‘Little House on the Prairie’: The Intimate Moment Michael Landon and Melissa Gilbert Shared on the Last Day of Filming
The Little House on the Prairie cast and crew didn’t know Season 9 was their last when they shot it. After learning that they’d been canceled, Michael Landon convinced the network to let them shoot three Little House on the Prairie movies before they officially called it quits. So was born Look Back to Yesterday, Bless All the Dear Children, and The Last Farewell. Shooting the final film, The Last Farewell, was an emotional time for every member of the cast and crew, but especially Melissa Gilbert (who played Laura Ingalls Wilder) and Landon.
Melissa Gilbert was relieved when Season 9 of ‘Little House on the Prairie’ wrapped
When Season 9 of the Little House on the Prairie wrapped, Gilbert was relieved. She thought the plot was going downhill and had to remind herself she was doing it for the paycheck. But once she learned the show had been canceled, she was heartbroken.
“Once it was being taken away from me, I couldn’t fathom not doing the show every week,” she wrote in her memoir, Prairie Tale. “The implications of no longer being around all these people was unfathomable to me.”
Gilbert had grown up in Walnut Grove. Some of her most formative memories took place there.
“I could look around and see memories everywhere: the first place I held a boy’s hand, my first kiss, the schoolhouse where I’d gone to school,” she wrote. “Those were my places. They were all of our places.”
The ‘Little House on the Prairie’ cast said goodbye together
Typically, the Little House on the Prairie cast would get ready separately and arrive on set at staggered intervals. But, on the last day of filming, everyone got ready and walked to set together.
“Without it being planned, all of us got dressed and waited until everyone was ready,” wrote Gilbert. “We would make the final walk together. We knew it wasn’t going to be easy.”
They walked in silence.
After a long, luxurious steak and lobster lunch, the cast filmed the last shot, which showed “all of us walking out of town from the church as we sang ‘Onward Christian Soldiers.'”
“I would have chosen ‘The Long and Winding Road,’ but John Lennon and Paul McCartney hadn’t written it in the 1800s,” wrote Gilbert.
Melissa Gilbert and Michael Landon bid farewell to Walnut Grove and ‘Little House on the Prairie’
After Gilbert got out of her costume, she wasn’t quite ready to leave the set just yet. So she walked back down from the hair and makeup area to Walnut Grove. When she got there, she realized she wasn’t alone.
“I saw Mike standing in the middle of town,” she wrote. “He was by himself, bathed in the orange glow of twilight. He had his back to me. I walked up to him without his knowing until he sensed me there.”
When Landon turned to face Gilbert, she saw that he was crying.
“I immediately lost it, too,” she wrote. “Standing by ourselves, we held on to each other and sobbed unabashedly until we ran out of tears.”
Gilbert thanked Landon for everything and told him: “I don’t know. For all practical purposes, this has been my whole life. It’s weird.”
As he “enveloped me in his arms like a proud daddy, like someone who had genuinely watched me grow up,” Landon told Gilbert: “Well, don’t be scared. Don’t be afraid. It’s not the end for you. For you, this is just the beginning.”