‘Little House on the Prairie’: Melissa Gilbert’s Grandfather Was Writer on This Classic Sitcom

by Emily Morgan

Melissa Gilbert, also known as Laura Ingalls from “Little House on the Prairie,” was adopted at a young age by a family that had quite an impressive resume. Gilbert broke into the Hollywood scene as a youngster. Before booking”Little House on the Prairie,” she landed roles on “Gunsmoke,” “The Dean Martin Show,” and “The Love Boat.” 

Yet, her rise to fame may not have been possible if it weren’t for her grandfather, Harry Crane. Crane got his start by working as a stand-up comedian. He also wrote for “The Harvey Girls,” “Song of the Thin Man,” and “Take Me Out to the Ball Game.” 

He worked with stars such as Lucille Ball, Fred Astaire, and Bing Crosby. Crane became a huge name in the entertainment industry. During his career, he wrote screenplays, TV shows, and specials.

The Show That Put Melissa Gilbert’s Grandfather on the Map

Most notably, he helped create the classic sitcom, “The Honeymooners,” as well as its characters. In 1951, Hollywood music composer Jackie Gleason asked Crane to produce a sketch of him as a working Brooklyn man with a nagging wife. 

As a result, Crane and Joe Bigelow created Ralph and Alice Kramden, which became a recurring act in Gleason’s show. Eventually, they transitioned it into its own show called “The Honeymooners.” It aired on CBS from 1955 to 1956. In addition, Crane wrote comedy acts for stars like Frank Sinatra, Eddie Fisher, Dean Martin, and Jerry Lewis.

In 1967, he was nominated for a Primetime Emmy Award for “Outstanding Writing Achievement in Variety” for “The Dean Martin Show.”

During an interview with the Archive of American Television, Gilbert explained that many of the comic legends Harry worked with would come to his birthday parties. There, she would listen to stories they used to tell about her grandfather. 

Although they all were quite famous at the time, Melissa Gilbert didn’t know that they were influential Hollywood legends. According to Gilbert, she first realized that her grandfather was well-to-do in the industry was when she visited the Smithsonian Museum. “There’s a poster for an Abbott and Costello movie called Lost in a Harem that I happen to have loved, and it was written by my grandfather,” she revealed. Harry passed away on September 13, 1999.