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Melissa Ellen Gilbert (born May 8, 1964) is an American actress, writer, and producer, primarily in movies and television. Gilbert is best known as a child actress who co-starred as Charles Ingalls's (played by Michael Landon) second daughter, Laura Ingalls Wilder, on the dramatic television series Little House on the Prairie (1974–1984). As an adult, she has a very long list of acting, voicework, writing, producing, and directing credits. Melissa also served two terms as President of the Screen Actors Guild. On June 9, 2009, her autobiography Prairie Tale: A Memoir was released.

Family and early career

Born in Los Angeles, California, Gilbert was adopted one day later by actor and comedian Paul Gilbert (born Ed MacMahon, he changed his name to Paul Gilbert to get a Screen Actors Guild card) and his wife, dancer and actress Barbara Crane (later Barbara Gilbert, Barbara Abeles, Barbara Gilbert Cowan). Barbara was the daughter of The Honeymooners creator Harry Crane. The couple later adopted a son, Jonathan Gilbert, who co-starred with Melissa as Willie Oleson on Little House on the Prairie. When Melissa was 8, her parents divorced. Barbara then married Harold Abeles, and together they had biological daughter Sara Abeles (also known as Sara Gilbert), born January 29, 1975. On February 12, 1975, while Melissa was at her mother's home with the flu, Paul Gilbert suffered a stroke and died at the age of 56.

Barbara's marriage to Abeles also ended in divorce.

With Hollywood connections in her family background and a natural ability for entertaining at a very young age, Gilbert had already done dozens of commercials, including one for Alpo dog food with Lorne Greene (Michael Landon's television father on Bonanza). She then tried out for the role of Laura Ingalls, Charles Ingalls' middle daughter, on NBC's 2-hour pilot of the book Little House on the Prairie. Michael Landon, who played Charles Ingalls, loved her instantly. Growing up she was unfamiliar with Landon, having never met him or watched "Bonanza." Gilbert attended school with his daughter, Leslie Landon who guested on Little House as a teen and then played school teacher Etta Plumb during the last season. It was Leslie who informed her that she had won the role of Laura, beating out over 500 child actresses for this part. The pilot was shot in 1973 and was a ratings success. Almost a year later Gilbert began filming the series.

Gilbert became extremely close to the Landon family after her adoptive father died. Landon became her surrogate father both on and off the set. Gilbert spent weekends and vacations with the Landons. As a teen, she dated Michael Landon Jr. and they went to their proms together. A rift, however, developed between Michael Landon and Gilbert after the revelation of Landon's affair with Little House's young makeup artist, Cindy Clerico.[1]

Gilbert had no contact with Landon after Little House ended during the 1983/1984 season. Seven years later, on May 9, 1991, when she saw a gaunt-looking Landon on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson discussing his pancreatic cancer, she was compelled to finally telephone him. She visited Landon at his Malibu home where he was, by then, bed-ridden, and they spent the afternoon together. Landon died one week later. When Gilbert gave birth to her son with second husband Bruce Boxleitner on October 6, 1995, they named him Michael in honor of Landon.

Career after Little House

File:Melissa g.jpg

Gilbert at the Starlight Theatre in Kansas City, MO. in June 2010

Gilbert has continued to work regularly, mainly in television. She starred as Jean Donovan in the biopic Choices of the Heart (1983), and as Anna Sheridan in three episodes of Babylon 5 with husband Bruce Boxleitner in 1996. She is known as "The Queen of the television movies and mini-series" having starred in over 45 of them since the late 1970s. During the three months of filming for the television mini-series, Zoya, in St. Petersburg, London, Paris, Montreal, and New York, she was pregnant with her second child.

In 1998, she was inducted into the Western Performers Hall of Fame at the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.

In 2006, Gilbert appeared as Shari Noble, a patient looking to reconstruct her nipples after committing zoophilia with her dog in a season 4 episode of Nip/Tuck.

Gilbert regularly keeps in contact with her friend Alison Arngrim, who played her nemesis Nellie Oleson on Little House on the Prairie. Although their respective characters were enemies for years, in real life, they are close friends.

In 2008 and through 2009, Gilbert plays Caroline "Ma" Ingalls in the musical adaptation of Little House on the Prairie. This world premiere production at the Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis was directed by Francesca Zambello and also stars Kara Lindsay as Laura. The show ran through October 19 and is on a US National tour for 2009–10.[2][3] The tour ended in June 2010 at Starlight Theatre in Kansas City, Missouri.

