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Melissa Ellen Gilbert (born May 8, 1964) is an Americanmarker actress, writer, and producer, primarily in movies and television. The naturally red-headed 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, Californiamarker, 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. Sara changed her name to Sara Gilbert and went on to play Darlene Conner on the popular television series Roseanne.

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 Michael Landon's middle daughter, Laura Ingalls on NBC's 2-hour pilot of the book Little House on the Prairie. Michael Landon 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 young makeup artist, Cindy Clerico.

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

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, Oklahomamarker.

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 2009, Gilbert plays Caroline "Ma" Ingalls in a musical adaptation of Little House on the Prairie. This world premiere production at the Guthrie Theatermarker in Minneapolismarker was directed by Francesa Zambello and also stars Kara Lindsay as Laura. The show will run through October 19 and is rumored to go on tour and potentially Broadway. A 30-city national tour was announced for 2009–10.

For her contribution to the television industry, Gilbert has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Famemarker at 6429 Hollywood Blvd in 1985. Her then fiancee, 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%.
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.


While president of the SAG Gilbert removed members that could not afford to honor the strike. Small-time actors/actresses who relied on the income from small parts were ousted under Gilbert's direction.

Personal life

At 17, she reconnected with then unknown actor Rob Lowe, also 17, and dated him on-and-off for 6 years. 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..

Gilbert was then 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 soon became pregnant. 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 1992. A custody battle later ensued and Dakota ended up living much of the year with his father in Texas.

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 English actor, Ian Ogilvy. The relationship was on and off again for the next year, when they finally married on January 1, 1995 in her mother's living room. Gilbert 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, the son of her friend Sandy Peckinpah, who had died suddenly of meningitis at age 16.

Gilbert is also stepmother to Boxleitner's two sons from a previous marriage, Sam (b. 1980) and Lee (b. 1985).

She has battled alcoholism and drug abuse, which she wrote about in her 2009 autobiography.

She is also the proud owner of a French Bulldog.

Filmography

Films

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 Emma Murphy TV movie
(a.k.a.

A Holiday for Love)
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 - 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"
"Z'ha'dum"

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


References

  1. E! Entertainment's "Celebrity Profile:Melissa Gilbert," 1999.
  2. [1]
  3. Gilbert re-elected for two more years as SAG president
  4. Prairie Tale, by Melissa Gilbert, June 2009.
  5. "I Drank Three Bottles of Wine a Night"


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