‘Little House on the Prairie’: Why Charlotte Stewart ‘Hoped Not to Hear’ This Requirement for Playing Miss Beadle
Charlotte Stewart starred on Little House on the Prairie as school teacher Eva Beadle from 1974 to 1978. With the historical drama set in the late 1800s, wardrobe and hair styles had to reflect the time period. When Stewart received instructions on making a change to her appearance, she was less than thrilled.
Charlotte Stewart donned a wig on ‘Little House’
Stewart was outfitted with the dresses worn in the 1870s for her role as Walnut Grove’s school teacher. Her hair needed some extra help for the look Little House producers wanted.
“[Hairstylist] Larry [Germain] and the producers of the show had a pretty clear idea of how they wanted Miss Beadle presented,” Stewart wrote in her memoir, Little House in the Hollywood Hills: A Bad Girl’s Guide to Becoming Miss Beadle, Mary X, and Me. “That involved making a partial blonde wig.”
Stewart gravitated toward the styles of the 1960s and 70s when she landed the part of Miss Beadle, which included pin straight hair. Her character required some curl.
“The tricky thing for Larry was two-fold,” the Little House alum remarked. “I had really straight hair and I had just cut it prior to getting the part. Larry and [creator and co-star] Mike Landon wanted their teacher to have some curls and whoop-dee-whoops in her hair that were right for the period. But in this case… they couldn’t say ‘come back in a year.’ I had to go in front of the cameras in just a few days.”
The wig for Charlotte Stewart was multi-faceted
For Stewart to achieve the exact presence that Landon and his crew were aiming for, a more complex technique was required in assembling her wig.
“Because the wig would be for the top and back of my head (including a braid),” Stewart explained, “Larry had to incorporate it seamlessly with the rest of my natural hair.”
Coloring was also an issue, where Stewart’s hair had to naturally blend with the shade of the wig. The hair piece still wasn’t working despite all the styling team’s efforts.
“To get the color right, Larry and another stylist, Gladys Witten, took clippings from all over my head, giving them the overall color palate,” she shared. “They created a wig from there. Once the wig was complete, we had trouble getting it to stay attached because my hair is so pencil straight. I tried curling the front with curling irons but the thing just wouldn’t stay.”
‘Little House’ star had to get a perm
When all the attempts with the wig failed, Stewart was told to do something she wanted to avoid.
“Finally came the orders I had sorely hoped not to hear,” she wrote. “I was told I had to get a permanent, which would give me some curl in front and would allow Larry to get the wig to stay attached for a full day of shooting.”
Stewart dreaded getting the process done to her hair but knew she had to accept it in order to have a steady acting gig. The new ‘do reminded her of a co-star on another project.
“Ugh – a frizzy 70s perm,” the Little House star recalled. “A perm I would have to maintain for the next four years. Suddenly I felt like Jack Nance having to sport that head of crazy hair all those years of shooting Eraserhead.“