Hersha Parady Interview
Alice Garvey (+Eliza Ingalls)
It was very difficult to get in touch with Hersha Parady, but when I managed to speak to her on the phone, I was delighted! I was amazed by her friendliness and wonderful sense of humour, and we chatted for nearly an hour on the phone. My British accent reminded her of someone too! I'd like to say a big thank you to Hersha, for being so generous and making your interview one of the most enjoyable and certainly one of the funniest on Little House Memories!
BARNABY MARRIOTT: How did you come to play the roles of Eliza Ingalls and, more significantly, Alice Garvey in Little House on the Prairie?
HERSHA PARADY: I remember sitting in the MGM Comissary one afternoon, with Dick Bull and Scottie MacGregor, who played Nels and Harriet Oleson - someone brought up the same question, and I realized the answer depended on WHO you asked! My agent got me the job... the casting director got me the job... Dick and Scottie got me the job... and a dog named Lightening... oh, and ME! The dog story is a good one, but I won't go into it unless asked!
Dick and Scottie actually saw me in a play entitled The Cry of Players, in which I played Anne Hathaway. They mentioned to LHOTP casting director Sue Sukman that they had seen an actress they thought would be right for the show... they purposely did not let on that they KNEW me! Recommendations from fellow actors usually go nowhere if they think you're a friend or a lover!
I read for the part of Eliza Ingalls, got it and went up north to film... it was glorious! Although I did not get to work with Victor French, I spent time with him under the Northern California skies, and relish the memory of a fine actor and lovely man. The crew was warm and wonderful, and Michael Landon... an absolute joy! In particular, I remember Mary, the script supervisor... after work one day, she read my palm and all her predictions came true! I'm thankful for the holding of hands, as she sadly passed away before the next season began.
I had heard that there was talk of Karen Grassle leaving the show and there was talk of the possibility of my replacing her as Caroline. She decided to stay on and when Merlin Olsen was brought aboard to play Michael's sidekick, they decided to give him a wife! I remember my first meeting with Merlin and Michael about THAT job, and I remember it being very warm and comfortable... Merlin and I acted as if we had been together for years, so I got lucky and got a great job!
BM: Who were you particularly close to on the set?
HP: Dick Bull, Scottie MacGregor and the Labyorteaux brothers. I cherish the memories on and off screen with those wonderful people. There is also a very soft spot in my heart for Dabbs Greer, and our make-up artist "Whitey" and Larry Germain, our hair master. The stories THEY had to tell! They had been in the business for decades before I plopped down in the chair, and I felt so honoured to have them work on me. The crew were all "the best" - a family. Being with them spoiled me for any future projects I was to work on.
BM: What were the best and worst things about filming a show set in the 19th century?
HP: Worst - those awful clothes! Especially when one is NOT slight of bust and girth!
Best - working with the horses and their wranglers... and the great outdoors, love it! Simi Valley was always a treat, sometimes too warm with all the weight of the costume but I spent most of my time wandering the hills when I wasn't in front of the camera... fresh air and wild mustard!
BM: Do you recall the first time a fan of the show recognised you and are you still recognised today?
HP: Not really sure when the first time was, but I remember liking the feeling! I'm thinking it was probably in my home state of Ohio. Things like recognising "faces" and mentioning it are just not done in places like New York or Los Angeles! But yes, it's a kick when fans do recognise you, especially years down the road when someone says "You look so familiar..." - needless to say, it happens less and less!
BM: To Little House fans everywhere, you're most legendary episode has to be "May We Make Them Proud" in which Alice Garvey tragically burns to death in a fire, along with the baby son of Mary and Adam Kendall. What do you remember about this extraordinary episode and how did you feel about being killed off?
HP: As I mentioned to you on the phone, I loved making this episode! In spite of the impending doom it would bring - at least I went out with a roar and not a whimper! Working with the special effects guys and the LA fire department was a first for me, and to be surrounded by "controlled" fire and readied fire extinguishers, I was ready to act up a storm! I loved every minute of it!
One thing was that they did not rig the windows to break easily and I'm not, as Michael Landon pointed out a lot, a meek, delicate woman, so when I try to bust something, I usually succeed! It was Michael himself who first mentioned that it looked like I was trying to use Mary's baby as a battering ram to bust the window! So because they'd forgotten to "break away" the windows, I was determined to get out whatever the cost!
(Hersha also mentioned that some of the props were NOT secured by her strength, including the Garveys' water-pump, which came flying off at her first pump! Also, Michael Landon joked that her eating habits were not as "delicate" as he imagined a good woman of that time should possess!)
BM: Why do you think the show was and is so popular?
HP: Michael Landon had the gift, the knack, the force. He knew what buttons to push, and surrounded himself with the best production people in TV land. His scripts were spiritually meaningful, without being maudlin or "preachy"... and always that sense of humour and tease somewhere to be found. In my humble opinion, there is nothing even close to what LHOTP was on the air today... I won't go into a show that might profess to be - it may get such nice actors, and good production values, but GOOD LORD... spare me the dialogue! Forgive me, I had better stop there!
BM: Would you share some biographical information please?
HP: Just a quickie! I was born in the '40s, raised in Ohio in the '50s, and I had three siblings. Ran off to theatre at 18 and didn't stop! Higher education... very little. A couple of years at University, taking classes I was interested in - Geology, Eastern Religion, modern dance... I spent most of my life out West, between Santa Fe, New Mexico; Aspen, Colorado; and Southern California... happiest surrounded by the good earth, unfamiliar lands and people i.e. India, where I spent a year, and the lights of the stage (sound stage OR theatrical)... I'm one of the fortunate whose life and work and been her "hobby and love".
I was also blessed with my son - he's 19 now, and a wonderful young man, serving in the US NAVY. He has a lovely sense of humour and is wise beyond his years. I think his father and I were so fortunate to have a child that has the love of life we've had, and we're very much aware of how lucky we've been.
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