About Melissa Ellen Gilbert
Melissa Ellen Gilbert (born May 8, 1964) is an American actress, writer, and producer, primarily in film and television. Gilbert is best known as a child actress who starred as Laura Ingalls Wilder, on the NBC series Little House on the Prairie (1974–1984). As an adult, she has a long list of acting, voicework, writing, producing, and directing credits. Gilbert also served two terms as president of the Screen Actors Guild. On June 9, 2009 her autobiography, Prairie Tale: A Memoir, was released. She is also known for providing the original voice of Batgirl in Batman: The Animated Series.
Family and early career
Born in Los Angeles, California, 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, 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. Melissa's parents divorced when she was 8 years old. Her mother, Barbara, then married Harold Abeles, and together they had biological daughter Sara Rebecca Abeles (the actress known professionally as Sara Gilbert), born on January 29, 1975. On February 12, 1975 Paul Gilbert suffered a stroke and died at the age of 56. Barbara and Harold Abeles' marriage later ended in divorce. Gilbert was raised in her adoptive mother's Jewish religion.
Gilbert had already done dozens of commercials, including one for Alpo dog food with Lorne Greene (Michael Landon's television father on Bonanza) and attended school with his daughter, Leslie Landon. It was Leslie who informed her that she had won the role of Laura Ingalls on Little House on the Prairie, beating out over 500 child actresses for the 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. But a rift developed between Michael Landon and Gilbert after the revelation of Landon's affair with Little House's young makeup artist, Cindy Clerico.
Gilbert had no contact with Landon after Little House ended during the 1983–84 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, bedridden, 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 then husband Bruce Boxleitner in 1996.
For her contribution to the television industry, Gilbert received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6429 Hollywood Blvd in 1985. Her then-fiance, Rob Lowe, was present with her when her star was unveiled during the ceremony.
In 1998, she was inducted into the Western Performers Hall of Fame at the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.
In 2006, Gilbert appeared as Shari Noble, a patient looking to reconstruct her nipples after committing zoophilia with her dog in a season four 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 2008 and through 2009, Gilbert played Caroline "Ma" Ingalls in the musical adaptation of Little House on the Prairie. This world premiere production at the Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis was directed by Francesca Zambello and also starred Kara Lindsay as Laura. The show ran through October 19 and was on a US National tour for 2009–10. The tour ended in June 2010 at Starlight Theatre in Kansas City, Missouri.
In March 2012, Gilbert joined the cast of celebrity contestants on season 14 of Dancing with the Stars. She was paired with Maksim Chmerkovskiy. During week four's show, she fell and suffered a mild concussion and was taken to a hospital. She went home to recuperate, but returned to continue in the competition. In week eight of competition, she was eliminated, finishing in fifth place.
Screen Actors Guild presidency
Gilbert was elected president of the Screen Actors Guild in 2001 after a contentious candidacy, 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. She was succeeded by Alan Rosenberg, who assumed the guild presidency on September 25.
At age 17, she reconnected with then little-known actor Rob Lowe, also 17. They had met briefly when they were about 14. In 1981, Melissa, in her convertible, saw Lowe stopped next to her at a red light. Gilbert dated Lowe on and off for six years. During this time, both had affairs with other famous people. Melissa dated Tom Cruise, John Cusack, Scott Baio, and Billy Idol. After Lowe's failed romance with Princess Stéphanie of Monaco, 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.
Heartbroken, Gilbert left for New York City to star in the play A Shayna Maidel. Gilbert was 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 became pregnant months later. On May 1, 1989, she gave birth to Dakota Paul Brinkman. After Dakota's birth, the couple began to have marital problems and divorced in 1992.
Only weeks after Gilbert's divorce filing, Bruce Boxleitner's ex-wife, Kathryn Holcomb, set Boxleitner up with Gilbert. Holcomb by then was married to actor Ian Ogilvy. Gilbert had met Boxleitner as a teenager when they both were on Battle of the Network Stars when Gilbert introduced herself, as she had a pin-up of him in her locker. But Boxleitner ignored her, as she was a teen and he was many years older than she was. After re-connecting, the couple started dating on and off for over a year. They were engaged twice and Boxleitner broke up with her each time. After reuniting for a third time, they finally married on January 1, 1995 in her mother's living room. Gilbert quickly became pregnant, but went into premature labor more than two months before her due date. She 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, her friend Sandy Peckinpah's son, who had died suddenly of meningitis at age 16.
Gilbert is also stepmother to Boxleitner's two sons with Holcomb, Sam (b. 1980) and Lee (b. 1985).
She has battled alcoholism and drug abuse, which she wrote about in her 2009 autobiography.
On July 22, 2010 Gilbert underwent surgery to replace a disc as well as fuse a vertebra in her lower spine. The surgery was described as a complete success. While playing the role of Caroline "Ma" Ingalls in the touring musical Little House on the Prairie, a visit to the doctor revealed that she had been working with a broken back for months.
On March 1, 2011, Gilbert announced that she and Boxleitner had separated. On August 22, 2011, Gilbert filed for divorce from Boxleitner.
Melissa Gilbert's Timeline
May 8, 1964
Los Angeles, Los Angeles, CA, USA
January 1, 1995