‘Little House on the Prairie’: Why Melissa Gilbert Had ‘Vivid Images’ of ‘Vile Things’ During Her First Love Scene With ‘Almanzo’ Actor Dean Butler
Melissa Gilbert played Laura Ingalls Wilder on Little House on the Prairie for nine seasons. As the show progressed, the series focused on Laura’s romance with Almanzo Wilder (Dean Butler).
Gilbert said she had a difficult time being Butler’s love interest. Things became worse when the actors filmed intimate scenes together.
Melissa Gilbert had a problem with Dean Butler’s age
In her memoir, Prairie Tale, Gilbert recalled being nervous about her character having a love interest. Although Laura was ready for romance, Gilbert, then 15, didn’t have much experience with dating or love. In her book, she shared that she became more frightened by the storyline when she saw Butler for the first time. Gilbert described the actor as a “grown-up man” and said they had nothing in common.
“When we finally met, I was hit by a perfect storm of disappointment, fear, anger, and nausea,” Gilbert wrote. “I can imagine what my face looked like. No, I don’t want to imagine. It couldn’t have been nice.”
Butler echoed Gilbert during an interview with Entertainment Weekly. During the Little House on the Prairie cast’s reunion, Butler shared how he admired how strong Gilbert was during filming.
“It was challenging. And Melissa was being watched very closely by everybody on set—she’d grown up around these people,” he said. “She had to take on this relationship with no experience. [Gilbert] is one of the most fearless people I’ve ever known. She has that quality today, and she had it in spades as a 15-year-old girl.”
Melissa Gilbert had to think of ‘vile things’ around Dean Butler because of his age
As Little House on the Prairie continued into its seventh season, Laura and Almanzo married. Because of their long-standing relationship, viewers anticipated watching the couple’s intimacy. However, Gilbert wrote that shooting a love scene wasn’t ideal for her. She recalled thinking of the “vile things” that could happen to her in Laura and Almanzo’s bed. Gilbert also described their bed as a “medieval torture chamber.”
“The bed Dean and I were supposed to get into for our first scene in our house after getting married. My head was full of vivid images of the vile things that could happen to me in there. Not that I had a clue what any of those things looked like; for me, it was all imagination, and what I was imagining scared the sh*t out of me.”
Gilbert continued to say that while directors intended to show Laura and Almanzo’s affection for one another, she didn’t see any passion in their interactions.
“This scene in bed, like their wedding and their first kiss, was a highly anticipated moment that was supposed to convey their special love,” she wrote. “But make no mistake. This was no love scene, per se. This was ‘prairie lovin.’ We were lying under the covers, reading the Bible, and eating popcorn. Even Kermit and Miss Piggy had spicier scenes on Sesame Steet.”
Melissa Gilbert and Dean Butler’s lack of chemistry affected their show
According to Mental Floss, Gilbert couldn’t get comfortable around Butler. She reportedly asked her “surrogate father,” Michael Landon, to halt the kissing scenes between her and Butler. Soon, producers on Little House on the Prairie worried about the show’s future because of their lack of chemistry. Several viewers complained that Gilbert and Butler weren’t “believable” as a couple, causing producers to search for a “spark” between them.
Although Gilbert said she was “terrified” of Butler initially, the two remained friends after Little House on the Prairie ended in 1984.