For her contribution to the television industry, Gilbert has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6429 Hollywood Blvd in 1985. Her then fiance, Rob Lowe, was present with her when her star was unveiled during the ceremony. She is one of the youngest actresses to have been honored with a star.

Screen Actor's Guild Presidency

Melissa won the Screen Actors Guild presidency in 2001 after a contentious election in which she ultimately beat her opponent, Rhoda actress Valerie Harper, 21,351 votes to 12,613 votes after a second vote was taken. In 2003, she was re-elected, defeating Kent McCord with 50% of the vote to his 42%. [4] In July 2005, she announced that she would not seek a third term and she was succeeded by Alan Rosenberg, who assumed the Guild presidency on September 25.

Personal life

At 17, she reconnected with then little-known actor Rob Lowe, also 17. They met briefly when they were about 14. In 1981, Melissa, in her convertible, saw Lowe stopped next to her at a red light. Gilbert dated Lowe on-and-off for six years. During this time, both had affairs with other famous people. Melissa dated Tom Cruise, John Cusack, Scott Baio, and Billy Idol. After Lowe's failed romance with Princess Stéphanie, he suddenly proposed to Gilbert. While making wedding plans, Gilbert found out she was pregnant. Upon being informed of the pregnancy, Lowe ended their relationship. Gilbert miscarried days later.[5]

Heart-broken, Gilbert left for New York City to star in the play A Shayna Maidel. Gilbert was set up with actor Bo Brinkman, a cousin of actors Randy Quaid and Dennis Quaid. The couple married on February 22, 1988, only seven weeks after she ended her relationship with Rob Lowe. Gilbert became pregnant months later. US Magazine featured a very pregnant Gilbert wrapped in a sheer sheet and named her one of "America's Ten Most Beautiful Women" in 1988. On May 1, 1989, she gave birth to Dakota Paul Brinkman. After Dakota's birth, the couple began to have marital problems and divorced in 1992.

Only weeks after Gilbert's divorce filing, Bruce Boxleitner's ex-wife (Kathryn Holcomb) set Bruce up with Gilbert. Holcomb by then was married to actor, Ian Ogilvy. Gilbert had met Boxleitner as a teenager when they both were on Battle of the Network Stars. Gilbert introduced herself as she had a pin-up of him in her locker. Boxleitner ignored her as she was a teen and he was many years older than her. The couple was on-and-off for over a year. They were engaged twice and Boxleitner broke up with her each time. After re-uniting for a third time, they finally married on January 1, 1995 in her mother's living room. Gilbert quickly became pregnant, but went into premature labor more than two months before her due date. She gave birth to a son, Michael Garrett Boxleitner, named in honor of Michael Landon, on October 6, 1995. His middle name is in honor of Garret Peckinpah, her friend Sandy Peckinpah's son, who had died suddenly of meningitis at age 16.

Gilbert is also stepmother to Boxleitner's two sons with Holcomb, Sam (b. 1980) and Lee (b. 1985).

She has had extensive plastic surgery and has battled alcoholism and drug abuse, which she wrote about in her 2009 autobiography.[6]

On July 22, 2010, Gilbert underwent surgery to replace a disc as well as fuse a vertebra in her lower spine. The surgery was described as a complete success. It was discovered during a doctors visit that she had been playing the role of Caroline "Ma" Ingalls in the touring musical Little House on the Prairie with a broken back for months.[7]



