About Dean Butler

by Website Editors | May 12, 2018

There is no day, there is nothing I do as a producer that I don’t ask myself, on some level: What would Michael do?”

—Dean Butler in an interview about his production career

About Dean Butler

When Dean Butler first appeared on the set of “Little House on the Prairie” to play Almanzo Wilder, he may not have known what he was getting into. His first day on set he made a beginner’s mistake and Melissa Gilbert laughed at him. And of course, he instantly sparked a debate that has raged on without ceasing – which Almanzo Wilder was the “real” Almanzo Wilder. Regardless of where you land on that question, Dean Butler’s performance as Laura’s soon-to-be-husband brought him many new fans.

Dean Butler’s Early Years

Dean Butler was born in Canada on May 20, 1956, but grew up in Northern California. He was a communication arts major, graduating from the University of the Pacific in Stockton, California and first began acting when he was an extra in “The Streets of San Francisco.” He appeared in several commercial spots after that as he auditioned for larger roles. In 1978 he appeared in an adaptation of Judy Blume’s novel, Forever, which was his first major movie role. (1.)

He supported himself with a job in a furniture shop as he built his acting career. In fact, one of his early auditions was for the part of Adam Kendall, Mary Ingall’s (Melissa Sue Anderson) blind husband. But then in 1979, he landed a part of a lifetime, the role of Almanzo Wilder on “Little House on the Prairie.”

Dean Butler in Little House on the Prairie

Melissa Gilbert was only 15 when Dean arrived on the set of “Little House on the Prairie” as Almanzo Wilder . In her book, Prairie Tale, Melissa recalls that she was nervous and unsure about her character’s future love interest and so when he made a mistake with the horses, she laughed at him. However, they became friends eventually and have stayed in touch even beyond the show. (2.)

LITTLE HOUSE ON THE PRAIRIE — Season 8 — Pictured: (l-r) Melissa Gilbert as Laura Elizabeth Ingalls Wilder, Michelle Steffin as Rose Wilder, Dean Butler as Almanzo James Wilder — Photo by: NBCU Photo Bank

In Alison Arngrim’s memoir, she mentions that Dean was eager to do well and prove himself. He often got advice on his lines from Katherine MacGregor. In an interview with Biography.com, he recounts what it was like stepping into a show that had already been working so well for several seasons. “When I came in, I was the young guy, new guy on the show of a well-oiled machine. Michael ran the adult side of things, Melissa Gilbert ran the kid side of things, so there were these different dynamics going on….” (3.,4.)

LITTLE HOUSE ON THE PRAIRIE -- "The In-laws" Episode 9 -- Aired 11/24/80 -- Pictured: (l-r) Michael Landon as Charles Philip Ingalls, Dean Butler as Almanzo James Wilder -- Photo by: NBCU Photo Bank

The courtship of Laura and Almanzo lasted for many episodes and provided some of the fan’s favorite scenes. From the infamous Cinnamon Chicken fiasco to the mud-wrestling fight with Nellie, there’s so much to enjoy through the twists and turns of their relationship. Laura and Almanzo finally got married in Episode 2 of Season 7.

After Little House on the Prairie

After the show, Dean appeared in several films and TV shows such as Desert Hearts, The New Gidget, and The Love Boat. He also enjoyed time spent on stage, performing in Into the Woods and West Side Story.

Dean Butler and Caryn Richman in Gidget's Summer Reunion (1985)

In 2001 he married actress Katherine Cannon. During this time of his life, he began to move into producing more than acting, something he first started in the late 1990s.

Dean Butler producing a Laura Ingalls Wilder documentary

Dean Butler producing a Laura Ingalls Wilder documentary

Dean Butler has worked producing sports shows, documentaries and more. He serves as an executive producer for Legacy Documentaries, which produced bonus content for DVD release of the “Little House on the Prairie” TV series and produced and directed original documentaries, “Little House on the Prairie: The Legacy of Laura Ingalls Wilder” and “Almanzo Wilder: Life Before Laura”.

Dean Butler, Photo by Michael Lamont

Dean enjoys traveling to Little House on the Prairie events to meet fans of the books and TV series, and will remain in their hearts as the charming, fictional husband of Laura Ingalls. He wrote a biography about his time on the show – and after, called Prairie Man: My Little House Life & BeyondThe book is currently available for preorder with a release date of June 25, 2024.

