'Little House on the Prairie' star Katherine MacGregor dies at 93
She had been retired and living at the Motion Picture and Television Fund's home in California.
By Randee Dawn
November 14, 2018
Katherine "Scottie" MacGregor, best known for her role as Harriet Oleson on "Little House on the Prairie," died Tuesday in Woodland Hills, California, her representative confirmed to NBC News. She was 93.
MacGregor played the gossipy, mean-spirited Harriet Oleson for 153 episodes of the popular 1970s series. On the show, she and her daughter Nellie (Alison Arngrim) served as the sour foils to the wholesome Ingalls, including Pa (Michael Landon) and Laura (Melissa Gilbert).
Born Dorlee Deane MacGregor in 1925 in Glendale, California, MacGregor grew up in Colorado and changed her name to "Scottie" after relocating to New York, where she received applause for her theatrical roles. She moved to California and appeared in 1954's "On the Waterfront" in an uncredited role, then began to work in television on shows like "Ironside," "Emergency!" and "Mannix."
"It was a rude awakening coming to Hollywood," she told the Santa Cruz Sentinel in 1981, according to the "Little House on the Prairie" official website. "I was used to doing juicy parts on the stage ... They didn’t know what to do with me."
Then came the role that would define her career.
"I was getting ready to go back to New York and my agent called and said, 'Could you go see somebody this afternoon?'" the official website reports. "And I said, 'Who did you say I'm supposed to meet?' She said, 'Michael Landon.' And I said, 'Well, who's he?'"
The role of Mrs. Oleson (who contrasted with her more mild-mannered husband Nels, played by Richard Bull) made her famous, though she told the Santa Cruz Sentinel that she looked for ways to make her more than just "black-and-white mean."
"Anyone that mean has to be a fool," she said. "So I began mixing farce into it."
Ultimately, she was unable to film the final episode in the series in 1983; she was on pilgrimage in India at the time, focusing on her Hindu faith.
Her co-star Melissa Gilbert posted on Instagram about MacGregor's passing, noting: "The thing people outside of our prairie family didn’t know, was how loving and nurturing she was with the younger cast."
MacGregor was married twice for brief times; she wed Edward G. Kaye-Martin in 1969, and divorced him the following year. She was also married to actor Bert Remsen in 1949.
She had been living at the Motion Picture Fund Long Term Nursing Care facility in Woodland Hills, California, when she died. One of her fellow residents had been Bull; when he died in 1999, she had lunch with his widow, Barbara Collentine. "Little House" actor Dean Butler said that afterward, MacGregor reported "they both had lost a wonderful husband."
MacGREGOR, Katherine (Dorlee Deane MacGregor)
Born: 1/12/1925, Glendale, California, U.S.A.
Died: 11/13/2018, Woodland Hills, California, U.S.A.
Katherine MacGregor’s westerns – actress:
The Traveling Executioner – 1970 (Alice Thorn)
Little House on the Prairie (TV) – 1974-1983 (Harriet Oleson)