America's "Half Pint" sweetheart Melissa Gilbert was no stranger to show biz, even as a child. Adopted by actor and comedian Paul Gilbert and dancer Barbara Crane, she began starring in commercials at an early age. (Also among her famous family members are siblings Jonathan and Sarah Gilbert.)
Gilbert shot to fame on the 1970s TV show "Little House on the Prairie." The freckle-faced child star spent nine seasons as Laura Ingalls Wilder, working closely with Michael Landon, who produced, directed, wrote and acted on the western. The drama, based on the popular book series, focused on the Ingalls and promoted family values and friendship.
As a teen in the spotlight, Gilbert had her share of difficulties as she transitioned to adulthood. As she recounted in her 2009 memoir, “Prairie Tales,” she was living the fast-paced Hollywood life, experimenting with cocaine and alcohol and cheating on her boyfriend Rob Lowe with A-list actors like Tom Cruise and Scott Baio. Her life hit a low point when Lowe broke off their engagement over an unplanned pregnancy. She later suffered a miscarriage.
Gilbert went on to marry actor Bo Brinkman in 1988, but the two divorced in 1992. In 1995 she married actor Bruce Boxleitner. She has two sons: Dakota, from her first marriage, and Michael from her second.
Post-“Prairie,” the actress starred in numerous television movies and miniseries such as “Stand by Your Man” and “Babylon 5." She received a 1980 Emmy nomination for her work in “The Miracle Worker.” She was elected Screen Actors Guild president in 2001 and served two terms.
Gilbert, who directed Brinkman’s “Ice House” for the Company of Characters Theater in Studio City in 1990, returned to her “Prairie” roots in 2008, this time as Ma Ingalls in a musical adaptation of “Little House on the Prairie” in Minneapolis.