November 14, 2018 11:46 AM   Subscribe

RIP Katherine MacGregor, 93, best known as Harriet Oleson on the Little House on the Prairie TV show. Interview posted in 2012. She had an uncredited role as a mother in "On the Waterfront." Nellie offered her condolences, as did Laura. Fun fact: the character was never given a first name in the book, and was Margaret Owens in real life.
posted by Melismata (22 comments total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
Thank you for sharing this. I look forward to watching the interview this evening at home.
posted by KleenexMakesaVeryGoodHat at 12:05 PM on November 14, 2018

Aw, that was my favourite show when I was a kid, and I can still hear her freak out upon learning that Percival was JOOOOOEEESH!
posted by wellred at 12:05 PM on November 14, 2018 [6 favorites]

Reading the post title, I can't help but hear her voice ringing in my head!

She created a truly indelible antagonist in Mrs. Oleson, a character whose unrepentant and petty villainy absolutely haunted my thoughts as an impressionable TV-watching child. And yet, watching the show as an adult, the main emotion evoked is one of pity—sadness for the fragile humanity, wretched as it is, that the actor allows to shine feebly through upon occasion.

R.I.P. to a great one.
posted by Atom Eyes at 12:11 PM on November 14, 2018 [9 favorites]

On behalf of my ex-wife, who was far more the Little House fan than I ever was and is not here...

posted by Samizdata at 12:35 PM on November 14, 2018

I used to watch that show largely in the expectation that Mr. Oleson would finally snap.

posted by holborne at 12:52 PM on November 14, 2018 [5 favorites]

Unfortunately I have a mean, insecure, petty relative who raised a daughter who behaves much like her. Both seemingly oblivious to their poor character. Much like Harriet and her daughter Nellie.
posted by ShakeyJake at 12:54 PM on November 14, 2018

posted by dlugoczaj at 1:05 PM on November 14, 2018

Good night, Mama...
posted by jim in austin at 1:24 PM on November 14, 2018

It sounds like, despite the character that she played, Katherine MacGregor was a kind person.
posted by Elly Vortex at 1:28 PM on November 14, 2018

I attribute the show's success and enduring watch-ability to the character she ( and her screen daughter Alison Arngrim) was able to portray. How could you not hate Harriet and Nellie, and feel for Nels, and anyone subject to their nasty presence? Without her, the show could never have worked as well as it did.
posted by 2N2222 at 1:58 PM on November 14, 2018 [5 favorites]

That voice was an instrument.

(Once you start seeing Mrs. Oleson's maneuverings as the work of a sort of prairie Mrs. Bennet, with Mr. O as a passive-aggressive underminer in the Mr. Bennet mold, it's hard to stop.)
posted by Iris Gambol at 2:12 PM on November 14, 2018 [6 favorites]

She was a wonderful actor.

I have often thought that we owe a special kind of homage to fine actors that play loathesone characters. They don’t get to bask in the often immense reflected glory and social esteem attached to a beloved and/or heroic persona others help bring to life. Yet their contribution and skill is no less than those artists.
posted by darkstar at 2:27 PM on November 14, 2018 [9 favorites]

posted by BlahLaLa at 5:12 PM on November 14, 2018

This slays me. She was a brilliant actor who, if the world was right and just, should have been showered with flowers and money her whole life.
posted by pipoquinha at 5:48 PM on November 14, 2018 [1 favorite]

I read "Confessions of a Prairie Bitch" by Alison Arngrim (the original Nellie Oleson), and her description of how funny, kind, and such a lively actress that MacGregor was made me love her all the more for playing such a nasty character. I just love anyone who can chew scenery and make a role their own. MacGregor seems one of a kind. RIP.
posted by xingcat at 6:14 PM on November 14, 2018 [5 favorites]

I'm sure she was a very nice person, but as a kid growing up watching Little House reruns, man did I hate that lady. Nellie, too.
posted by Ray Walston, Luck Dragon at 6:21 PM on November 14, 2018

posted by double bubble at 6:49 PM on November 14, 2018

posted by allthinky at 7:10 PM on November 14, 2018


arngrim writes in the memoir that being Nellie saved her incident describes how MacGregor told the girls how acknowledging that she hated her mother made her life much easier. Arngrim claims that Melissa Sue Anderson(with whom she and Gilbert didn't click)was scandalized.
posted by brujita at 12:02 AM on November 15, 2018 [2 favorites]

posted by cass at 9:13 AM on November 15, 2018

posted by dawkins_7 at 11:18 AM on November 15, 2018

posted by filtergik at 1:40 PM on November 15, 2018

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