‘Little House on the Prairie’: Alison Arngrim Relives ’Nellie’s Wheelchair Stunt

by Clayton Edwards

Little House on the Prairie is packed with classic moments. Many of these moments came from characters learning important life lessons. So, quite a few of those classic scenes were somber and heartwarming. Charles Ingalls was a good father and never missed a chance to teach a lesson. Over the show’s run, Michael Landon’s character taught his children and, by extension, the audience many important things. However, some of those moments were downright hilarious. Those usually came from certain characters learning a lesson by getting what they had coming to them.

The famous wheelchair scene, where Nellie Olsen ends up in a pond, is one of the latter. Not only is it a hilarious moment of comeuppance but it also highlights the rivalry between Laura and Nellie. Melissa Gilbert and Alison Arngrim may have been friends in real life, but they were bitter enemies on Little House on the Prairie.

The iconic scene came from the second episode of season five of Little House on the Prairie. In the episode, Nellie goes for a ride on Laura’s horse, Bunny. When Nellie starts mistreating the horse, it bucks her off. Nellie isn’t hurt. However, she pretends to be paralyzed and everyone buys it, including Laura. So, wracked with guilt, Laura vows to help her paralyzed rival. At the same time, Mrs. Olsen thinks the only way to make things right is to kill Bunny.

When Laura comes to the Olsen home to visit, she discovers that Nellie is faking. So, she plots her revenge. Later in the episode, she shoves Nellie down a hill in her wheelchair. In the end, she splashes into a pond and stands up, as mad as a wet hen. In that moment, she is exposed as a liar.

Alison Arngrim Looks Back on Famous Little House on the Prairie Wheelchair Stunt

Alison Arngrim looked back at the classic scene during the recent Stars in the House-hosted Little House on the Prairie cast reunion.

The former Little House on the Prairie star has a great sense of humor. The hosts of the reunion asked her if that was her in the wheelchair or just a dummy strapped in the chair. Arngrim laughingly said that it was both. She was the dummy strapped in the chair. She went on to say that the only part of the scene that she didn’t do herself was the summersault into the pond. That, she pointed out, was a stuntwoman.

She explained that the Little House on the Prairie crew put her on a steep hill and Melissa Gilbert pushed her down it. However, there was a heavy metal cable. So, the chair stopped only a few feet down the hill. Then, they filmed the stunt sequence. After that, they took Arngrim to a longer hill that wasn’t as steep. She rode down that hill in the wheelchair. This is where most of the footage of the scene came from.

They did all they could to make sure the sequence was as safe as possible. However, the horror on Nellie’s face looked very real as she sped down the hill.