HomeEntertainment‘Little House on the Prairie’: One Star Explained Why Michael Landon Was the ‘Only Captain’ in Show’s Early Days

‘Little House on the Prairie’: One Star Explained Why Michael Landon Was the ‘Only Captain’ in Show’s Early Days

by Matthew Wilson
Photo credit: NBCU Photo Bank/Getty Images

He may not have been on a boat chartering open waters. But Michael Landon was the captain of the “Little House on the Prairie” crew.

Actor Karen Grassle, who played Ma or Caroline Ingalls opposite Landon, reflected on the early days of the show. She said Landon was the show’s sole driving force, in the beginning, leading the crew. Grassle described her late co-star as both hardworking and creative. But she admitted that Landon could be difficult at times as well.

“He was constantly trying to make the crew laugh and make everybody happy,” Grassle told Fox News. “A very hard worker and he could be quite moody — he had a lot on his shoulders that first year. He had a falling-out with a producer very early on, so he was the only captain.”

Of course, Grassle had her own struggles with the actor. She said that Landon didn’t want to give her a raise when it was time to renegotiate her contract. But over the years, the two mended any rough bumps in their working relationship and friendship. She talked to him shortly before his death, reminiscing together about their time on the show.

Michael Landon Was a Father Figure

For much of the young cast on “Little on House on the Prairie,” Landon was a father figure. The actor spearheaded the creative endeavors on the show. Landon started out directing on “Bonanza,” a role he continued on his next show. He often worked to make sure the show stayed on schedule, balancing between work and fun.

For instance, Landon often loved pulling practical jokes on the cast and fans. It was his way of keeping things light during stressful production weeks. He also struck up friendships with the cast of the show. For actor Melissa Gilbert, Landon seemed larger than life during those days.

“I’d never seen a man in person who was built like him,” Melissa Gilbert wrote in “Prairie Tale.” “He was an upside-down triangle, thick and muscular, and tough beyond my imagination. He chain-smoked cigarettes. On our first day of shooting, we were out in the snow and he was giving us direction when he took out his cigarette and stubbed it out in the palm of his glove. … He did that all the time.”

Landon starred on eight seasons of the show and made guest appearances during season nine. He died in 1991 following a battle with cancer.