Relive Michael Landon‘s, alongside cast & crew’s, days on the ‘Little House on the Prairie’ set through these rare behind-the-scenes shots.
Few programs represent “the good ol’ days” like ‘Little House on the Prairie.’ The show’s setting, for once, embodies this to a tee. Couple ‘Prairie’s glimpse into early American life with the nostalgia audiences now feel for its 70s-80s prominence, and you’ve got the recipe for a pure Americana classic.
Thankfully, ‘Prairie’s producers knew they had a hit on their hands for much of its making. As such, a large portion of photos from production are available. Many, however, are not available to the public. Outsider is looking to change that.
Below, you’ll find remarkable, rare glimpses into the making of ‘Little House on the Prairie.’ From star & crafter Michael Landon’s roles with the show – to all his surrounding cast & crew – relive this timeless tale through another set of eyes: those who made it happen.
‘Little House on the Prairie’: From Dream to Reality
In addition to starring and helping create the show, Landon would also direct the largest amount of episodes out of anyone at a whopping 87 entries. Here we see the star pulling double duty as he frames a shot for co-star Melissa Sue Anderson, known to audiences as Mary Ingalls Kendall.
‘Prairie’ followed Landon’s wild success with ‘Bonanza,’ which gave him his first taste of writing and directing for a major television show. He would continue to do both for ‘Prairie,’ serving as executive producer, writer, and director. In large part due to his talents, ‘Little House on the Prairie would become the star’s second-longest-running series.
As with any major production, stars would often find themselves with downtime on ‘Prairie’s set. Even triple-duting-pulling Michael Landon! Here, we see the show’s crafter & star playing backgammon with crew members while filming Episode 5, “There’s No Place Like Home: Part 1.”
There’s a mystical quality to seeing Landon sport his trademark Charles Ingalls attire off-screen. It’s a look of legend; the character synonymous with Americana to this day.
Exterior vs Interior on ‘Prairie’
Much of what made ‘Prairie’ a success, even today, stems from its natural grit. Few exterior scenes were ever shot in the suffocating confines of a studio. Instead, Michael Landon and producers opted for as much “real life” as they could muster. Things still came with a healthy dose of Hollywood magic, though. Laura Ingalls Wilder’s childhood – alongside the show – took place in southern Minnesota. ‘Little House on the Prairie, however, shot in California.
Such was the case for Episode 10, “Men Will Be Boys,” which aired November 13, 1978. Here, we see a prominent example of the crew needed to make ‘Prairie’ a reality, with a large crowd surrounding a dilapidated Western barn – a common sight for generations of Americans.
Here we see an excellent example of how cramped and “suffocating” the interior sets could be. Life indoors was full of small rooms and limited housing for pioneers in the 1800s. As such, the Paramount Studios sets in LA would have to recreate these cramped settings.
Michael Landon and Melissa Gilbert stand & sit at the heart of it all in this studio shot. From Season 1 onward, the cast would spend many days like this.
Alison Arngrim: Budding Photographer
Here we see a young Allison Arngrim doing a bit of her own shooting during Season 1. Famous for portraying Nellie Oleson, her character’s role was greatly expanded from the novels ‘Prairie’ is based on. The Olesons ran the mercantile local to the Ingalls, with Nellie becoming a stalwart friend to Laura Ingalls.
Behind her, a crewman stands shirtless, a hilariously common sight for the ‘Prairie’ cast and crew. Filming was often intensely hot during Simi Valley summers. Most exteriors were filmed at Big Sky Ranch. Here, temperatures often reach the blistering upper 90s for long stretches of the year.
Speaking of shirtless, it never hurts to see an in-his-prime Michael Landon doing what he does best: smoldering. In this behind-the-scenes shot, we see more of Landon pulling double duty as steps behind the camera to direct Episode 6, “Journey in the Spring: Part 1,” in addition to starring.
The Magic of ‘Little House on the Prairie’
Things weren’t always hot on the prairie, however. Being set in Minnesota means dealing with the occasional blizzard. Such was the case for Episode 11, aptly titled “Blizzard.”
Within, we see the remarkable lengths cast & crew went to in order to recreate a blizzard for Season 1. In addition, the shot shows a rare instance of an exterior shot being filmed in-studio. Indeed, much of Hollywood’s best techniques came into ‘Little House on the Praire.’
“That was the happiest homecoming ever. Here, Pa said, he’d harvested a crop he didn’t know he had planted. A harvest of friends!”LittleHouseonthePrairie.com