‘Little House on the Prairie’: Why Karen Grassle Was ‘Blubbering’ in This Christmas Scene Rehearsal

Michael Landon and Karen Grassle portrayed Charles and Caroline Ingalls in the NBC hit Little House on the Prairie. Though the family drama only had a few Christmas episodes during its nine-season run, Grassle recalled one scene during rehearsal that “undid me”.

Michael Landon, Karen Grassle, Melissa Sue Anderson, Sidney/ Lindsey Greenbush, and Melissa Gilbert of 'Little House on the Prairie'
Michael Landon, Karen Grassle, Melissa Sue Anderson, Sidney/ Lindsay Greenbush, and Melissa Gilbert of ‘Little House on the Prairie’ | FilmPublicityArchive/United Archives via Getty Images

Karen Grassle saw the ‘Little House’ Christmas meal pre-scene

Landon created Little House in 1974, with the pilot premiering in March of that year. Viewers tuned in to see Charles and Caroline move with their three daughters – Mary (Melissa Sue Anderson), Laura (Melissa Gilbert) and Carrie (played by twins Lindsay and Sidney Greenbush) – from Wisconsin to Kansas. Charles’ friend Isaiah Edwards (Victor French) helps them settle into their new home on the open prairie. Grassle recalled the day of the Christmas segment of the pilot and running into the Ingalls’ dinner entrée prior to filming.

“It was a bright, sunny day when we were to do the Christmas scene,” Grassle wrote in her memoir, Bright Lights, Prairie Dust. “As I walked from the set to the makeup trailer and back, I noticed a turkey tied to a stake on the grass.”

With the historical drama set in the 1800s, Grassle knew the turkey was going to become the centerpiece for the episode’s Christmas meal but didn’t let the situation distract her.

“I didn’t tarry to befriend the bird,” she explained. “I wasn’t sentimental about its fate, but I also didn’t want to bond with it before the scene.”

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‘Little House’ Christmas dinner brought Karen Grassle to tears

Apparently, Grassle had a change of heart when it came time to rehearse the dinner scene. Taking her spot where Caroline was about to prepare the turkey, Grassle was suddenly overcome with emotion after touching the positioned poultry.

“When it came time to shoot the scene, there was the turkey on the rough table where I needed to pluck it,” the Little House alum wrote. “When I placed my hands on it, it was still warm. Suddenly, I was blubbering over that turkey, my eyes flooded with tears.”

Rehearsal came to a halt so Grassle could pull herself together with the help of makeup artist Allan “Whitey” Snyder.

“The rehearsal was stopped,” she remarked. “I was allowed to mop up, and Whitey repaired my face. The warmth had gotten to me.”

Caroline Ingalls gained a newfound respect for Isaiah Edwards in ‘Little House’ pilot

A crew member explained to Grassle why the turkey had a toasty temperature, though it didn’t necessarily change her perspective on the matter.

“Ron Chinique, our prop master, trying to help, told me he had left it to lie in the sun, thinking that would make my task easier,” Grassle shared. “For a city girl like me, who only knew meat in refrigerated cellophane packages, the warmth of that creature undid me.”

Melissa Gilbert, Lindsay/ Sydney Greenbush, and Melisssa Sue Anderson of 'Little House on the Prairie'
Melissa Gilbert, Lindsay/Sydney Greenbush, and Melisssa Sue Anderson of ‘Little House on the Prairie’ | Ted Shepherd/NBCU Photo Bank

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The segment also marked the beginning of Caroline’s appreciation for Isaiah. With his brash style and sometimes abrasive persona, the two were clearly polar opposites. Yet Isaiah’s generous gesture on Christmas endeared him to Caroline.

“A frozen Mr. Edwards, a large bearded man shrouded in ice, arrives,” Grassle wrote of the holiday scene. “He had forded a freezing stream and made his way to the family, bringing along potatoes for dinner and shiny tin cups for the girls. [Caroline’s] antipathy toward him melts, and from that day on she accepts him as a friend.”