Michael Landon Got One of His ‘Bonanza’ Co-Stars Fired from the Show: Here’s How

by Keeli Parkey
(Photo by Silver Screen Collection/Getty Images

Even decades after his death, Michael Landon remains a beloved television star. However, based on some accounts, he was occasionally demanding and difficult to work with. But, that wasn’t the case all the time.

One reported example of him being difficult to work with took place while the actor was on “Bonanza” on television. He played Little Joe Cartwright on the show.

The year was 1962 and the popular western series was going into its fourth season on television. According to an article on MeTV.com, the show was in search of a replacement for Adam Cartwright. Pernell Roberts, the actor who played Adam, wasn’t happy on the show and decided to leave.

Landon Felt Threatened by Presence of Actor Barry Coe on ‘Bonanza’

So, according to the article, producers of “Bonanza” chose to hire actor Barry Coe. Coe is described as “devastatingly handsome” in the article. Also, his career was on the up and up. He even won a Golden Globe Award during 1960 as the “Most Promising Newcomer – Male.” And, at the time, Coe had just completed the ABC show, “Follow the Sun.”

“The First Born” was the first episode of “Bonanza” where Coe’s character Clay Stafford appeared. Stafford arrives on the Ponderosa as a worker. But, it is soon discovered that he once killed a man.

Even though he did so in self-defense, a group wants Stafford removed from their town. In a surprising twist, Stafford tells Little Joe that he is his half-brother, according to the article. As the episode was written, Little Joe and Stafford become close in the end.

However, this is not how things actually played out on television. According to the article, Michael Landon wasn’t too thrilled to have the handsome Coe on board. Landon reportedly thought Coe would take time on television from him. A meeting was held during the production of “The First Born” episode. That meeting led to Coe’s removal from the show.

In the end, “The First Born” episode was changed so that Stafford decided to leave the Ponderosa. And, Barry Coe did not appear on the show again.

‘Little House on the Prairie’ Actors Have Fond Memories of Working with Michael Landon on Show

Even though there are some reports of Michael Landon being difficult to work with, the actors who worked on “Little House on the Prairie” as children remember him fondly.

Melissa Gilbert has said she thought of him as a larger-than-life figure. “I’d never seen such a macho man,” Gilbert wrote about Michael Landon in her memoir “Prairie Tale.” “He was like James Bond – or Batman.”

Actress Rachel Greenbush played the role of Carrie Ingalls on “Little House on the Prairie.” She shared the role with her twin sister Sidney, according to an article on FoxNews.com. She remembers enjoying the time she spent with Michael Landon on the show.

“For all the kids’ birthdays, he would have a cake made and throw a little party,” Greenbush said, according to FoxNews. “When it was time to work, you had to be focused.”

Even as he was encouraging the cast around him to work as hard as they could, Landon also wanted them to have fun. And, according to Greenbush, the legendary actor “was a big practical joker.”