Little House On The Prairie Cast Who Are Dead

"Little House on the Prairie" is a popular TV show that ran from 1974 to 1983 on NBC. Often cited as a definitive example of wholesome family-oriented television, "Little House" is based on the best-selling book series by Laura Ingalls Wilder about her experiences growing up in the late 1800s.

Michael Landon was already a well-known TV star from "Bonanza," but he became the lead actor of a hit series of his own when he took on the role of Charles Ingalls. He also oversaw 89 episodes of "Little House on the Prairie."

The show has a memorable opening credits sequence where Charles and Carolyn Ingalls, played by Karen Grassle, are riding together in a covered wagon while their children run in a grass field to the sweeping "Little House" theme composed by David Rose. As luck would have it, "Little House" came out when the United States was still trying to get over the Watergate scandal and the Vietnam War. Partly as a result, millions of viewers looked to the Ingalls family for a comforting image of old-timey simplicity.

Like a few other classic TV shows, "Little House" experienced a spike in popularity during the 2020 pandemic.

Melissa Gilbert, who played Laura Ingalls, told CBS Sunday Morning, the series "is a reminder of when things were simpler for us. 'Little House' was a reminder of what we went through when we started this country, and how difficult that was ... The values of the show were like those of Michael Landon. He was that man. He believed that people really were good at heart."

Considering "Little House" ended roughly four decades ago, you might assume at least a few members of the cast are no longer among the living, but some might surprise you.

Here's a list of "Little House on the Prairie" stars you may not know have passed away.

Michael Landon

Rugged, handsome, and square-jawed with a full head of thick dark hair, Michael Landon had remarkable career on television starring in three big series: the long running western "Bonanza," "Little House on the Prairie," and "Highway to Heaven."

Born in Queens, New York, Landon's real name was Eugene Maurice Orowitz. Landon came from a family of actors and was a straight-A student in grade school. In high school, Landon's talent for javelin throwing earned him an academic scholarship from USC, but several injuries ended his potential career in sports, and he left college in his freshman year.

He then went on to acting school and changed his name to the memorable and easier to pronounce Michael Landon. He reportedly found the name Michael Landon in the phone book.

Landon first broke through in the low budget B-movie "I Was a Teenage Werewolf" (the trailer promised: "Michael Landon in a powerful performance"), which was hilariously lampooned on "Mystery Science Theater 3000." Eventually, he landed role of Little Joe on "Bonanza," at a point when Westerns were the most popular genre on television. "Bonzana" was number one in the ratings from 1964 to 1967 and ran for a remarkable 14 years.

After his successful stints on "Little House" and "Highway to Heaven," Landon announced he was suffering from pancreatic cancer in April of 1991, and he was reportedly the first public figure who did this, sharing with the world that he was suffering from one of the hardest cancers to treat. Landon told the Associated Press he wasn't afraid to die, but he was going to "fight like hell" to live. Three months after announcing his illness, Landon died July 1, 1991, at the age of 54

Victor French

A native of Santa Barbara, Victor French was another actor best known for Western roles. French was a distinctive character actor with curly dark black hair and a mustache, and he worked his way onto two of the biggest Westerns in TV history — "Gunsmoke" and Michael Landon's original claim to fame, "Bonanza."

French was often cast as villains, but it was Landon who saw him as more than a bit player and capable of bigger roles. French recalled (via AP), that when casting "Little House on the Prairie," NBC "wanted a name actor, but Michael stood by his guns. That role changed my career. Michael is really my 'angel.'"

On "Little House," French played farmer Isaiah Edwards, a gruff man who had a good heart underneath. French also directed 18 episodes of the show. French left "Little House" in 1977 to star in his own sitcom, "Carter County," which lasted until 1979, but he came back to "Little House" in 1982. After that, Landon and French did "Highway to Heaven" together, where French played Landon's sidekick Mark Gordon. Landon and French both directed a number of episodes of that show as well.

French died on June 15, 1989, at the age of 54.

