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John Gillispie: ‘The Last Farewell’ sparks nostalgia

December 6, 2018

Courtesy of IMDB.com Melissa Gilbert in Little House on the Prairie (1974)

Movies & More reviewer John Gillispie shares his thoughts on the “Little House on the Prairie” TV movie “The Last Farewell,” which is available on DVD.

“Little House on the Prairie” is one of the first TV shows I remember discussing with my classmates in elementary school. It was a show that I watched throughout my childhood and will occasionally still watch on TV.

I guess it’s fair to say that “Little House on the Prairie” makes me feel nostalgic. I was just a little bit younger than some of the children on the show so it felt as though we were all growing up together. I was particularly amused by the shows selfish and manipulative characters Nellie Oleson (Alison Arngrim) and her mother Harriet (Katherine MacGregor). I was sad to read that MacGregor died recently.

When I was gifted the entire nine seasons of the series on DVD, I felt happy about it. The DVDs are in a box designed to resemble the little house where the Ingalls family lived. In addition to the nine seasons of episodes, the boxed set comes with three special TV movies, including the one called “The Last Farewell.” There is also a separate DVD package titled “Little House on the Prairie: Legacy Movie Collection” that contains “The Last Farewell” plus “Bless All the Dear Children” and “Look Back to Yesterday.”

“The Last Farewell,” which aired in 1984, brings back Karen Grassle as Caroline Ingalls and Michael Landon as Charles Ingalls. What do Charles and Caroline decide to do when Charles receives four weeks of vacation? Of course, they want to leave the city and go visiting in Walnut Grove where their daughter Laura Ingalls Wilder (Melissa Gilbert) runs a boarding house with her husband Almanzo (Dean Butler).

Charles and Caroline are visiting just as a developer announces that he is the rightful owner to all the land in Walnut Grove and he has documentation to prove his claim. He has plans to offer the residents of Walnut Grove salaries to continue to work and live in the homes, farms and businesses that they have created over the years.

This TV film offers a great role for Grassle, whom I had the privilege of meeting and interviewing when she came to work with Marshall University Theatre several years ago. It also offers longtime series regulars such as the Reverend Alden (Dabbs Greer), Mr. Edwards (Victor French), Nels Oleson (Richard Bull) and Dr. Baker (Kevin Hagen) a few good moments as well.

In “The Last Farewell,” the people of Walnut Grove come up with a plan to follow the letter of the law and give their property to the land developer without having to become tenants on the land that for years they thought was rightfully their own.

Thanks to the thoughtful Christmas gift I received, I can revisit the Ingalls family in Walnut Grove anytime I want. “Little House on the Prairie” was an interesting show and taught me that actions have consequences and every story doesn’t always have a happy ending.

However, I like to focus on the show’s happier moments and it makes me smile to see those three young girls run down a hillside at the start of the program while their parents watch them. During those opening credits, when little Carrie falls down, she gets right back up. The resilience and perseverance of the characters on “The Little House on the Prairie” are lessons as well.

John Gillispie is the public relations director for the Huntington Museum of Art.

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