Happy Birthday Melissa Gilbert: Timeline of the ‘Little House on the Prairie’ Star’s Hollywood Career

by Keeli Parkey
(Photo by Paul Zimmerman/FilmMagic)

Melissa Gilbert, one of the most famous child stars in the history of television, is celebrating her 57th birthday today (May 8, 2021). The actress rose to fame as the young Laura Ingalls on the still-beloved television show “Little House on the Prairie.”

Gilbert was born in Los Angeles, California, in 1964. Due to financial issues, her biological parents chose to give her up for adoption on that day, according to Biography.com. As fate would have it, the newborn future television star was adopted by parents who were actors. Her adoptive father was Paul Gilbert; also, her adoptive mother was Barbara Crane.

It was during 1974 that Melissa Gilbert made her debut as Laura Ingalls on “Little House on the Prairie.” To get the role of Laura Ingalls on the show, Melissa Gilbert had to outperform 500 other young actresses, according to IMDb.com. In fact, her audition tape was the only one sent to NBC television executives to review.

Interestingly, she learned she had won the role while she was at school. The daughter of Michael Landon, the show’s star, reportedly told her she was going to play Laura Ingalls while they were waiting to eat lunch at school one day. That daughter was Leslie Landon.

Michael Landon Became a Second Father to Young Gilbert

While appearing on the show, Gilbert grew close to Michael Landon. After her father, Paul Gilbert, passed away in 1975, the young Melissa grew even closer to Landon. And, he became like a second father to her – in addition to playing her father on television. In fact, Landon took Gilbert to her senior prom during 1981.

The original television run of “Little House on the Prairie” ended in 1983.

In addition to bringing Melissa Gilbert fame and a second father, “Little House on the Prairie” also gave the young actress a star on the famous Hollywood Walk of Fame. She received that honor in 1985. She was younger than any other individual who had ever received that honor. Her star can be found at 6429 Hollywood Boulevard in Hollywood, California.

Melissa Gilbert’s Life After ‘Little House on the Prairie’ Came to an End

Following the end of “Little House on the Prairie,” Melissa Gilbert continued acting. A few “Little House on the Prairie” television films followed. There were also the television series “Stand by Your Man” in 1992, “Batman: The Animated Series” from 1992 until 1994, “Sweet Justice” from 1994 until 1995, and “Babylon 5” in 1996.

Gilbert’s personal life was also a topic of conversation after the end of “Little House on the Prairie” thanks to her fame. She had relationships with both Tom Cruise and Rob Lowe during the 1980s. She was reportedly even engaged to Lowe at one point.

In 2001, Melissa Gilbert was selected by her fellow actors to be the president of the Screen Actors Guild. Two years later, she was elected to serve in the post for another two years. Also during the early 2000s, Gilbert appeared in several television movies.

It was during 2009 that Melissa Gilbert released her memoir. This book was the aptly titled, “Prairie Tale: A Memoir.” In it, she shared details about her time on “Little House on the Prairie,” as well as details about her personal life.

Her most recent acting credit, according to IMDb.com, was in the 2019 film “When We Last Spoke.”