By Christopher Matthew Spencer – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, httpscommons.wikimedia.orgwindex.phpcurid=32729779

Recommendations from the Website Editors

A number of the cast members from “Little House on the Prairie” have written about their experiences. Below are links to our website articles about them, as well as to their books, which make entertaining reading and inspired gifts for fans of the television series.

Melissa Anderson

Alison Arngrim

Melissa Francis

Melissa Gilbert

Karen Grassle

Wendi Lou Lee

Ketty Lester

Charlotte Stewart

For information about Laura Ingalls Wilder whose novels inspired the TV series, please visit our Recommended Reading lists for children and young adults and adults. You may also be interested in a documentary film about Laura Ingalls Wilder.

We invite you to subscribe to the free Little House on the Prairie newsletter for all the exclusive interviews and events.

The editors of the Little House on the Prairie® website are pleased to bring you interesting articles, interviews, fan features, videos, and much more.

39 Comments

  1. I love Little House on the Prairie and the Walton because it’s good wholesome entertaining television for the whole family but in my case it’s a little bit addictive.

    Reply
  2. I am a female of 74 years of age I have been watching Little House on the Prairie in the last year I didn’t watch it when I was younger but I love watching it now! The way the world is today I don’t care to watch the news I just turn Little House on the Prairie and it gives me a big laugh I need this in my life I would love to go back living like that right now to me less is best thank you so much for giving me the opportunity to be able to lift my heart and my mind from the way the world is today I have watched him over and over and when I don’t watch it I tape it! And I think all of you for this beautiful beautiful story but these beautiful people love that Michael Landon. Also I’m a Texas girl.

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  3. I would recommend everyone to watch Little house on the Prairie. It is heart warming and educational. I watch the episodes over and over, never sick of it. I love the episodes when Almanzo was courting Laura. It was sweet, plain, innocent courtship.

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  4. Hey, he’s my crush ????. It was Little Joe back in the day, but then Almanzo came and I ditched him. The new shows just don’t compare ????

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  5. I love watching Little House on the Prairie. But The bad part I didnt like about her was when she was very jealous about her little brother, when her Mother had him asva baby. She even prayed and wishes that her brother would die, because Caroline and Charles are very engrossed of taking care of her baby brother. So her wished come true. But I was so mad at her then.
    Laura

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  6. I think Little house is the best show ever, I watch it all day long, its the best!!!!!

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  7. My pandemic binge watch… I’m obsessed and love this show.

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  8. I have always been a BIG fan of the Little House show. I was thinking how great it would be to commemorate the 50th anniversary coming up in about 4 years; to create a set of postage stamps to honor the show.

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    • Like you, I’ve watched Little House from its beginnings , always making the joke to my children that if I could live in any time period I would choose this one living in a town like Walnut Grove n living in a house like Charles Ingalls built for his family. As an adult I daily watch the show n love re-living each episode that I‘ved watched so many times. I cry with Charles, empathize with all the women n the children’s experiences / challenges. I live each episode . I like yr idea.

      Reply
  9. I would a continuation of little house on the prairie like how Carrie and grace Ingles wound up and Laura and Almanzo daughter rose is

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    • Reunion please

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  10. Little House on the Prairie is getting me through this Pandemic. Cause it fills you with good emotions. And it always has a happy ending. Thank you Michael Landon.

    Reply
  11. I’ve always watched little house and still watch it today. I was so in love with Dean Butler it was unreal. I grew up loving all the actors and actresses.. Dean Butler played the perfect man for Laura.. Melissa Gilbert was just a joy to watch… Little House will always be apart of my life… With love to you all.

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  12. Good I like the little house

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  13. I always loved watching Little house on the Prairie when I was a child and I still watch it now as an adult. My Dad went to school with Dabbs Greer ( which was not his real name ) My Dad took us to his house one day when I was young and ( Billy Bob ) which is what he told me to call him. That’s the name he went by. It was short for his given name. He told us all to stay for lunch. We did and we stayed and visited and he was such a very nice guy. Him and my Dad talked about school days and all the fun they had together growing up. Reverend Alden is laid to rest across from my Loving Grandma, Whom I loved very much and miss so badly. When I visit her at the Cemetery I always visit Reverend Alden too. I never forgot meeting him and how he opened his home up to us and how nice and sincere this man was.

