battered. The film garnered critical raves for its gritty and sensitive portrayal of spousal abuse in various settings: a blue-collar couple, an upper-middle class lawyer and his wife, and a sixty-something married pair.

Melissa Sue Anderson also felt restless once her character (Mary Ingalls) had gone blind, and the very few story lines afforded to her afterward required her to be ever-so-saintly and patient and kind. In 1979 she decided to shed her "good girl" image by staring in a made-for-TVer called The Survival of Dana, in which she played Dana, a small-town girl transplanted to a high school in the Big City, where she fell in with the wrong crowd and became a sort-of suburban gang-banger. The film employed every Hollywood stereotype of a rebellious teen and was unintentionally hilarious as a result.

>>Here is an opportunity for all you closet Little House viewers to post your questions/comments/complaints. Like, for example, how did that weird guy who molested Sylvia manage to buy a "party mask" at the Mercantile without questions being asked ("I'd like a bag of chicken feed, a dozen eggs, and one clown mask, please.")? Why did Charles Ingalls feel obligated to adopt any orphan that showed up in Walnut Grove instead of spending that money on speech therapy for Carrie? Now is the time to vent!

7 Massage Guns That Are on Sale Right Now


Outdoor exercise is a big focus leading into summer, but as you begin to really tone and strengthen your muscles, you might notice some tough knots and soreness that you just can’t kick. Enter the post-workout massage gun—these bad boys are like having a deep-tissue masseuse by your side whenever you want. If you're looking to pick one up for yourself, check out these brands while they’re on sale.

1. Actigun 2.0: Percussion Massager (Black); $128 (57 percent off)

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Don't assume you need a professional masseur to provide relief—this massage gun offers 20 variable speeds and can adjust the output power on its own according to pressure. Can your human massage therapist do that?

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2. JAWKU Muscle Blaster V2 Cordless Percussion Massage Gun; $260 (13 percent off)

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This cordless, five-speed massager uses a design that's aimed to increase blood flow, release stored lactic acid, and relieve sore muscles through various vibrations.

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3. DEEP4s: Percussive Therapy Massage Gun for Athletes; $230 (23 percent off)

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Instant relief is an option with this massage tool, featuring five different attachments made to tackle any muscle group. You can squeeze in eight hours of massage time before you have to charge it again.

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4. Handheld Massage Gun for Deep Tissue Percussion; $75 (15 percent off)

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With five replaceable heads and six speed settings, this massage gun can easily adapt to the location and intensity of your soreness. And since it lasts up to three hours per charge, you won't have to worry about constantly plugging it in.

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5. The Backmate Power Massager; $120 (19 percent off)

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Speed is the name of the game here. The Backmate Power Massager is designed for fast, effective relief through its ergonomic design. Fast doesn’t need to mean short, either. After the instant relief, you can stimulate and distract your nervous system for lasting pain relief.

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6. ZTECH Percussion Massage Gun (Red); $80 (46 percent off)

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This massage gun looks a lot like a power drill, and, similarly, you can adjust its design for the perfect fit with six interchangeable heads that target different muscle areas.

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7. Aduro Sport Elite Recovery Massage Gun (Maroon); $80 (60 percent off)

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Tackle large muscle groups, the neck, Achilles tendon, joints, and small muscle areas with this single massage gun. Four massage heads and six intensity levels allow this tool to provide a highly customizable experience.

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The Writers of Avengers: Endgame Explain Why Captain America Wasn't Able to Lift Thor's Hammer

Chris Evans as Captain America.
Chris Evans as Captain America.
Marvel Studios

One of the best moments of Avengers: Endgame came when Captain America, played by Chris Evans, was worthy enough to lift Thor's hammer during the final fight with Thanos. Steve Rogers/Captain America's journey in the Marvel Cinematic Universe has been one of the most interesting to watch, and seeing him lift Thor's hammer was a stunning conclusion to his arc. However, the moment left some fans wondering why Steve wasn't able to wield the weapon in prior battles. recently hosted a quarantine watch party of Avengers: Endgame, where the film's writers, Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely, were asked why Steve didn't lift the hammer during the Avengers Tower party scene in Avengers: Age of Ultron. According to Markus, it had to do with Cap's best friend Bucky, a.k.a. the Winter Soldier. Markus said Cap couldn't lift the hammer because he knew the Winter Soldier had killed Tony Stark's parents. However, this information doesn't come to light until Captain America: Civil War, so Steve might have been burdened with the secret, making him unworthy to lift the hammer.

There have been other opinions on why Steve didn't life the hammer until Endgame. As reported, Marvel Studios executive Louis D'Esposito has his own view on the matter.

"If you remember from Ultron, they were all sitting around in the Avengers complex in Manhattan, and there's a party, and they're all a bit inebriated, and they're loose, and they're having fun, and they're all trying to pick up the hammer," D'Esposito said. "It's Captain America's turn to try, and you look over to Thor's face, and he says, 'I think he might be able to do it,' but Cap doesn't pick it up. But Cap could've always picked it up. He didn't want to at that point because it would've not been right."

No matter the reasoning, watching Cap lift Thor's hammer was incredibly satisfying. Rewatch Avengers: Endgame, along with tons of other fun titles, with a subscription to Disney+ here.


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