‘Little House on the Prairie’: Why Michael Landon Nicknamed Melissa Gilbert ‘Half-Pint’

Little House on the Prairie was Melissa Gilbert’s first chance at a leading role. The former child star played Laura Ingalls throughout the show’s nine seasons. Early in the series, Laura’s dad, Charles “Pa” Ingalls (Michael Landon), referred to her as “half-pint.”

Gilbert recently shared how Landon came up with the name “half-pint.” She also shared if she prefers the nickname decades later. 

 Melissa Sue Anderson as Mary Ingalls, Melissa Gilbert as Laura Ingalls, Karen Grassle as Caroline Ingalls, Michael Landon as Charles Ingalls
Melissa Sue Anderson as Mary Ingalls, Melissa Gilbert as Laura Ingalls, Karen Grassle as Caroline Ingalls, Michael Landon as Charles Ingalls|NBCU Photo Bank

Melissa Gilbert felt ‘instantly safe’ around Michael Landon

When she auditioned to play Laura on Little House on the Prairie, Gilbert was 9-years-old. The role would be one of the series’ central characters. The real Laura Ingalls Wilder wrote the children’s books that inspired the show. 

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Although her parents worked in the entertainment industry, Gilbert was an inspiring actor before she booked Little House on the Prairie. In an interview with Closer Weekly, Gilbert shared what it was like to meet Landon for the first time. Before Little House on the Prairie, Landon starred as Little Joe Cartwright in Bonanza.

“I had never seen Bonanza,” Gilbert admitted. “But I walked into the audition room, and he smiled at me. I thought, ‘Oh, he’s a star.’ I could palpably feel that this man was different. I just felt instantly safe and comfortable.”

Michael Landon gave Melissa Gilbert the nickname ‘Half-Pint’ 

When production on Little House on the Prairie began, Landon became close to his TV family. During their first day of shooting, Gilbert said Landon told her she needed a nickname. At the time, Landon had already given Gilbert’s on-screen sister, Melissa Sue Anderson, a pet name of her own. Gilbert shared that she already had a name in mind. 

“‘So, what’s your nickname? What would you like us to call you?’” Gilbert said, quoting Landon. “And I said, ‘Well, how about Moesha?’ He looked at me and laughed, and he said, ‘Moesha? Where did you hear that name?’ I said, ‘I don’t know.”

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Gilbert said Landon suggested she try another nickname on set. The Highway to Heaven star explained that the word meant something different in Jewish culture. 

“‘Honey, Moesha is a name of an old Jewish Man,” Landon said. “We’re just going to call you ‘Half-Pint.”’

Melissa Gilbert loves when fans call her ‘Half-Pint’ 

Landon’s nickname for Gilbert resonated with Little House on the Prairie’s viewers. On the show, Pa Ingalls gave Laura the name “half-pint” because the 9-year-old was his “little half-pint of cider half, drank up,” referring to her height. 

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As the series continued, fans called Gilbert “half-pint” as much as they referred to her as Laura. Gilbert said she never gets tired of hearing her famous nickname when people recognize her. She also shared that past cast and crew members from Little House on the Prairie still use the alias. 

“There’s a whole group of people that I worked with so many years ago, who will not call me anything but Half-Pint,” Gilbert said. “And that’s perfectly fine with me.”