‘Little House on the Prairie’ Star Melissa Gilbert Dated Tom Cruise When They Were Teenagers

All eyes were on Little House on the Prairie star Melissa Gilbert in the ’80s when it came to her dating life. Her most famous relationship was with Robe Lowe. But, before Lowe, Gilbert fell in love for the first time with her Splendor in the Grass co-star Cyril O’Reilly. She also dated Tom Cruise.

Rob Lowe, Melissa Gilbert, Michelle Meyrink and Tom Cruise at party
Rob Lowe, Melissa Gilbert, Michelle Meyrink, and Tom Cruise | Fotos International/Getty Images

Melissa Gilbert and Cyril O’Reilly

Gilbert met O’Reilly during his audition for the remake of Splendor in the Grass. They had immediate, intense chemistry. They fell in love during the rehearsal process for the TV movie.

“Shooting the movie was an extraordinary experience for me,” Gilbert wrote in her memoir, Prairie Tale. “There was the love story on-screen, and then there was the even better real-life romance that developed away from the camera. I fell in love for the first time.”

Cyril O'Reilly attends the 2012 Chiller Theatre Expo at the Sheraton Parsippany Hotel
Cyril O’Reilly | Bobby Bank/WireImage

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Gilbert and O’Reilly broke up shortly after the movie wrapped because they were at different places in their lives. Gilbert was getting ready for college and O’Reilly “was already a man.” Their breakup was painful on both sides.

“I learned love could be as painful, hard, or perplexing as it was wonderful and intoxicating,” she wrote.

Melissa Gilbert and Tom Cruise

Gilbert’s next famous relationship was with Rob Lowe, but she dated “a few boys” between O’Reilly and the Brat Packer, including Tom Cruise.

Gilbert met Cruise at “an event he’d attended with Emilio Estevez.” They hit it off and went on a couple dates. Gilbert writes that she liked Cruise just fine, but there wasn’t an intense connection.

Tom Cruise in Stanley Kubrick's "Eyes Wide Shut."
Tom Cruise | 1999 Warner Bros. All Rights Reserved

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“We went on a couple of dates and made out in my mom’s living room,” she wrote. “He was nice, funny, and sweet. But it wasn’t like being hit with an arrow.”

After his brief romance with Gilbert, Cruise went on to marry Mimi Rogers in 1987. They were married until 1990, when he got re-married to Nicole Kidman. Together, they have two children: Isabella (27) and Connor (25). Kidman and Cruise divorced in 2001. Then, in 2006, Cruise married Katie Holmes. Together, they have once child: Suri (14). They divorced in 2012. Since then, the actor has kept his love life private.

Melissa Gilbert and Rob Lowe

After Gilbert dated Cruise, she fell fast and hard for Lowe. The two started dating after making eye contact in traffic. Lowe motioned for Gilbert to roll her window down and asked where she was off to. Gilbert told Lowe that she was dress-shopping and that he should meet her when he was done with his audition (where he was heading). Lowe never showed up, but he called her a few days later to ask her out on a date.

Rob Lowe and Melissa Gilbert
Rob Lowe and Melissa Gilbert | Vinnie Zuffante/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

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“From the moment Rob and I went out, I never wanted to be away from his side,” wrote Gilbert. “We went from first date to instant couple—just add water.”

Lowe proposed to Gilbert in 1986, but they broke up shortly after.