In the history of American Television, the 20th century might perhaps be the most pivotal. The early ’70s to the late 80s, however, might be some of the most productive as some of the greatest Hollywood productions saw the light of day during these periods. Several greats graced TV screens, but perhaps very few were as remarkable and natural in their presentation of characters as the talented Jonathan Gilbert. Most popularly known for his role as Willie Oleson in the TV series Little House on the Prairie, Jonathan is an American former actor, who is currently a stockbroker.
While a lot of people would give an arm to become a part of Hollywood, Jonathan is apparently not cut out for it. He gained a lot of popularity with his role in the Western historical drama television series and was expected to capitalize on that. It was thought that Jonathan would become a dominant figure in the industry with more projects to come but that never happened. He went off the radar without any warning after Little House ended and left the public wondering what happened to him. Attempts made to figure out his whereabouts yielded no results until his sister, Melissa Gilbert, divulged in her 2010 memoir that he had embraced another profession.
Jonathan Gilbert Is The Adopted Son of Barbara Cowen and Paul Gilbert
- Place of Birth: Los Angeles, California
- Date of Birth: April 28, 1967
- Age: 53 Years Old
- Occupation: Stockbroker and Former Actor
- Duration of Acting Career: 1974 – 1984
Born on the 28th of April 1967, in Los Angeles, California, United States of America, Gilbert is an adopted son of Paul Gilbert and Barbara Crane, both of whom were actors. He grew up alongside Melissa Gilbert, a TV director and actress; and is also related to Sara Gilbert through his adoptive mother.
Many might have asked questions about the biological parents of the former actor but nothing is known to the public about that. All that is known about his family life is the fact that it used to revolve around the family that adopted him as a child. Raised by his adoptive parents who were actors, it is not difficult to see how Jonathan Gilbert came to embrace the profession. Reports have it that he picked up interest in acting when he was very young but that didn’t stop him from getting an education.
The former actor attended and graduated from Hamilton College, a private liberal arts college in Clinton, New York. He obtained a BA degree from the institution and would later attend and graduate from the Zicklin School of Business at Baruch College, graduating with an MBA in Finance.
Meet The Adoptive Parents of The Former Actor
As stated earlier, nothing is known about the biological parents of Jonathan Gilbert; it is not even known if the former actor knows who they are. He has always been known as the adopted son of the late actor Paul Gilbert and his wife Barbara Crane.
- Birth Name: Ed McMahon
- Place of Birth: New York City
- Date of Birth: December 27, 1918
- Died On: February 13, 1976
- Occupation: Actor
Born on the 27th of December 1981, Paul Gilbert is a late American film and television actor who died on the 13th of February 1976. Paul was the adoptive father of Jonathan Gilbert and hailed from a family of vaudeville performers. Reports have it that his career in the entertainment industry began as an aerialist, but then he had an accident at some point that compelled him to focus on dancing, music, and comedy. He began gaining attention that saw make appearances in multiple television shows like “TV Club”, “The Spike Jones Show”, and “The Saturday Night Revue”.
It was in 1954 that the late actor became known as a professional actor. He played a former boxer who gave up his fighting career to become a nightclub owner in “The Duke”, a comedy series that aired only 13 episodes on NBC. That same year, he portrayed Davy Jones in “So This Is Paris”, a romantic musical comedy film that grossed $1.5 million at the Box Office. The following year, Paul played Coliussi in an episode of “Lux Video Theatre” and Roscoe Dobbs in “The Second Greatest Sex”, a Western musical comedy film.
1956 was a busy year for the late actor, apart from appearing in an episode of “The NBC Comedy Hour”, he played Bernie in a TV series titled “Matinee Theatre”, Paul in “Have Camera Will Travel”, a TV movie, and George Shapely in “You Can’t Run Away from It”, another musical comedy film. In the years that followed, Paul Gilbert was seen in other productions like “The Deputy” (1961), “3 Nuts in Search of a Bolt” (1964), “Perry Mason” (1964), “Women of the Prehistoric Planet” (1966), “Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In” (1972-1973), and more.
When Paul Gilbert passed in February 1976, it was said that he unexpectedly suffered a stroke which claimed his life. But decades later, his daughter Melissa Gilbert would disclose in her autobiography that the actor committed suicide. According to her, he took his life because of the pain he suffered from the injuries he sustained at the second world war. She would also confirm this claim in an interview with Ophra, disclosing that the man shot himself.
- Other Names: Barbara Cowan, Barbara Abeles, and Barbara Gilbert
- Place of Birth: Brooklyn, New York
- Date of Birth: April 25, 1936
- Age: 84 Years Old
- Occupation: Actress
Named Barbara Crane after she was born in April 1936, this American actress and producer is now known as Barbara Cowan and was previously known as Barbara Abeles and Barbara Gilbert. The changes in her last name are a result of the fact that she has been married to four men. Paul Gilbert was her first husband and their marriage lasted for a decade, from 1962 to 1972. While they were married, they adopted Jonathan Gilbert and her brother Melissa Gilbert.
In the year that followed the end of her marriage to Paul, Barbara got married to Harold Alfred Abeles. Like her first, the marriage lasted for 10 years and saw the birth of Sara Gilbert. Barbara later got married to Manuel Udko in 1988, the union failed and she became a wife for the fourth time to Warren Cowan; they got married in 1995 and remained together until Warren passed on in May 2008.
