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Melissa Gilbert’s mom ruined teen’s first on-screen kiss with 23-year-old actor by sobbing: New book




Melissa Gilbert’s first onscreen kiss was ruined by her sobbing mother.

As the “Little House on the Prairie” star, who played Laura “Half-Pint” Ingalls on the long-running series, had her first TV smooch with actor Dean Butler, her mother loudly wept

The emotional eruption caused such a ruckus that Michael Landon, the show’s star as well as its writer and director, had to yell “cut.”

Dean Butler and Melissa Gilbert in "Little House on the Prairie."
Butler was 23 and Gilbert had just turned 15 when he joined the show. Courtesy Everett Collection

“It was totally unexpected. This kind of outburst just didn’t happen on our set,” writes Butler, 68, in his new book, “Prairie Man: My Little House Life & Beyond” (Citadel, June 25).

Butler played love interest Almanzo Wilder, whom Laura Ingalls eventually marries, on the show.

Gilbert’s mother, Barbara Abeles, didn’t approve of his casting. He was 23 at the time, while Gilbert had just turned 15.

“Her unhappiness culminated, perhaps, in not being able to bear seeing me kiss her daughter. It was a protective displeasure.” Butler writes. “Today that eight-year-difference between us is a tiny gap, but 45 years ago, it was the Grand Canyon.”

Melissa Gilbert and Dean Butler in period costumes, standing in front of a "Little House" outline.
Butler shares that Gilbert was less than enthused with his casting.
Dean Butler on "Little House on the Prairie."
Butler was hired without filming a screen test opposite Gilbert. Courtesy Everett Collection

Adding to the age difference, was the fact that Gilbert was an especially sheltered teen who wasn’t allowed to wear heels or get her ears pierced.

Butler was a young man living on his own with a car.

He later found out Gilbert herself was less than enthused over his hiring. In her memoir, “Prairie Tale,” Gilbert titled the chapter about Butler: “Oh S–t, They Got a Real Man.”

Dean Butler "Prairie Man" book jacket.
Butler has a memoir out called “Prairie Man.”

The former co-stars are friends, and, over the years, they’ve talked about how scared Gilbert was.

“You were a man, a grown-up man with a car and an apartment,” Butler recalls her saying. “I was a really young teenager … I was still wearing Mary Janes … I wasn’t allowed to shave my legs and I’d never even been on a date.”

Gilbert also told him that she “just wasn’t ready to have that kind of physical contact with anybody.”

In the book, Butler dishes, with careful respect, on working with Landon, who died in 1991 at the age of 54.

He wishes that he “could have known him better, found a way past that grin and those sunglasses and gotten into his confidence.

Victor French (from left), Melissa Gilbert and Dean Butler on "Little House on the Prairie."
Gilbert and Butler (pictured with costar Victor French at left) are now great friends. NBCUniversal via Getty Images

“For me Michael Landon was a force of nature; a brilliant writer, director and actor. He always appeared to be too busy for me to engage him as a mentor.”

But, he notes that everyone had a unique experience of Landon.

“The Michael that Dean Butler knew was not the same Michael that Mellissa Gilbert knew. Melissa’s Michael was not Karen Grassle’s Michael, or Merle Olsen’s Michael,” he writes.

In her 2021 memoir, “Bright Lights, Prairie Dust: Reflections on Life, Loss, and Love from Little House’s Ma,” Grassle, who played Landon’s wife on the series, detailed her complicated relationship with her co-star.

Michael Landon and Dean Butler stand and admire a wagon on "Little House on the Prairie."
Butler also writes about the show’s driving force, Michael Landon (far left). NBCUniversal via Getty Images

She wrote that a salary dispute morphed into being ignored on set and left out of storylines.

She also claimed Landon would often use coarse language and crack misogynistic ‘jokes.’

“Mike would say ‘c – – -’ and make disgusting jokes about how a woman smelled after sex,” Grassle told The Post in a previous interview.

Butler writes that he admired Landon but that he could be volatile.

Michael Landon and Melissa Gilbert in "Little House on the Prairie."
Butler admits that Landon (right) was a complicated figure. NBCUniversal via Getty Images

Once, he was having trouble following directions in a scene and Landon lost his patience.

After the third take, he “threw me across the barn,” Butler writes. “I flew through the air like a rag doll …There were audible gasps from the crew, and a few snickers from those who had been working with Michael a long time.”

Butler noted that although the actor could run the production with “exquisite sensitivity,” he would “become bored and belligerent later in the day, after an afternoon of sipping vodka from a white Styrofoam cup.”

He also added that while Landon was “wonderful in quiet moments with actors,” he “also told some of the most misogynistic jokes I have ever heard in my life.

Dean Butler sitting in vest in contemporary times.
Butler still appears regularly at “Little House” conventions. Getty Images

“Everybody would laugh because the jokes were funny, but they were also filthy — and by today’s standards, wildly inappropriate.”

Butler still regularly appears at “Little House” conventions and panels and says that he has “immense gratitude” for being part of a show that is still so beloved around the world.

Looking back on his life, he writes that, “Of course, I have regrets, but ‘Little House on the Prairie’ isn’t one of them.”