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  14. Little House forever fan ❣️

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  15. I have watched Little House since I was a little girl, all through growing up and now at 58 still watching everyday. I love Laura , Mary, Pa and Ma. I still
    laugh and cry like its my first time watching .
    I am a forever fan ❣️

    Reply
  16. I loved this show as a child. I as so happy that it’s on hallmark. I watch it daily, same episodes over and over. I still belly laugh at the same things over and over. One of the best shows ever made❤️.

    Reply
  17. Love Little House on the Prairie! I just bought the whole set of all the seasons. Hopefully my Grandchildren will love watching them. Went through their house in Missouri. It was awesome….. Will continue watching them.

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  18. One of my favorite series. I never grow tired of watching it. Love all the Little HOUSE Christmas shows too!

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  19. I love Little House on the Prarie! As an African American, it would be WONDERFUL to see more African American scenes than the few episodes featured. I have seen them all!

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  20. Little House fit well into all the houses in America then and now . It taught the Nation what our ancestors endured and enjoyed back in the day and that virtuosity was a necessity for a decent way of life. With the current outbreak of the coronavirus I am hopeful that folks are viewing this series again with their children home from school and being more open to the family values that Michael Landon and the cast instilled in every episode. I have no doubt that God was pleased with the efforts that Mr. Landon and the cast put into a show that is timeless. Thank you to all that made this series so meaningful.

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  21. Remembering back in the 80’s racing home from work to watch the show. Here I am at the end of 2019 racing home to watch the show. As I watch I wish for a simpler time. Laura and Almonzo’s courtship and marriage remind me of my relationship with my husband. During Thanksgiving and Christmas each and every year I call it my Little House On The Prarie time with my family as we stay home from work and school to enjoy time as a family. We miss Michael Landon.

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  22. My wife and was able to purchase every season we never get tired of watching them I’m almost 50 and still enjoy watching it’s a timeless classic I do have to admit nelly and mrs Olsen definitely played there parts absolutely perfect . Sometimes we have to remind ourself it’s only a show it’s not real. I’ll probably watch little house on the prairie until I’m a 100 if I live that long

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  23. As a child I watched the show. Now at 59
    I still find it enjoyable to watch. It’s an excellent family movie.

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  24. I watched the show with my children and I still watch it today and now my children watch it with their children. They have the whole series of little house on the prairie. I,m 76 yrs old.I loved that show .

    Reply
  25. Love lil house on the prairie! I grew up watching the show and now started from Episode 1 going all the way through. Such good values and teaches good things.

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  26. Great family show. I watched with my family when young and now rewatching at 63. I love this show. I can watch over and over.

    Reply
  27. I watch Little House on the Prarie often , i made a trip to
    Minnesota with my wife , she is from the area of little
    House
    We actually went to Walnut Grove and visited the
    area where the family lived , was bery interesting
    I like western movies , however i love watching
    the different episodes of Littl House
    I think Michael did a fantastic job of producing
    the different episodes ,
    Im a male of 76 years of age

    Reply
  28. I loved little house on the prairie ! I watched it all the time as a kid and still do .

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  29. I love almanzo wilders actor of little house on the pirarie

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  30. Little House is on my TV M-F , 2-5pm. I’ve seen all of the episodes over and over and don’t get tired of them. We need shows like Little House on today’s TV.

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    • I agree with you 100%!!!

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      • I love little house on the prairie. Been watching it for 40 years. I also watch Highway to Heaven and love it as much as LHOP. Michael Landon was an amazing actor. Also Victor French is another amazing actor. He played with Charles Ingalls and also on HWTH.

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  31. It’s the best show I used to watch it when I was younger and still watch it now . It would have been nice to see rose grow up .but it’s still a brilliant family show xxx

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  32. My wife an I enjoy watching the show.I think it’s one of the best family shows.We never get tired of it.

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    • I watched it during the seventies, and now 40 years later, still watching the reruns. IT IS TIMELESS!

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      • Agreed. Love all the stories and the actors. Thankfully for them all! ????xoxo

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    • He seems to be the one taking over the reins of keeping the legacy alive for the Late ML. Inherited the role. I probably started watching the show around season 6. The reruns were on so many times in the 1980s throighout the day. Seems in my memories and read the books.

      Reply

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