What Melissa Gilbert Told Rob Lowe She Was Doing When She Was Cheating on Him

Melissa Gilbert and Rob Lowe had a relationship that was filled with ups and downs. They got together when they were 17 and engaged about five years later. They broke up before they ever got married. The actors spent much of their time together as a couple apart working on different projects. Along the way, both the Little House on the Prairie star and Lowe were unfaithful.

When Gilbert was filming Sylvester in Texas, she started an on-set romance with a member of the crew. Here’s what she told Lowe she was doing when she was really spending time with Frank Capra III (or as she liked to call him, FC3).

Melissa Gilbert and Rob Lowe
Melissa Gilbert and Rob Lowe | The LIFE Picture Collection via Getty Images

Melissa Gilbert had a hard time filming ‘Sylvester’

Sylvester was the first non-TV movie Gilbert ever starred in, and she felt the pressure. Right away, she learned that the film’s director, Tim Hunter, didn’t like her. Upon their first meeting, he told her she needed to change everything about herself for the role. They continued to “butt heads” from there.

Thankfully, Gilbert had two co-stars she found solace in.

“My sanity was saved by my leading guy, Michael Schoeffling from 16 Candles, and my leading man, Richard Farnsworth, who was unflappable,” Gilbert wrote in her memoir, Prairie Tale.

But neither of these men are who Gilbert cheated on Lowe with.

Melissa Gilbert’s on-set romance with Frank Capra III

Gilbert wanted Lowe to come stay in Texas with her while she shot Sylvester because she “knew it was going to be a rough shoot.” But he was busy learning how to play hockey for his next film, Youngblood.

The Little House on the Prairie actor found herself alone and uneasy — “Every day was hard and scary,” she wrote. She found a kitten while filming and named him Sylvester. She had him for the next 15 years.

“But the kitten wasn’t enough company for me,” she wrote. “With Rob in Toronto, I began an on-set romance with the third AD, Frank Capra III (FC3). Though it wasn’t intentional, I got a taste of what Rob went through on The Hotel New Hampshire, and he got a taste of what I experienced on the other end. He would call and I wouldn’t be in my room.”

Richard Farnsworth, Melissa Gilbert, and  Michael Schoeffling
Richard Farnsworth, Melissa Gilbert, and Michael Schoeffling | Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

RELATED: A Look at Melissa Gilbert and Rob Lowe’s Messy First Breakup and How They Got Back Together

When Gilbert was spending time with Capra, she told Lowe that she was out of her room admiring the famous lights of Marfa, where the movie was being filmed.

“Marfa is famous as the place where Giant was filmed, and for the Marfa lights, these unexplained bursts of light that can be spotted off Route 67,” she explained.

But Lowe didn’t buy Gilbert’s excuse. He wrote her a letter that said “he didn’t believe I was out all night looking at some stupid Marfa lights, and he warned that what I was doing was dangerous to us.”  

Rob Lowe forgave Melissa Gilbert

Lowe’s letter didn’t “deter” Gilbert from spending time with Capra.

“I was lonely, scared, and by myself, which was, I discovered, not a good place for me,” wrote Gilbert. “I didn’t do alone well. Performing stunts, risking my safety, knowing the director disliked me, and just living every day on the edge got to me, and I spiraled downward quickly. I had no clue how needy I was, how I needed a man to fill me up.”

When production moved from Marfa to Lexington, where Lowe could visit, Gilbert ended her fling with FC3. Eventually, the A New Kind of Family actor confronted his girlfriend about what she’d done while filming.

“Sobbing, I confessed, apologized, and begged his forgiveness,” she wrote. “He also apologized for not having been available to me when I needed him.”