‘Little House on the Prairie’ Actor Said People Would Be Shocked Michael Landon Wasn’t Like ‘Bonanza’s Little Joe

by Joe Rutland

Actress Alison Arngrim said it would stun people to find out “Little House on the Prairie” star Michael Landon wasn’t like “Little Joe.”

Arngrim, who plays Nellie Oleson on the NBC family drama, refers to Landon’s role as “Little Joe” Cartwright on the classic TV western “Bonanza.” She was asked during a 2013 interview with Tom Gregory if Landon, for instance, was friendly.

She said, “He was. He was not Pa Ingalls [Charles Ingalls, his role on “Little House on the Prairie”] at all.

“I mean this guy had a really wild sense of humor,” she said. “He liked practical jokes, he was very crazy. [Landon] was very Hollywood. He had his Ferrari, his leather jackets, his sunglasses, cigarette. People would be shocked and [say], ‘That’s not Michael Landon, ‘Little Joe’. Why aren’t you ‘Little Joe’?'”

‘Little House on the Prairie’ Star Says Landon Was ‘Totally Brilliant’

Arngrim said she used to say that Landon was like the mad scientist of episodic television.

“He was totally brilliant,” she said. Consequently, Landon “was writing the show, directing the show, producing the show.”

Arngrim recalls times where Landon, who died of pancreatic cancer in 1991, had a knack for coming up with “Little House on the Prairie” scripts on the fly. Arngrim said, for instance, Landon would run into makeup, say something was going to happen, then run out, run back in, and run out again.

“He’s writing this now,” Arngrim said. “And I’d go down the hall and he was writing in his dressing room with his yellow legal pads. And I would say, ‘You’re just writing this now, aren’t you?’ ‘Yes.’ ‘Aren’t we shooting that next week?’ ‘It’ll be done.'”

Arngrim appeared as Nellie on the show for seven seasons. Obviously, the character was a constant nemesis of Laura Ingalls, played by Melissa Gilbert.

Actress Remembers Sitting Around With Cast Talking About Living In 1800s

Meanwhile, in her interview with Gregory, the actress recalls times where she and other “Little House on the Prairie” cast members would talk about life in the 1800s.

“We actually used to sit around on the set and talk about how people smelled because it was so hot and sweaty,” Arngrim says. “And, we’re wearing like layers and layers of clothes. We reeked. And, we had deodorant and showers.”

In other words, she said the cast would wonder what they might smell like without professionally laundered clothes.

“It was brutal,” Arngrim said. “You’d just be in it. You had no idea.”

The NBC drama sets itself that time period. Besides Landon, Gilbert, and Arngrim, certainly other stars included Karen Grassle as Caroline Ingalls and Melissa Sue Anderson as Mary Ingalls.