Year Film Role Notes
1977 Circus, Lions, Tigers and Melissas Too -
Christmas Miracle in Caufield, U.S.A. Kelly Sullivan TV movie
1979 Nutcracker Fantasy Clara Voice
The Miracle Worker Helen Keller TV movie / Nominated for an Emmy Award
1980 The Diary of Anne Frank Anne Frank TV movie
1981 Splendor in the Grass Wilma Dean 'Deanie' Loomis TV movie
1983 Choices of the Heart Jean Donovan TV movie
Little House: Look Back to Yesterday Laura Ingalls Wilder TV movie
Little House: Bless All the Dear Children Laura Ingalls Wilder TV movie
1984 Little House: The Last Farewell Laura Ingalls Wilder TV movie
Family Secrets Sara Calloway TV movie
1985 Sylvester Charlie
1986 Drug Free Kids: A Parents' Guide - Direct-to-video
Choices Terry Granger TV movie
The Penalty Phase Leah Furman TV movie
1987 Blood Vows: The Story of a Mafia Wife Marian TV movie
1988 Killer Instinct Dr. Lisa DaVito TV movie
1989 Ice House Kay
1990 Without Her Consent Emily Briggs TV movie
Forbidden Nights Judith Shapiro TV movie
Joshua's Heart Claudia TV movie
Donor Dr. Kristine Lipton TV movie
The Lookalike Gina/Jennifer TV movie
1992 With a Vengeance Janet King/Vanessa TV movie
1993 Family of Strangers Julie TV movie
With Hostile Intent Miranda Berkley TV movie
Shattered Trust: The Shari Karney Story Shari Karney TV movie
House of Secrets Marion Ravinel TV movie
Dying to Remember Lynn Matthews TV movie
1994 The Babymaker: The Dr. Cecil Jacobson Story Mary Bennett TV movie
Against Her Will: The Carrie Buck Story Melissa Prentice TV movie
Cries from the Heart Karen TV movie
1995 Zoya Zoya Ossipov TV movie
1996 Christmas in My Hometown
(a.k.a. A Holiday for Love)
Emma Murphy TV movie
1997 Seduction in a Small Town Sarah Jenks TV movie
Childhood Sweetheart? Karen Carlson TV movie
1998 Her Own Rules Meredith Sanders TV movie
1999 Murder at 75 Birch Gwen Todson TV movie
The Soul Collector Rebecca TV movie
Switched at Birth Sarah Barlow TV movie
2000 A Vision of Murder: The Story of Donielle Donielle TV movie
2001 Sanctuary Jo Ellen Hathaway TV movie
2003 Hollywood Wives: The New Generation Taylor Singer TV movie
2004 Heart of the Storm Cassie Broadbeck
2005 Thicker Than Water Natalie Jones TV movie
2007 Sacrifices of the Heart originally titled Spring Thaw Kate Weston/Anne Weston TV movie
Safe Harbour Ophelia Direct-to-video

TV series

Year Title Role Seasons Notes
1974–83 Little House on the Prairie Laura Ingalls Wilder 1–9 Won two Young Artist Awards. Also nominated for a Golden Globe Award
1992 Stand By Your Man Rochelle Dumphy 1
1992–95 Batman: The Animated Series Barbara Gordon/Batgirl 2–3 Voice
1994–95 Sweet Justice Kate Delacroy 1

TV appearances

Year Title Season Role Episode Notes
1972 Gunsmoke 18 Spratt's Child "The Judgement" Episode 4
Emergency! 2 Jenny "Dinner Date" Episode 10
1978 The Love Boat 2 Rocky "Julie's Dilemma/Who's Who/Rocky" Episode 3
1985 Faerie Tale Theatre 4 Gerda "The Snow Queen" Episode 2
1991 The Hidden Room 1 - "Spirit Cabinet" Episode 4
1996 Babylon 5 3 Anna Sheridan "War Without End: Part 2"
"Shadow Dancing"
Episode 17
Episode 21
Episode 22
1998 The Outer Limits 4 Teresa Janovitch "Relativity Theory" Episode 6
Touched by an Angel 5 Michelle Tanner "The Peacemaker" Episode 10
2002 Providence 4 Lorna Berlin "Smoke and Mirrors" Episode 21
Presidio Med 1 Grace Bennett "Once Upon a Family" Episode 7
2005 7th Heaven 9 Marie Wagner "Honor Thy Mother" Episode 18
2006 Nip/Tuck 4 Shari Noble "Shari Noble" Episode 4
2009 Chelsea Lately 3 Herself "Chelsea Lately" Episode 131


  1. E! Entertainment's "Celebrity Profile:Melissa Gilbert," 1999.
  2. [1]
  3. Gans, Andrew.Gilbert, Blanchard, Lindsay, Massey, Loprest Explore a Musical Prairie at Paper Mill, Opening Sept. 20" September 20, 2009
  4. Gilbert re-elected for two more years as SAG president
  5. Prairie Tale, by Melissa Gilbert, June 2009.
  6. "I Drank Three Bottles of Wine a Night"
  7. [2],

External links

bg:Мелиса Гилбърт da:Melissa Gilbert it:Melissa Gilbert nl:Melissa Gilbert no:Melissa Gilbert pl:Melissa Gilbert pt:Melissa Gilbert ru:Гилберт, Мелисса fi:Melissa Gilbert sv:Melissa Gilbert tr:Melissa Gilbert