Merlin Olsen

Merlin Olsen is one of a number of football players who went into acting following their athletic careers. He was an All-American at Utah State and was picked by the Rams in the first round of the 1963 draft. Olsen was part of a group called the Fearsome Foursome, which also included his teammates Deacon Jones, Lamar Lundy, and Rosey Grier. Olsen played for the Rams for 15 years. He was known as one of the best tackles in NFL history, and he also went to Utah State to get a master's degree in economics.

Early in 1977, Olsen signed a contract with NBC, and he soon started playing Jonathan Garvey on "Little House on the Prairie." Olsen grew up in a Mormon family, which could be why he chose to be in more family-friendly movies. Olsen had his own show, "Father Murphy," in the early 1980s. It ran on NBC from 1981 to 1983. In his later life, he was best known for being a sports announcer.

Olsen died on March 11, 2010, from cancer. He was 69 years old.

Katherine McGregor

On "Little House on the Prairie," there are two characters that people love to hate: Nellie Oleson, who was played by Alison Arngrim and was one of the worst brats in the West, and her mother, Harriet Oleson, who was played by Katherine MacGregor.

Dorlee MacGregor was born in Southern California in 1925. She lived in Colorado as a child and grew up there. During her time at the University of Denver, she joined the drama club. This is where she learned how to act.

After college, she moved to New York and studied acting with Stella Adler and Sanford Meisner, who are both well-known. She had a small part in the classic Marlon Brando movie "On the Waterfront," and a touring production of "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?" earned her good reviews.

When MacGregor moved back to California, she got small parts on TV shows like "All in the Family" and "Emergency!" but she didn't like living in Hollywood. She was ready to quit acting before she got the part of Harriet Oleson, who was always a pain for the Ingalls family.

MacGregor was on "Little House" for the whole time it was on the air. When it was finally over, he stopped acting. She was 93 years old when she died on November 13, 2018, at the Motion Picture & Television Fund's retirement home.

Robert Loggia

Robert Loggia was born in Staten Island. At first, he wanted to play football, but then he decided to study acting with the famous Stella Adler, who also taught Marlon Brando. Like many actors, Loggia got his start on stage and then moved on to small roles in movies and on TV.

Even though he played Thomas Stark on "Little House on the Prairie," Loggia is not best known for his role in one of the show's darkest episodes.

He was also in "The Untouchables," "Gunsmoke," "Columbo," "Rawhide," "The Bionic Woman," and many more shows.

Loggia may be best known for playing Tony Montana's drug lord boss Frank Lopez in 1983's "Scarface." He also had memorable roles in "An Officer and a Gentleman," "Prizzi's Honor," the sci-fi blockbuster "Independence Day," and the comedy "Big," in which he and Tom Hanks danced to the music for "Chopsticks" and "Heart and Soul" on a giant keyboard. Loggia was good at playing mobsters, as shown by his roles as Mr. Eddy in David Lynch's "Lost Highway" and as Feech La Manna in "The Sopranos." Ironically, he got the highest honor of his career for playing a character on the other side of the law. His role as a grizzled private detective in "Jagged Edge" earned him an Oscar nomination for best supporting actor.

Loggia died on December 4, 2015, after fighting Alzheimer's for five years. He was 85 years old.

Ernest Borgnine

Ernest Borgnine played a lot of tough guys and loveable lugs on TV and in movies. He was versatile enough to play a wide range of roles and genres that didn't fit any stereotypes.

Borgnine was born in Connecticut, and after serving in World War II, he went to school to study theater.

He worked on TV a lot, with more than 200 roles to his name. He had regular parts on "Airwolf" and "McHale's Navy." "The Lord is My Shepherd," a two-part episode of "Little House on the Prairie," featured Borgnine.

Borgnine was in a lot of great movies, such as "From Here to Eternity," "Bad Day at Black Rock," "The Dirty Dozen," "The Wild Bunch," and "The Poseidon Adventure."

One of Borgnine's most famous roles was as the title character in "Marty," which was about a regular guy who wants to find love in the hopes that it will spice up his boring life as a butcher. Borgnine won the Oscar for best actor for his work in the movie. He was 95 years old when he died on July 8, 2012.


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