‘Little House on the Prairie’: One Actor Revealed How to Be ‘Aces’ in the ‘Book’ of Michael Landon

by Joe Rutland

There’s enough evidence for people to understand how difficult Michael Landon of “Little House on the Prairie” could be to work with at times.

One actor, though, found a way to get into Landon’s good graces. In fact, he was a child actor at the time of being a part of the NBC family drama.

“He treated kids differently,” Matthew Laborteaux, who played Albert Ingalls on the show, said in a 2014 interview with Entertainment Weekly. “As long as you showed up on time, knew your lines, worked hard, and, you know, gave a s—, you were aces in his book.

Landon ‘Had A Strong Personality’ on ‘Little House on the Prairie’

“He’d treat you like another actor, not talk down to you,” Laborteaux said. “He had a strong personality. As an adult, now I can look back and have sympathy for anyone trying to go up against a force of nature like Michael Landon.”

Calling Landon “a force of nature” would be an understatement. He proved to be, for some, a difficult person to work with on TV shows. Landon came into “Little House on the Prairie” after 14 seasons playing “Little Joe” Cartwright on NBC’s smash-hit western “Bonanza.”

Landon was known to question scripts and directors’ camera positions episode after episode. It possibly made a lot of people turn away from even working with him at all.

When “Little House on the Prairie” left NBC, Landon just didn’t kick up his feet and ride off into the sunset.

No, he started working on “Highway to Heaven” which was picked up by NBC. It came on the heels of him directing episodes of “Father Murphy,” which starred NFL Hall of Famer Merlin Olsen. Olsen, who played farmer Johnathan Garvey on “Little House on the Prairie,” died on March 11, 2001.

Michael Landon Appeared on 22 ‘TV Guide’ Covers

In these two other series, “Little House on the Prairie” and “Highway to Heaven,” he was able to do what he wanted to do with scripts and cameras. Landon was the boss, no doubt about it. He also was a heavy smoker, leaving some former costars to have an image of him with perfect hair and a cigarette in his mouth.

Landon worked until discovering that he had cancer. It was an aggressive form of pancreatic cancer. From his initial diagnosis on April 5, 1991, Michael Landon died less than three months later. He died on July 1, 1991, at 54 years old.

Landon appeared 22 times on the cover of “TV Guide” in his career. That’s at the No. 2 position. Who’s No. 1? If you guessed Lucille Ball, then you are correct.

All three of his shows continue to run in syndication decades after Landon’s death. His career both in front of and behind the camera was and is a testimony to his dedication around his work.