Richard Bull, 89, shopkeeper on ‘Little House on the Prairie’
By LYNN ELBER AP Television Writer February 5, 2014 6:22PM
This June 2011 photo provided by courtesy of Alison Arngrim shows actor, Richard Bull, left, and the actress Arngrim at a restaurant in Chicago. Bull played Nels Oleson and Arngrim played his daughter, Nellie Oleson, on the TV show, "Little House on the Prairie." A Motion Picture & Television Fund spokeswoman Jaime Larkin says the 89-year-old actor, Bull, died Monday, Feb. 3, 2014, at the fund's hospital in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Courtesy Alison Arngrim)
Updated: March 7, 2014 1:18PM
LOS ANGELES — Richard Bull, who played shopkeeper and put-upon spouse Nels Oleson on TV’s “Little House on the Prairie,” has died. He was 89.
Mr. Bull, who was born in north suburban Zion, died Monday at the Motion Picture & Television Fund’s hospital, fund spokeswoman Jaime Larkin said. The actor, a resident of what was once known as the Motion Picture and TV home, died of natural causes after being hospitalized with pneumonia, Larkin said Tuesday.
“Everyone loved him so much,” said Mr. Bull’s “Little House” co-star Alison Arngrim, who played his daughter, Nellie, and remained close to him. “People are posting [condolences] in six different languages on my Facebook page.”
Mr. Bull “was as Nels Oleson as you’d possibly want someone to be. He was calm, rational, sensible,” Arngrim said.
The character actor appeared in a wide range of TV shows, from “Perry Mason” in the 1950s to “Mannix” in the 1960s to Kelsey Grammer’s “Boss” in 2011. Mr. Bull played opposite his wife of 65 years, actress Barbara Collentine, in several projects.
Among the movies he appeared in were “High Plains Drifter” and “Executive Action,” both in 1973.
Dean Butler, who played Almanzo James Wilder on the 1974-83 NBC series inspired by Laura Ingalls Wilder’s novels about her 19th-century prairie family’s life, recalled his friend.
“Richard was a very generous, soft-spoken actor with a wonderful appetite for work,” Butler said. “He always made [acting] look so easy.”
Melissa Gilbert, who starred in the series with Michael Landon (who died in 1991), tweeted: “This man will be missed. Goodbye Richard working with you was such a joy but nearly as joyful as being your friend.”
Mr. Bull and Collentine, also 89, moved to the Motion Picture & Television Fund home from Chicago in September 2012, Larkin said.
Another resident there was Katherine “Scottie” MacGregor, who played Oleson’s difficult wife, Harriet, on “Little House,” according to Butler.
After Mr. Bull’s death, Collentine and MacGregor had dinner together and agreed “they had both lost a wonderful husband,” Butler said.