Melissa Gilbert remembers 'Little House' co-star Katherine MacGregor: 'Her Harriet Oleson was the woman our fans loved to hate'
In real life, Little House on the Prairie’s Mrs. Oleson was beloved by the people who spent years with her in Walnut Grove.
Katherine “Scottie” MacGregor, who played the town’s nosy, gossipy wife of the storekeeper on all nine seasons of the TV drama, died Tuesday in Woodland Hills, Calif., at 93. Within hours, her co-stars began speaking out to offer fond recollections of her.
Melissa Gilbert, who played the main character of Laura Ingalls Wilder, described MacGregor as “outspoken” and “hilariously funny.” She added, “The thing people outside of our prairie family didn’t know, was how loving and nurturing she was with the younger cast.” Gilbert was just 9 when the show premiered.
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I just got word that Katherine MacGregor passed away yesterday. This woman taught me so much… about acting… vintage jewelry… life. She was outspoken and hilariously funny. A truly gifted actress as she was able to play a despicable character but with so much heart. Her Harriet Oleson was the woman our fans loved to hate. A perfect antagonist. The thing people outside of our prairie family didn’t know, was how loving and nurturing she was with the younger cast. I really loved her and I find great comfort knowing that she is at peace and, per her beliefs, her soul has moved on to its next incarnation. Farewell Scottie. I hope with all my heart we meet again next time.
A post shared by Melissa Gilbert (@melissaellengilbertbusfield) on Nov 14, 2018 at 6:29am PST
Alison Arngrim, who played MacGregor’s bratty daughter, Nellie, proclaimed, “Long live the immortal Katherine MacGregor!”
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Long live our beautiful Harriet. Long live the immortal Katherine MacGregor!
A post shared by Alison Arngrim (@alisonarngrim) on Nov 14, 2018 at 7:55am PST
Arngrim elaborated in her 2011 memoir, Confessions of a Prairie Bitch, in which she described MacGregor as someone who regularly performed as loudly as if she were doing theater (where MacGregor often worked) and dished out unsolicited acting advice to her co-stars.
“Now, in theory, Katherine should have been a disaster. One would think that, with all of this lunacy and forgetting and overacting and ordering people around, her performance would be awful, that she would be fired,” Arngrim wrote. “Nothing could have been further from the truth. When she came on the screen, there was no one else there. Her performance was mesmerizing, hilarious, outrageous, and, on those occasions when Mrs. Oleson was in one of her pouting and wounded moments, even weirdly moving. Her acting was absolute genius.”
She added that the show “could not function without [MacGregor].”
One of the youngest members of the cast, Melissa Francis (Cassandra), backed up Arngrim’s raves of their co-star.
Sad day for the #LittleHouseonthePrairie family. #KatherineMacGregor stole every scene she entered. Always generous with her energy and wisdom. She will be missed, but her spirit will live on.
— Melissa Francis (@MelissaAFrancis) November 14, 2018
Not surprisingly, Little House fans were missing MacGregor too.
Sad news. Any Little House scene containing Mrs Oleson was guaranteed to be a good one. #littlehouse https://t.co/5BphHou87w
— Karen Dunn (@Karen_Dunn) November 14, 2018
One of my favorite actresses died yesterday at 93. #KatherineMacGregor was incredible on #LittleHouseOnThePrairie and gave life to the character of Mrs Oleson. No one else could have played this role with so much character and charisma. She was great and will not be forgotten. pic.twitter.com/IuQFLQxfMx
— Jack Vale (@jackvale) November 14, 2018
“RIP Mrs Oleson”
Reverend Robert Alden pic.twitter.com/73RITGJ0HO
— Rémy Le Scribe (@LeScribe1) November 14, 2018
Mrs. Oleson was the best “villain” of my childhood and one of the best TV characters of all time along with her on-screen daughter Nellie ( @Arngrim
) RIP Katherine MacGregor. pic.twitter.com/6rtKbdCCIR
— Deanna Garcia (@TheDeannaGarcia) November 14, 2018
Wonderful actress! The did a great job when they hired her as Mrs Olson! RIP Katherine.
— Janice Buscarino (@JaniceBuscarino) November 14, 2018
Mrs. Oleson would undoubtedly appreciate the recognition.
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