The friendship shared between Charles Ingalls and Isaiah Edwards on “Little House on the Prairie” is as true in real life as played on the small screen since Michael Landon and Victor French were actual BFFs once the director called cut.
The rough, gruff, and famously large actor, Victor French, met Landon while the two were on the set of one of “Bonanza,” one of television’s greatest Westerns.
Michael Landon is the executive producer of “Little House on the Prairie.” He also plays the lead role of the patriarch of the family, Charles Ingall. The show was a hit and ran on NBC from 1974 through 1983.
Michael Landon Gives His Friend an Important Role
When creating the TV series, Landon knew exactly who he wanted to play Charles’ best friend Isaiah Edwards. He chose Victor French to take on the character, breaking down the stereotype French received due to his large size and physical demeanor.
When Landon gave his friend the role, Victor believes it saved him from “20 years of playing killers, rapists and every kind of villain and pervert known to man.”
The actor stood over 6 feet tall and had a rough and gruff physical appearance. However, French had an even bigger heart, genuine kindness, and humorous spirit. Due to his looks, he was type-cast in roles as villains, goons, killers, and overall bad guys.
“It had gotten to the point where crowds parted when they saw me coming,” he jokes.
The decision to cast French as Charles Ingalls’ best friend wasn’t what most had in mind. However, it’s now hard to imagine anyone else playing the character. The actor’s talents and the honest chemistry between the two real-life friend shows onscreen.
″The network wanted a name actor, but Michael stood by his guns,” French told the Associated Press. “That role changed my career. Michael is really my ‘angel.‴
After “Little House on the Prairie”
After “Little House on the Prairie,” the pair teamed up again as co-stars for another family-friendly show created by Landon. “Highway to Heaven” ran for five seasons with French directing several of the episodes. He believes the cause of the series’ success is its deep-rooted focus on morality.
“It’s a hit show because it’s in good taste,” French told the Washington Post in 1985. “I think Michael has good taste. I think I have good taste. Every show is an effort to show there’s a way to solve problems other than violence.”
Landon and French: Best Friends Forever
Sadly, French passed away from lung cancer on June 16, 1989. The actor and director was 54.
One of Victor’s daughters says she remembers Landon regularly stopping by the house and hospital room. Michael would consistently visit his friend during his three-month fight against the disease.
“Little House on the Prairie” co-star Charlotte Stewart explains Michael’s reaction at his good friend’s funeral in her memoir Little House in the Hollywood Hills: A Bad Girl’s Guide to Becoming Miss Beadle, Mary X, and Me.
“Mike Landon, who was a very emotional guy and had been Victor’s dear friend, was standing next to me and grabbed my hand at this and hung on for dear life,” she says. “I’ve never seen a man fight tears so hard in my life.”
The two lifelong friends proves the importance of brotherly love which radiates both on and off screen.