‘Little House on the Prairie’: Alison Arngrim Was Afraid Melissa Gilbert Would ‘Pass Out’ at Michael Landon’s Funeral

Melissa Gilbert rose to fame when Michael Landon cast her as Laura Ingalls on Little House on the Prairie in 1974. Recruiting several child actors for the historical drama including Alison Arngrim (Nellie Oleson), Landon became a father figure to many kids on the show. Arngrim recalled how devastated Gilbert was when the Bonanza alum died in 1991.

Matthew Labyorteaux, Melissa Gilbert, and Michael Landon of 'Little House on the Prairie'
Matthew Labyorteaux, Melissa Gilbert, and Michael Landon of ‘Little House on the Prairie’ | Frank Carroll/NBCU Photo Bank

Alison Arngrim remembered the news of Michael Landon’s death

Arngrim held many fond memories of her seven seasons working with Landon on Little House. She was well aware of Landon’s diagnosis of pancreatic cancer in 1991 and was deeply saddened when he died on July 1 that year. The Little House star knew she would be questioned by the media but was surprised at how fast they arrived.

“The day Michael died, I was booked to do an interview with Entertainment Tonight,” Arngrim recalled in her memoir, Confessions of a Prairie B****. “There was not going to be time for any sort of ‘private’ grieving; just moments after I heard the news, the ET crew was in the elevator coming up to my office.”

Remembering the strong bond Gilbert shared with Landon, Arngrim immediately called her former co-star.

“Knowing I had only few seconds before the media onslaught, I grabbed the phone and quickly dialed Melissa,” Arngrim explained. “She had just heard also via television and was utterly hysterical. I tried to say something comforting, but what was there to say? We both knew Michael was the only real father figure she ever had. All I wanted to do was hang up, jump in my car, drive to her house, and bring her a Slurpee.”

RELATED: ‘Little House on the Prairie’: Why Alison Arngrim Didn’t See Michael Landon Before He Died

‘Little House’ cast reunited for Michael Landon’s funeral

Landon’s funeral was held at Hillside Memorial Park in Culver City, California. Arngrim shared her joy at seeing her former co-stars despite the sad occasion.

“Almost the whole cast was in attendance,” the Little House alum wrote. “It was good to see my old friends and colleagues, even under these circumstances. Some of us hadn’t seen each other since the show ended in 1983, and nearly went to pieces.”

Arngrim noted how numerous loved ones of Landon’s spoke of the former actor’s warmth and infectious sense of humor.

“Friend after friend, story after story, people cried and laughed their heads off at the same time,” she remarked. “I worried that poor Melissa wouldn’t get through her speech. She looked as if she’d locked her knees to keep from shaking, and I feared she’d pass out.”

Merlin Oleson eulogized his former co-star

Former NFL star Merlin Oleson joined the Little House cast in season four and developed a solid friendship with Landon. The Rams alum also appeared in commercials and poked some fun at himself in his eulogy for his friend.

“[Oleson] had also played Jonathan Garvey on the show and was most famous at this point for his FTD flowers commercials,” Arngrim shared. “His speech was absolutely brilliant, moving and funny at the same time. He started by saying, perfectly deadpan, ‘Hello, I’m Merlin Oleson. I sell flowers.'”

Arngrim praised Oleson’s tribute to Landon, which was laced with plenty of humor in honor of the Little House star.

“He then went on to do a virtual standup routine about Michael,” she wrote. “Michael had insisted his funeral be funny, and he got his wish.”

RELATED: ‘Little House on the Prairie’: How Melissa Gilbert Reacted to Alison Arngrim Leaving the Show