‘Little House on the Prairie’: How Michael Landon Tried to Outdo Burt Reynolds on the Classic Series

by Suzanne Halliburton
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Let’s spin that 1970s way back machine to that time Michael Landon, the Little House on the Prairie star, tried to be the sexiest man on your screen.

Yes, Pa Ingalls, who always had the best hair around Hollywood, wanted to outdo Burt Reynolds. And for those of you who are new to the classic TV scene, it’s the Burt Reynolds, post-Quinn Asper-Gunsmoke, post-Dan August, but pre-Smokey and the Bandit.

Landon and Little House on the Prairie premiered in 1974. So in the Burt Reynolds timeline, this was right after the actor posed for the Cosmopolitan centerfold. And cue the banjos, it was about the same time as Reynolds appeared in Deliverance.

So this is what we’re talking about, what Landon wanted to out do. Check out this vintage photo tweeted by Cosmo social media. We think Reynold’s photo stands the test of time. (But RIP Mr. Burt Reynolds).

Karen Grassle, Landon’s wife on Little House on the Prairie, told some prairie tales in her book, which she released last fall. And in an interview with the New York Post, she spilled this detail:

“In the ’70s, Burt topped the list as the most desirable man in Hollywood,” Grassle said. “Mike was resentful and wanted to take his place.”

Now, this was a very G-rated competition Landon, who died in 1991, had going on with Reynolds. We’re not even sure that Reynolds was aware that someone from Little House on the Prairie wanted to topple his sexy reign. Let Grassle provide some more details. This was from her book “Bright Lights, Prairie Dust: Reflections on Life, Loss and Love from Little House’s Ma.”

She said her TV husband wrote himself some scenes where he was out doing hard labor. And he’d work himself into a sweat and maybe need to take off his shirt. Grassle also said that if Pa Ingalls suffered an injury, it generally was to his ribs or other areas of his chest. The man knew his best features.

“He looked wonderful with his bare torso sweating while he worked,” Grassle wrote in her book.

We learn more in a book written by Alison Arngrin, who played mean girl Nellie Oleson on Little House on the Prairie. Of course, you’d expect a book called “Confessions of a Prairie Bitch,” to provide some vanity deets. She said that Landon used to wear tight pants, sans underwear. We may be ruining future Little House on the Prairie episodes.

Arngrin also said that Landon always wanted to make sure he looked taller. In real life, he was only 5-foot-9. But it’s well documented that he wore lifts. He did so during his Bonanza days. In fact, Little Joe wasn’t the only one he wore lifts in his boots. Just about every man in the Bonanza cast did so this side of Hoss. David Canary, who portrayed Candy Canaday said the lifts were about five inches.

So next time you flip on Little House on the Prairie, you might check out the ways Michael Landon wanted to be the sexiest man on the prairie.

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