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Melissa Gilbert Never Got along with Her TV Sister Mary in Real Life & Was ‘Jealous’ of Her

Gracious Egedegbe
Nov 01, 2021
08:40 P.M.

Melissa Gilbert and Melissa Sue Anderson starred as sisters on the famous NBC series "Little House on the Prairie." Unfortunately, the pair never really got along with each other.

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"Little House on the Prairie" is one of the most memorable shows in television history. It featured multiple child stars who rose to become Hollywood sensations.

Melissa Gilbert and Melissa Sue Anderson were two of the child stars who featured in the drama series. Gilbert played Laura Ingalls Wilder while Anderson portrayed her sister Mary Ingalls Kendall.

Actresses Melissa Gilbert and Melissa Sue Anderson on a scene of the TV series, "Little House on the Prairie." | Photo: Getty Images

Actresses Melissa Gilbert and Melissa Sue Anderson on a scene of the TV series, "Little House on the Prairie." | Photo: Getty Images

In a chat with Closer Weekly, Gilbert said the former child actors who grew up on the set were very lucky. She also said they were like a second family.

There were many happy tales during the show's filming, and the actors built many lifelong bonds. For example, Gilbert and co-star Alison Arngrim, who played Nellie Oleson, became best friends.

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However, not everyone got along. Since the cast was like a second family, it was inevitable that they would have squabbles like a real family. Hence, there were misunderstandings and hurt feelings.

Melissa Gilbert on August 14, 2017 in New York City. | Photo: Getty Images

Melissa Gilbert on August 14, 2017 in New York City. | Photo: Getty Images

According to Arngrim, Anderson, who played the eldest daughter on the show, did not mix with the other kids. She explained Anderson was quiet and kept to herself most of the time.

Gilbert confirmed this and said that despite playing as sisters on the show, she and Anderson never got close to each other. She explained:

"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 wasn't easy to get along with."

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Actress Melissa Sue Anderson in a publicity portrait for TV series "First Affair" on October 25, 1983. | Photo: Getty Images

Actress Melissa Sue Anderson in a publicity portrait for TV series "First Affair" on October 25, 1983. | Photo: Getty Images

Gilbert also described her and Anderson's relationship in the pages of her book, "Prairie Tale: A Memoir." She revealed she met Anderson at her screen test but got to know her much better while on location.

They never got along despite playing sisters and being a couple of years apart. Gilbert described Anderson thus:

"She was a strikingly pretty girl, and I wasn't, at least I didn't think so. As we got old, she was the girl everyone wanted to marry, and I was the plucky one they wanted to go fishing with."

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Those words sound like a girl being jealous of her co-star, and it just was what it was. Gilbert wrote further about the distance between her and Anderson.

Gilbert said there was a distance to Anderson and a coldness, even though she sometimes wondered if that was the case, or she just never knew how to get the latter to let her in. Nevertheless, she concluded that Anderson was not easy to get along with.

While Gilbert wrote about Anderson in her book, the latter totally ignored her former co-star in her own memoir, "The Way I See It."

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Also, in Gilbert's book, she narrated the dilemma the crew faced with having two Melissas on the same set. However, the show's executive producer, Michael Landon, confronted the issue.

He said Anderson would be called Missy, which was her nickname, while Gilbert would be called Half Pint, which was also her character's nickname.

In other chapters of her book, Gilbert wrote about how jealous she was of Anderson. She recalled that when the latter started dating "James" Actor Lance Kerwin at 15, she was not just beyond her league but out of the universe.

Actress Melissa Sue Anderson in a publicity portrait for TV series "First Affair" October 25, 1983. | Photo: Getty Images

Actress Melissa Sue Anderson in a publicity portrait for TV series "First Affair" October 25, 1983. | Photo: Getty Images

Then, it suddenly felt like Anderson was grown up. Afterward, she dated Frank Sinatra Jr., and Gilbert also wrote that her co-star was one of those unattainably glamorous women.

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She described her co-star as a total knockout way beyond her league and one tough dame. She also wrote:

"Once she [Anderson] sat down, I felt like I was intruding on something and the rest of the night seemed awkward."

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Anderson's friction with Gilbert was well documented. It seemingly increased when the latter started getting plum outside roles while the former continued playing her blind character in "Little House on the Prairie."

Anderson did not find the situation fun and grumbled about it. She said it seemed like when the scriptwriters ran low on story ideas, they always thought about something awful to do to her character, who endured many tragedies on the show.

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Anderson eventually outgrew her character on "Little House on the Prairie." She left the show after season seven and later appeared in three episodes of the eighth season. Meanwhile, Arngrim did not appear in the eighth season.

Due to these developments, there were rumors of a big blowup between Anderson, Gilbert, and Arngrim. However, Anderson cleared the air about such an occurrence.

Gilbert explained that Arngrim had a contract disagreement with the producers while she was leaving because she could not do much more with the blind character she played.

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Anderson said her leaving the show was just a matter of her moving on. While Gilbert wrote about Anderson in her book, the latter totally ignored her former co-star in her memoir, "The Way I See It."

In an interview with the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, she explained the omission, saying they were not friends. She added:

"I honestly do not have a lot of memories of the two of us. We were very, very different."

Actress Melissa Sue Anderson attends the 41st Annual Primetime Emmy Awards on September 17, 1989. | Photo: Getty Images

Actress Melissa Sue Anderson attends the 41st Annual Primetime Emmy Awards on September 17, 1989. | Photo: Getty Images

Today, Anderson is married to Writer and Producer Michael Sloan. She shares two children, daughter Piper and son Griffin, with him.

Meanwhile, Gilbert has been married thrice. Her first marriage was to Bo Brinkman, while her second was to Bruce Boxleitner. In 2013, she married Timothy Busfield, her third husband.

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She is a mother of two children and shares a son named Dakota Paul Brinkman with Bo and Michael Garrett Boxleitner with Bruce.

Amid the pandemic, Gilbert lived the "Little House on the Prairie" lifestyle and followed in her TV namesake's footsteps. The series made her and Anderson famous but was never enough to settle their differences.

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