Little House on the Prairie is an American Western historical drama TV series.
It starred Melissa Sue Anderson, Karen Grassle, Melissa Gilbert, and Michael Landon.
The show follows a family who live on a farm in Plum Creek, Minnesota. It was set in the 1870s, 80s and 90s.
The television show was an adaptation of the book series called Little House written by Laura Ingalls Wilder.
It was after encouragement from his daughter and wife that Ed Friendly, a former NBC executive, gained the television and film rights to the novels.
Ed Friendly requested that Michael Landon directs the pilot; Landon accepted with the condition that he played Charles Ingalls.
The pilot of the show was a two-hour movie that was first aired in 1970.
It was based on Wilder’s third installation of the Little House books “Little House on the Prairie”.
The television series aired on NBC on September 11, 1974. The last episode of the show premiered on May 10, 1982.
When the TV show first aired its pilot episode people were skeptical about whether audiences would warm to the story line of a pioneer family looking to live off the land.
However, the popularity of the movie solidified the show’s future and the pilot and subsequent episodes held high ratings.
Over the years, the audience grew to love this cast as well as the charming, and even often graphic, depictions of life as a settler.
Little House on the Prairie had multiple filming locations.
The inside shots were all filmed in various lots at Paramount Studios that is located in Los Angeles, while the exterior shots were mostly filmed at the Big Sky Ranch in Simi Valley.
This is the place where the Walnut Grove town set was constructed. Big Sky Movie Ranch is a well-known spot within Hollywood especially for producers.
Scenes from Bonanza, Flicka, Gunsmoke, Dallas, The Thorn Bird, Quantum Leap and Rawhide plus many more were all filmed here.
There were many other locations used during the filming of the television series as well.
These included Old Tucson Studios and Sonora, California. The majority of the exterior shots of Walnut Grove and other Minnesota towns shown in the series show the mountainous terrain in the background.
However, in reality, Minnesota to the south (where the show is supposed to take place) has no tall mountains at all.
Parts of the set for Little House on the Prairie were destroyed due to a staged explosion done for the series finale.
This explosion destroyed most of the Walnut Grove in the final Little House film, The Last Farewell.
Due to the nature of Hollywood filming in general, many of the sets, costumes and other items from all kinds of stand out productions were destroyed or recycled for other productions.
This is not uncommon in Hollywood practice. However, if you are a fan of the Little House on the Prairies’ television series, then it may seem a shame that none of those buildings stand today.
Anything that remained of the set was lost and destroyed in fires in 2003 and in 2019.
Facts About Little House On The Prairie
1. In addition to being a popular television series, Little House on the Prairie also became a successful movie franchise.
There have been four movies made so far. Each one has featured different actors playing the roles of the Ingalls’ children.
In the first three films, the role of Mary was played by Melissa Gilbert, who later went onto play the role of Laura Ingalls Wilder herself.
In the fourth installment, the part of Mary was played by Kristin Griffiths.
2. The first film was released in 1979 starring Melissa Gilbert as Mary, Timothy Bottoms as Almanzo Wilder, John Schneider as Pa, Richard Thomas as Ma, and Peter Horton as Carrie.
It grossed $50 million worldwide. The second film came out in 1981 starring Melissa Gilbert as Mary and Donny Most as Almanzo.
It grossed $40 million worldwide. The third film came out in 1988 starring Kristin Griffiths as Mary and David Duchovny as Almanzo.
It grossed $45 million worldwide. The fourth film came out in 1994 starring Kristin Griffiths again as Mary and William Katt as Almanzo Wildermans. It grossed $35 million worldwide.
3. A new version of Little House on the Prairie premiered on Netflix on January 25th, 2020.
Written and directed by Michael Landon Jr., this modern day remake stars Hailee Steinfeld as Mary, Sam Claflin as Almanzo, Aaron Paul as Pa, Florence Pugh as Carrie, and Emilia Clarke as Ma.
4. The original location chosen to shoot Walnut Grove on Little House on the Prairie was the town of Waverly, Iowa.
This was because they wanted to use the old train depot there. Unfortunately, the town of Waverley had already been demolished years before the series began production.
So, the producers decided to move their filming to another location instead.
5. The show was incredibly popular in Spain. Titled “La Casa de la Pradera”, the show earned several TP de Oro awards (the equivalent of Emmy’s at the time).
Melissa Gilbert and Karen Grassle both won awards. The show also won the best foreign series.
6. Because the show was filmed in Simi Valley, California, the heat would get intensely hot on set.
On lots of shooting days the thermostat would almost pop and hit highs of around 110 degrees.
This mixed with the set lights, wigs, dresses and makeup made for an excruciating combo for cast members.
7. The show had its fair share of small characters, but producers didn’t hold back in their casting of them.
The show cast eight future Oscar-winning actors to play the smaller characters.
You can spot Ernest Borgnine, Burl Ives, Patricia Neal, Red Buttons, Ralph Bellamy, Eileen Heckart, Louis Gossett Jr. and Sean Penn in episodes across the show.
8. The show actually survived two industry strikes. In 1980, Hollywood was suffering from an actors’ strike.
One year later, the writers walked off set too.
Out of all the shows airing through these strikes, Little House on the Prairie was the only prime-time non-reality television series to stay in production.
So there you have it.
Little House on the Prairie was not without its off-set drama, but the beautiful sets and locations have helped make it one of the most beloved series of all time.
If you enjoyed this article, you might enjoy our post on ‘Movies About The Arctic‘.