Ed Friendly was born in Manhattan on April 8, 1922. He spent his formative summers on a ranch in Idaho where he fell in love with horses and the American West. He served as an Army captain in the Pacific during World War II.
The story of how Little House on the Prairie came to television screens across America is quite interesting though not well known. It all started with Ed Friendly’s wife, Natalie, who grew up reading the books in the 1930s shortly after they were published. She fell in love with the books and read them to her own children as they were growing up. For many years she urged her husband to acquire the rights to create shows based on the books.
Ed then engaged a talented writer named Blanche Hanalis to write a script for a pilot. They worked together closely over the course of two months to get it right and be as faithful as possible to Wilder’s novel.
“When we were casting the show, we had done screen tests with about five or six different people for each of the children’s roles, and we first met with the kids in the office and then after we selected the five or six best ones we did screen tests… Melissa came in the office the next day and was absolutely charming. She won all of us over" (Ed Friendly).