Melissa Gilbert and Alison Arngrim's Hidden Braces on 'Little House on the Prairie'


Michael Landon premiered Little House on the Prairie in 1974 with a cast that comprised numerous kid performers. 

As the series progressed and the children underwent bodily changes, Landon had to come up with inventive techniques to conceal some traits that were uncommon in the late 1800s.

 Melissa Gilbert and Alison Arngrim, who portrayed Laura Ingalls and Nellie Oleson, respectively, had to endure a tedious daily routine while wearing braces. Little House was not exactly a playground for child actors.

During the first four seasons of Little House, Charlotte Stewart played Walnut Grove schoolteacher Eva Beadle. She frequently interacted with the younger cast members and remarked that the situation was not all fun and games. 

Stewart wrote in her memoir, Little House in the Hollywood Hills: A Bad Girl's Guide to Becoming Miss Beadle, Mary X, and Me, that it was easy to imagine that the lives of the actors who played Mary (Melissa Sue Anderson), Laura, Nellie, or any of the other characters on Little House on the Prairie were fun and exciting. 

"The reality is that it was mixed." The Little House alumnus thanked Landon for mentoring the children and sharing his humor and pranks with them. Regardless of their age, he treated everyone on set as a professional and expected them to work.

Stewart commented that living on the Little House set was not a playground for the most part. "In all aspects, including expectations for the youngsters, the performance was conducted as a tight ship. 

They were either filming sequences, attending school on set, or taking a union-mandated break. There was only a small amount of unscripted goof-off time in front of the camera." The cast of 'Little House on the Prairie' followed a precise dental regimen.

With the younger cast members of Little House on the Prairie undoubtedly undergoing physical changes as the series progressed, some alterations or makeup techniques were required to reflect the show's time period.

"Growing up on the set presented other odd obstacles," Stewart writes. "At one point, both Alison and Melissa Gilbert wore orthodontic appliances, which did not exist in the 1870s. 

The makeup artists resolved this problem by adding white candle wax to the braces of the girls, requiring them to spend the remainder of the day cleaning this gunk from their teeth in addition to shedding the pounds of pancake makeup we all wore." While the makeup artists were professionals in their field, even the most effective techniques could occasionally fail.

Stewart added, "If you keep an eye out, you can sometimes see the braces." "In a scene from [season 3] of 'Bully Boys,' Melissa Gilbert sits up at night with an idea she wants to share with Mary. 

The light strikes her teeth perfectly, and you can see the metallic sheen." The young actors of 'Little House' were polished professionals, with the exception of one Stewart, who praised their work ethic and professionalism.

"Despite these and other obstacles, all of the young players rose to the occasion," she wrote. "They understood their lines and worked diligently... nobody was sloppy." 

The Little House actress recalls an instance in which a young guest star did not comply with predetermined standards and was consequently fired. Stewart remarked, "I only recall one young actor in my four years on the show who was cast in a guest part without knowing his lines and believing this was a place to have fun." He was replaced one day later.

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