Fans of “Little House on the Prairie” know Karen Grassle for her role as Caroline Ingalls on the show. But the actress has appeared in some other popular Western fare besides “Little House.”
Grassle played Mrs. Sutherland in the Kevin Costner movie “Wyatt Earp.” In the film, Costner plays Wyatt Earp, a lawman who also tries his hand at various other jobs throughout his life. With the help of his brothers and Doc Holliday, Earp finally battles the lawless gangs in Dodge City and Tombstone, Arizona.
The film drew mixed reviews. Roger Ebert panned it, saying it lacked tension and drama. Entertainment Weekly also gave it a bad review, although CinemaBlend liked the film.
‘Wyatt Earp’ Butted Heads With ‘Tombstone’
“Wyatt Earp” was filmed years after “Little House on the Prairie” ended, but the two works share a focus on the frontier lifestyle. Unfortunately for “Wyatt Earp,” it also had a lot in common with another movie released around the same time.
The films “Wyatt Earp” and “Tombstone” came out months apart, and both took the events of Earp’s life as their subject matter. According to Screen Rant, “Tombstone” originally began as a vehicle for Costner. But Costner left the project over creative differences with screenwriter Kevin Jarre. Jarre was crafting an ensemble drama; Costner wanted the script to stay tightly focused on his character.
So Jarre went looking for another star. He found Kurt Russell. Meanwhile, Costner, upset about a competitor to “Wyatt Earp,” tried to shut down every possible way for Russell to get financing for the film, Jarre later said.
And as Costner had probably feared it would, “Tombstone” beat out “Wyatt Earp” at the box office, grossing $56 million to “Wyatt Earp”’s $25 million.
‘Little House on the Prairie’ Actress Got Her Start on Broadway
Meanwhile, Grassle started her acting career on the stage, and it was to the stage she would return after her stint on “Little House on the Prairie.” Grassle got her first major role on Broadway in “The Gingham Dog” in 1968. But in the mid-1970s, she decided to switch over to television, per Biography.com.
Grassle had to compete against 40 other actresses to play Caroline Ingalls on “Little House on the Prairie.” She and co-star Michael Landon ultimately left the show in 1982.
While Grassle did appear in a few TV shows after she left “Little House on the Prairie,” she mostly went back to theater. She was a Broadway understudy in “Sweet Sue,” and she went on to found Santa Fe, New Mexico’s Resource Theatre Company. In 2007, she appeared in a tour of the play “Driving Miss Daisy.”
Still, thanks in large part to Costner, audiences who enjoyed Grassle’s turn on “Little House on the Prairie” can still catch her work in “Wyatt Earp.”