Melissa Ellen Gilbert (born May 8, 1964) is an American actress and television director. Gilbert began her career as a child actress in the late 1960s appearing in numerous commercials and guest starring roles on television. From 1974 to 1984, she starred as Laura Ingalls Wilder on the NBC series Little House on the Prairie. During the run of Little House, Gilbert appeared in several popular television films including The Diary of Anne Frank and The Miracle Worker.
As an adult, she continued her career mainly in television films. Gilbert has also continued with guest starring roles on television and has done voice work for animated series such as Batman: The Animated Series. Gilbert served as the President of the Screen Actors Guild from 2001 to 2005. In 2009, her autobiography Prairie Tale: A Memoir, was released. From 2009 to 2010, Gilbert appeared as Caroline "Ma" Ingalls in the touring production of Little House on the Prairie, the Musical.
Early life and familyEdit
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, who co-starred on Little House on the Prairie. Gilbert'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 fatal stroke at the age of 56. Barbara and Harold Abeles' marriage later ended in divorce. Gilbert was raised in her adoptive mother's Jewish religion, but did not have any formal religious education or conversion ceremony.
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, Gilbert, 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. She also 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.
After her break up with Lowe, 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 son Dakota Paul Brinkman. They 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 onBattle 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 reconnecting, 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). On March 1, 2011, Gilbert announced that she and Boxleitner had separated. On August 22, 2011, Gilbert filed for divorce from Boxleitner.
On January 29, 2013, Gilbert's representative confirmed the actress' engagement to fellow actor Timothy Busfield.
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.