Melissa Gilbert

Active - 1974 - 2020  |   Born - May 8, 1964 in Los Angeles, California, United States  |   Genres - Drama

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Biography by Hal Erickson

Actress Melissa Gilbert literally grew up before our eyes in the role of Laura Ingalls on the TV series Little House on the Prairie. A professional from the age of 3, Gilbert was ten years old when she assumed the role of Laura, and in her mid-20s when Little House branched off into a handful of TV movies in the 1980s. Outside of this series, Gilbert was the uncrowned queen of the TV remakes: She starred as young Helen Keller in 1979's The Miracle Worker, played the title role in 1980's The Diary of Anne Frank, and assumed the old Natalie Wood role in 1981's Splendor in the Grass. More recently, she has been showing up in made-for-TV biopics, e.g. Babymaker: The Dr. Cecil Jacobson Story (1993) and Against Her Will: The Carrie Buck Story (1994). Gilbert's latter-day series-TV work has included the parts of Kate Delany in Sweet Justice and Rochelle in Stand By Your Man; she has also been heard as the voice of Barbara Gordon, aka Batgirl, in the daily Batman: The Animated Series. In all of these, she has been billed under her married name of Gilbert-Brinkman (her marriage to Bo Brinkman has since dissolved). Melissa Gilbert is the sister of Sara Gilbert, who played Darlene on TV's Roseanne; her grandfather, Harry Crane, was one of the creators of the Jackie Gleason series The Honeymooners.

Though she continued to work, often in TV movies, her career took a shift when she got deeply involved with the Screen Actors Guild, eventually being elected as president of the organization and serving in that capacity from 2001-2005.

Movie Highlights

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  • Her grandfather Harry Crane wrote for the classic 1950s sitcom The Honeymooners.
  • Began appearing in TV commercials at age 3.
  • At age 9, beat out more than 500 girls for the role of Laura Ingalls Wilder on Little House on the Prairie.
  • Met first husband, Bo Brinkman, on a blind date and married him within two months.
  • In 1985, became one of the youngest actresses to receive a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
  • In 2001, became the third woman to serve as the President of the Screen Actors Guild.
  • Performed for months with a broken back while on tour for the Little House on the Prairie musical in 2010.
  • Is an honorary board member for the Children's Hospice and Palliative Care Coalition, which provides children with life-threatening conditions access to the care and emotional support they need.