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Michael Landon and Melissa Sue Anderson on 'Little House on the Prairie,' 1977
Michael Landon and Melissa Sue Anderson on ‘Little House on the Prairie,’ 1977 | Ted Shepherd/NBCU Photo Bank/NBCUniversal via Getty Images via Getty Images

In every cast on every television series, there is bound to be some chafing among actors.

From the beginning of their relationship on Little House on the Prairie, however, one cast member claims that fellow actor Melissa Sue Anderson was anything but amiable.

The Mary Ingalls actor in fact, according to this cast mate, had a “coldness” to her that was almost impossible to pierce.

Melissa Gilbert warned this cast member about Melissa Sue Anderson

Alison Arngrim played Nellie Oleson for years on Little House. Almost immediately after starting work on the show, Arngrim stated in her memoir Confessions of a Prairie B*tch, she met 9-year-old Melissa Gilbert who told her there was someone in the cast she would have to watch out for.

“[Gilbert] marched right in and introduced herself and began explaining things to us: who was who, who did what, how everything worked,” Arngrim said.

“Then came her stern warning, delivered with the intensity of Edward G. Robinson, in the vocal range of Shirley Temple: ‘And whatever you do, you watch out for that Melissa Sue Anderson. She’s very dangerous. She’s evil, and I hate her.’”

Gilbert, who portrayed Laura Ingalls for the series’ full nine seasons, didn’t mince words when speaking about Anderson with host Andy Cohen in 2014 on Watch What Happens Live.

“[Melissa Sue Anderson was] “hateful, horrid, mean, terrible, mean, difficult,” Gilbert said. “She hated me. She knocked me off the wagon when I was 9.”

Arngrim felt Anderson’s relationship with her mother caused her aloofness

Alison Arngrim as Nellie Oleson
Alison Arngrim as Nellie Oleson | NBCU Photo Bank/NBCUniversal via Getty Images via Getty Images

Arngrim in her book mused on Anderson’s mysterious behavior and lack of warmth, and wondered if the actor’s mother, Marion, might have contributed to her personality.

According to Arngrim, Marion would not leave her daughter’s side while they were on the set. While the other younger actors were together, running around, and getting to know one another, Melissa Sue stayed with her mother.

“I don’t know what Mrs. Anderson was like at home, but what we saw was a woman acting the part of the classic stage mother,” she said. “She followed her daughter everywhere. Her every waking moment seemed to be focused on her daughter. The license plates on her car read MISSY.”

What Melissa Gilbert had to say about Anderson

In her own memoir Prairie Tale, Gilbert touched lightly on the topic of the actor who played her television sister. It bothered Gilbert that the two never grew closer during the run of the show but it wasn’t for lack of trying on the Laura Ingalls’ actor’s part.

“There was a distance to her, a coldness, though sometimes I wonder if it was just that I never knew how to get her to let me in,” she wrote. “She wasn’t easy to get along with. I think her reserve came across on-screen and was certainly apparent offscreen.”


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Gilbert stated that while she and her own mother may have erred on the side of displaying their emotions to the world too freely, Anderson and her mother were the exact opposite.

“Melissa and her mother were more contained, more controlled, more private, more connected. She was her mother’s universe,” Gilbert said.

The actor who played ‘Half-Pint’ echoed Alison Arngrim’s observation about Anderson’s mother’s license plate and how it read “3MISSY – it was her third car since Missy was born.”