‘Little House on the Prairie’: the ‘Disgusting’ Thing Melissa Gilbert and Alison Arngrim Would Do On Set to ‘Gross Each Other Out’

Though Melissa Gilbert and Alison Arngrim played enemies on Little House on the Prairie, the girls got along great in real life. In her memoir, Gilbert reflects on the antics she and Arngrim would get up to as kids on the Paramount lot.  

Melissa Gilbert as Laura Elizabeth Ingalls Wilder, Alison Arngrim as Nellie Oleson in 'Little House on the Prairie'
Melissa Gilbert as Laura Elizabeth Ingalls Wilder, Alison Arngrim as Nellie Oleson | NBCU Photo Bank

Melissa Gilbert and Alison Arngrim got along right away on the set of ‘Little House on the Prairie’

While Arngrim joined the cast on the second episode, titled “Country Girls,” she and Gilbert became fast friends. 

“She played nasty Nellie Oleson and began referring to Laura and Mary as ‘country girls’ almost as soon as we met her in school,” Gilbert wrote in Prairie Tale.  

Gilbert and Arngrim became close after Gilbert gave her new friend the lay of the land on set. 

“Though she was my great rival on the show, Alison and I became instant friends from the moment I confided, ‘There’s only one mean person on the show. Everyone else is great,’” Gilbert shared. 

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Some of Gilbert’s fondest memories from her days “on the prairie” include Arngrim. 

“It was great to have a friend on the set,” she wrote. “We celebrated birthdays together, had sleepovers, and got into adventures on the lot.” 

During lunch every day, Gilbert and Arngrim played a “gross” little game with each other. 

“At lunch, we constantly tried to gross each other out by mixing together the most disgusting combinations of food—and eating them!” wrote Gilbert. “One of my more memorable creations was butterscotch pudding and radishes. It wasn’t half bad.” 

How Melissa Sue Anderson, Melissa Gilbert, and Alison Arngrim really got along during filming for ‘Little House on the Prairie’

While Gilbert and Arngrim hit it off right away, Gilbert and Melissa Sue Anderson were not so close. 

“We played sisters and were only a couple years apart in age, but from the start, for whatever reason, we never had a real sisterly kinship,” gilbert wrote of her relationship with Anderson. “She was a strikingly pretty girl, and I wasn’t, at least I didn’t think so. As we got older, she was the girl everyone wanted to marry, and I was the plucky one they wanted to go fishing with.”

Gilbert wrote that “there was a distance” and a “coldness” to Anderson that she couldn’t ever break through.  

“She wasn’t easy to get along with,” she wrote of her Ingalls sister. “I think her reserve came across on-screen and was certainly apparent offscreen, whereas I wore my emotions as if they were a neon green T-shirt that glowed in the dark.”

Melissa Gilbert as Laura Elizabeth Ingalls , Melissa Sue Anderson as Mary Ingalls
Melissa Gilbert as Laura Elizabeth Ingalls , Melissa Sue Anderson as Mary Ingalls | NBCU Photo Bank/NBCUniversal via Getty Images via Getty Images

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Anderson wrote her own book about her time on Little House on the Prairie. Her memoir is titled, The Way I See It. In it, she hardly mentions Gilbert

In an interview with AJC’s Radio & TV Talk blog on May 5, 2010, Anderson said she didn’t write about Gilbert because they simply weren’t friends.

“I honestly do not have a lot of memories of the two of us,” she said. “We were very, very different.”

In the same interview, Anderson spoke about Arngrim. 

“She made a career being nasty Nelly,” Anderson said. “She’s completely perpetuated that. She was a nice girl, kind of shy in the beginning. But she got through it. She was very zany, very off the wall. She and Melissa got along quite well.”