Beyond being an actress, Jonathan Gilbert’s adoptive mother is also a producer and her popular works include “Sorority Girl” (1957), “Unwed Mother” (1958), and The Miracle Worker (1979). She has credits as a production executive in multiple TV Movies like “The Diary of Anne Frank” (1980), “Splendor in the Grass” (1981), “Choice of the Heart” (1983), “Family Secrets” (1984), and “Without Her Consent” (1990).
Are Melissa and Sara Gilbert Jonathan’s Biological Siblings?
Based on the foregoing, one can see that while Melissa, Sara, and Jonathan Gilbert are siblings, they are not biologically related in any way. Melissa and Jonathan were adopted by their parents, Paul Gilbert and Barbara Crane. Sara is the only biological child of Barbara and she had her with her second husband, Harold Alfred Abeles. Sara only adopted Gilbert as her surname, she is not related to Paul Gilbert.
- Full Name: Melissa Ellen Gilbert
- Date of Birth: May 8, 1964
- Age: 56 Years Old
- Occupation: Actress, Director, and Producer
Like her brother Jonathan Gilbert, Melissa was adopted by Paul Gilbert and Barbara Crane. Reports have it that she was born to a newly engaged couple named Kathy Wood and David Darlington on the 8th of May 1964 and adopted the following day. She also began her acting career as a kid, and co-star with her brother in Little House of the Prairie. She didn’t abandon the profession like Jonathan and has gone beyond acting to produce projects like “One Smart Fellow” (2015), “Tenure” (2017), and “Guest Artist” (2019).
Melissa has been married thrice. Her first was to Bo Brinkman, it began in 1988 and ended in 1992. In 1995 she got married to Bruce Boxleitner but the union came to an end in 2011. She has been married to Timothy Busfield since 2013. It was through Melissa that the public learned about Jonathan’s whereabouts. In her autobiography titled “Prairie Tale”, she divulged that Jonathan moved away from California in his early 20s. Based on what she shared, the adopted siblings have not had any kind of relationship or contact since then.
- Real Name: Sara Rebecca Abeles
- Date of Birth: January 29, 1975
- Age: 46 Years Old
- Occupation: Actress, Director, and Producer
While Jonathan Gilbert is Barbara Crane’s adopted son, Sara is her biological daughter. After Barbara’s marriage with Jonathan’s late adoptive father Paul Gilbert ended, she got married to Harold Abeles and they had a daughter named Sara Abeles. Sara later took up the Gilbert last name, even though she has no blood ties to Paul Gilbert.
Sara has also built a career in Hollywood not only as an actress but also as a producer and a director. Sara has a good relationship with Melissa and it is believed she also hasn’t been in touch with Jonathan.
Is Jonathan Gilbert Married?
Known to be a very secretive and private person, Jonathan Gilbert keeps his personal life private. It is assumed that he should be married now with kids, although nobody is completely sure.
He hasn’t been seen in public with any date neither has there been any picture that depicts his love life on any of the social media sites. Jonathan has completely kept his life away from the public.
His Acting Career Took Off When He Was Seven and Ended In 1984
As Jonathan Gilbert’s parents had already established their names in the entertainment industry, it was easy for their kids to become part of the business at a very young age. The former actor made his first television appearance at the tender age of seven, featuring in the Little House on the Prairie, an American drama series. He played the character of Willie Oleson and remained on the series till 1983, nine years after his first appearance. Fame and fortune followed him during these nine years, as his fan base grew among viewers.
He also featured in The Little House Years in 1979, the same year that he got to play a character named Jimmy in The Miracle Worker, an American television biographical film based on a novel of the same title by William Gibson. A few years later (in 1983), he also appeared in Little House: Looking Back to Yesterday, an American television show based on the Little House on the Prairie book series, where he also played Willie Oleson.
In 1984, he came back to play the same character in the Little House: The Last Farewell, which was part of the book series as well. Nothing has been heard from Jonathan since then, so apart from his role as Jimmy in The Miracle Worker, the former actor is known for playing Willie Oleson throughout the time his acting career lasted. Also, all of his works as listed below are television projects, he didn’t get to pull off any big-screen project.
Jonathan Gilbert’s Net Worth Is Estimated Around $3 Million
The former actor became a millionaire through his acting career. But he abandoned the profession and acquired an MBA in Finance from Baruch College’s Zicklin School of Business. Thereafter, Jonathan built a career in the financial sector. Sometime in June 2003, it circulated that he was working as a stockbroker.
Given that he has been described as hardworking and disciplined in his new profession, it is believed that being a stockbroker has been a stable source of income for the former actor. As a private person, Gilbert keeps his salary information to himself. However, with what he made from his acting days, and what an average stockbroker makes, his net worth is estimated at around $3 million.
Why Did He Quit Acting?
Since he abandoned acting for the financial sector, Jonathan Gilbert hasn’t made any comment about the career switch. Why he quit acting has been largely left to speculations but it has been suggested in some quarters that it has something to do with the familial difficulties he faced as a child.
As a child, Jonathan had to cope with the stress of being an actor and in addition to that, he had to deal with several family issues. For instance, his parents divorced when he was only five years old and in 1976, when he was only 9, he lost his father, Paul Gilbert.
In the words of her sister Melissa, “there was sadness and discomfort at home.“