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Michael Landon hired several young actors when he launched Little House on the Prairie in 1974. Casting Alison Arngrim as Nellie Oleson, Walnut Grove’s classic mean girl, Landon was presented with a dilemma when Arngrim had a skateboarding mishap and needed a cast on her arm.

Michael Landon of 'Little House on the Prairie'
Michael Landon of ‘Little House on the Prairie’ | NBCU Photo Bank

Alison Arngrim wasn’t prepared for a pratfall

Season three of Little House presented a storyline where Nellie fakes being paralyzed after falling off a horse. The episode involved a suspenseful resolution where Laura Ingalls (Melissa Gilbert) rolls her down a big hill upon uncovering the charade. Right before the episode was to be filmed, Arngrim broke her arm and was immediately concerned that producers would be ticked off.

“I, like a complete idiot, managed to break my arm while skateboarding,” she wrote in her memoir, Confessions of a Prairie B****. “I say like a complete idiot for several reasons.”

Arngrim went on to explain that actors are usually discouraged from activities that could cause any type of physical issues, especially if they aren’t outfitted for a potential calamity.

“People on TV shows aren’t supposed to be skateboarding or skydiving or taking part in any other excessively dangerous sports,” she noted. “I was not wearing a helmet or padding of any kind… I wasn’t even doing a death-defying stunt. What was I doing when I fell? I was standing perfectly still on my skateboard… And I tipped over. Yes, tipped over – like a cow.

Michael Landon had a mixed reaction to Alison Arngrim’s injury

Arngrim and her agent let Landon and producers know of her skateboarding debacle, and she reported to work with a large cast on her arm. Landon seemed good-natured about the inconvenience of filming around the accoutrement, though he did let Arngrim know she needed to hang up her skateboard.

Michael made lots of jokes about my being clumsy or having been injured in some sort of fight,” the Little House alum recalled. “He proudly autographed it in a prominent spot, then looked me in the eye and said very seriously, with just a tough of menace: ‘Okay, but you’re not going skateboarding anymore… Right?‘”

The young star gave Landon an emphatic, “No, no sir, no more skateboarding,” yet heard a change in Landon’s jovial tone after she left the producers’ meeting.

“As soon as the door closed behind me, I could hear Michael shouting,” Arngrim wrote. “‘HE SAID SHE HAD A TINY LITTLE CAST! DID YOU SEE THAT F***ING THING? … WHAT THE HELL ARE WE GOING TO DO WITH THAT?'”

Alison Arngrim’s broken arm was worked into ‘Little House’ episode

When the meeting was over, Landon was “all smiles” and told Arngrim of their plan. Nellie would break her arm in her fall of the horse, and the large cast she was wearing at the time would be covered up during her bedrest stint. When it was time for Nellie to be in a wheelchair, Arngrim would have been fitted for a smaller cast that was easier to handle with wardrobe and filming. The strategy seemed to put Landon’s concerns at ease.


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“Again, Michael tousled my hair and said, ‘Remember, no more skateboards, right?'” the former Little House star shared. “And then this gem: ‘If you ever break your arm skateboarding again…’ He paused, flashing me a dimpled Charles Ingalls grin, which then suddenly disappeared. ‘I’ll break the other one.'”

Though Arngrim knew Landon was kidding, she chose to retire from skateboarding.

“This was followed by his high-pitched maniacal laughter,” she wrote. “A joke, of course, but I decided that skateboarding might be bad for my health in more ways than one.”