‘Little House on the Prairie’ Star Michael Landon Would Admit He Was Wrong, Let Actors Influence Production

by Joe Rutland

Michael Landon would often inject his own opinions on shows prior to “Little House on the Prairie.” But he appeared to be humbled at times.

Bonnie Bartlett, who played Grace Snider Edwards on the NBC family drama between 1974-79, recalled Landon on the set. She specifically remembers a time where she asked Landon to change a scene during an interview with the Television Academy Foundation.

She said Landon, who played Charles Ingalls throughout the entire run of “Little House on the Prairie,” set up every scene.

“He would use the stand-ins to do the blocking and then you’d come in and the stand-in would tell you what he wanted to do,” Bartlett said.

‘Little House on the Prairie’ Changed Specific Scene After Actor’s Comments

“And that was alright most of the time,” she said. “But this particular time was maybe in the third year I was there and I thought it was all wrong what he was doing. So I said to him, ‘Michael, that’s not right such-and-such-and-such.’ And he said, ‘Well, what do you think?'”

Bartlett proceeded to tell Landon what she thought the scene should look like. She said Landon thought a minute, then asked the cinematographer how long it would take to re-light the scene.

“The guy says, ‘An hour,'” Bartlett said. “‘Oh do it,’ Landon said. “And he redid the whole scene the way I wanted it. Because he knew I was right and he accepted that. And I never asked him to do it again and never asked him before.”

She appeared in 26 episodes of “Little House on the Prairie” during her time on the show. Bartlett, though, would reach the pinnacle of her career on NBC’s “St. Elsewhere” between 1982-88. Bartlett played Ellen Craig, wife of Dr. Mark Craig, who was played by her real-life husband, actor William Daniels. For her work on the medical drama, she won two Emmy Awards in 1986 and 1987. Daniels also won an Emmy in 1986, making them the first married couple to win Emmys on the same night in more than 20 years.

Bartlett is still alive at 91 years old, while Daniels also is alive at 94 years old.

Melissa Gilbert Secured Her Role Thanks To Landon Only Sharing Screen Test

Now Landon knew what he was looking for in the actress to play Laura Ingalls on “Little House on the Prairie.” Many actors auditioned for the role, but one received a welcome boost from the star of the show.

Melissa Gilbert won over Landon simply by her screen test. Landon only sent her screen test to show producers, according to IMDb.

Landon believed he’d hit gold with Gilbert and felt they were a good fit during their scenes. He had a lot riding on the show but it was his baby.

Gilbert worked out quite well, playing her role almost perfectly. The scenes between Laura and “Pa” Ingalls are ones that stand the test of time for the show’s fans.