Melissa Gilbert was among the few child stars who continued her acting career well until she transitioned into adulthood. She also has siblings who were in the industry, including a brother who cut ties with the family when he turned 18. She has barely spoken to him in the past decades.
Born on May 8, 1964, Melisa Gilbert grew up accustomed to the entertainment industry. She was adopted by actors Paul Gilbert and Barbara Crane after her biological parents feared that they wouldn't be able to provide for her.
Paul and Barbara went on to adopt two more kids, Jonathan and Sara, who both became entertainers. However, the only Gilbert son decided not to further his Hollywood career at one point and pursued a different field in finance.
STARRING IN A TELEVISION SHOW
Melissa first rose to fame after portraying Laura Ingalls, a beautiful and sensitive girl, on the hit NBC drama series "Little House on the Prairie." She was reportedly selected out of almost 500 girls who auditioned for the part.
Melissa appeared on the show for years, running from 1974 until 1982, and became the youngest actress to receive a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame for her portrayal of Laura.
Melissa was not the only Gilbert who starred in the hit series. Her brother, Jonathan, played Willie Oleson, Nellie's trouble-making brother, but unlike her, his career in acting did not amount to much, and neither did their relationship as siblings.
Melissa Gilbert at the 34th Annual Santa Barbara International Film Festival in Santa Barbara, California in February 2019. | Image: Getty Images
JONATHAN LEAVES HOME
After a successful run on the show, he appeared in a few more on-screen productions such as "The Miracle Worker" in 1979 and "Little House: The Last Farewell" in 1985. He then decided to leave the industry, and when Jonathan clocked 18, he also chose to sever ties with the family.
Melissa wrote about how she feels about his leaving in a memoir, adding that there was no explanation for his behavior, only that he just left. Jonathan went on to live his own life, only making appearances in the Gilbert household once or twice per decade. Melissa wrote:
"He turned eighteen and simply disappeared. Though he would turn up a couple of times over several years, I have only seen him three times in the last two decades. I am at peace with it."
Michael Landon, Melissa Sue Anderson, Jonathan Gilbert on "Little House on the Prairie" | Photo: Getty Images
HIS OWN SUCCESS
She only ached for her mother, who missed him a lot. As a mother who lost her son in an instant, the pain must have been unimaginable. At the time, Melissa had no idea she would also grow up to know that same pain later on in life.
Jonathan did well as an actor, so nobody expected him to enter a field that involved a lot of number crunching. He went on to earn an MBA in finance, and as of 2014, Jonathan was working as a stockbroker in New York City.
As for Melissa and her younger sister, they both stayed in the entertainment industry and achieved great success individually. Sarah was an actress for some time until becoming a co-host on the daytime show "The Talk" for nine seasons. She later left to focus on her family.
Michael Landon Starring in "Bonanza" | Photo: Getty Images
After the show that secured her fame ended, Melissa remained active as an actress as well. She later returned to the project when she starred in the role initially played by Karen Grassle on television, as Ma in the touring production of "Little House on the Prairie: The Musical."
Behind the scenes, Melissa is a doting mother to two children; Dakota Brinkman, whom she shares with her first husband Bo Brinkman; and Michael Boxleitner, whose father was her second husband.
She is also a stepmom to five other children. She is currently married to Timothy Busfield, her third husband. Of her five step-kids, he fathered three while her second husband is father to the remaining two. Melissa maintains a close relationship with all five, even though she is no longer with their dads.
"LITTLE HOUSE" CAST
Aside from Melissa and her brother, other cast members that joined hands to make "Little House on the Prairie" a success include; Michael Landon, who acted as Charlie Ingalls; Karen Grassle, who played Caroline Ingalls; and Melissa Sue Anderson, who portrayed Mary Ingalls. Here is what became of them.
Anderson's character suffered the most among the rest of the "Little House on the Prairie" characters.
Landon played the role of pa like the character was made for him. After Melissa's father passed away in February 1975, Landon became an important mentor and friend to the actress.
Melissa Sue Anderson appears on NBC News' "Today" show on May 3rd, 2010 | Photo: Getty Images
Sadly, their relationship took a wrong turn after they had a mysterious falling-out which made them quit speaking to each other from the moment the "Little House on the Prairie" show ended until 1991. He passed away later that year from cancer at the age of 54.
Anderson's character suffered the most among the rest of the "Little House on the Prairie" characters. She played Mary, who lost her eyesight at a young age, and her baby to a fire. She enjoys life as a family woman in Montreal these days alongside her husband and two children.