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‘Miss Beadle’ to visit Walnut Grove

June 30, 2012
By Cindy Votruba , Marshall Independent

Actress Charlotte Stewart has worked with the likes of Kevin Bacon, Jimmy Stewart and Elvis Presley.

But it was a four-year stint on a widely popular television show that most people associate her with.

Stewart, who played teacher Miss Beadle on the television series "Little House on the Prairie" will be in Walnut Grove on Saturday-Sunday July 14-15.

Article Photos

Pictured is Charlotte Stewart as schoolteacher Miss Beadle on the “Little House on the Prairie”?series.

The actress recalled the time nearly 40 years ago when she auditioned for "Little House." Stewart said she had worked with Michael Landon, who portrayed Charles Ingalls, before on "Bonanza," but she figured he wouldn't remember her.

But she made an impression at her audition for the role.

When Stewart walked into the waiting area for the auditions, there were already five other women vying for the role.

"They were all dressed in period costumes," she said. Stewart didn't dress like the rest of her fellow auditioners, but that didn't bother her.

Stewart entered the audition room and was in front of Landon, three producers and a casting director.

"The scene I was reading was the first day the girls (Mary and Laura) came to school," Stewart said.

Stewart made a daring move in asking one of the producers if he would mind terribly if she could sit in his chair to do the lines. He gave her the go-ahead. They read the first scene where the kids were chuckling at Mary and Laura.

"I admonished them to be quiet," Stewart said.

Stewart didn't realize "Little House" was going to be a series.

"I thought it would be a TV movie," Stewart said. So she was surprised when she was offered a four-year contract.

She was only given the four-year contract because in real life, when Laura meets her husband-to-be, Almanzo, Almanzo's sister, Eliza Jane, is the teacher.

Stewart remembers meeting Melissa Gilbert and Melissa Sue Anderson, who played Laura and Mary, in their earliest days on the show.

"Little bitty sweethearts," Stewart said. "Halfpint had buck teeth and the sweetest smile," Stewart said. "Missy was just plain lovely."

Stewart believes the reason that the show continues to endure today is because of the values.

"There was always a story for the adults as well as for the children and it played for real," she said. "It was not the 'shot 'em" western. It was a story of true hardship and perseverance for a young family in the Midwest. They were hardworking as well as joyful."

This year, Stewart is traveling around to the Laura Ingalls Wilder related sites. Besides Walnut Grove, she's going to Missouri and New York later this year.

"This year, I seem to make more appearances," she said. "I love meeting people. Everybody's so nice."

For her appearances, Stewart does a spelling bee for the kids and also brings along a coloring book for them.

As for the woman she portrayed, Stewart said she's familiar with Eva Bedal (Beadle).

"I have a picture of her here, I think of her quite often," Stewart said.

Stewart hasn't been acting much in the last few years but has had small roles on "The Office" and "Cold Case." One of her most recent acting jobs was a short film "Where's My Sandwich," with Ron Howard's father, Rance.

"I had a ball," Stewart said. "It's so good to be back in front of a camera." She said the film is just 18 minutes long is about an older couple who are starting to lose their memory.

Stewart's also heading to Los Angeles in September for the 30th anniversary reunion of "The Waltons."

"I was in their very, very first episode," she said.

Stewart has a home business where she makes shopping bags out of pet food bags. They're very popular, she said.

"I find it very satisfying to do that," she said.

She also makes patchwork bags with photos of Miss Beadle on them to raise money for breast cancer. Stewart is a 21-year survivor of breast cancer. She brings the "Beadle Bags" to flea markets and sales around Napa.

Stewart said that Alison Arngrim, who portrayed Nellie on the "Little House" series, said it best when she said "aren't we the luckiest people in the world? We make people happy when they meet us." Stewart calls Arngrim one of her best friends.

"She's a doll," Stewart said.

 
 

 

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