For much of the cast of the “Little House on the Prairie,” actor Michael Landon was like a father to them. But Melissa Sue Anderson had a different relationship with the actor. For her, Landon was like a brother.
“Mike was not so much a father figure as a big brother,” Anderson revealed in an 1980 People article.
The duo played father and daughter on the show. Landon portrayed Charles Ingalls, the patriarch of the Ingalls family. The show explored their exploits living in a rural town in Minnesota. Meanwhile, Anderson portrayed the eldest daughter of the family Mary. Bolstered by Landon’s performance, the show was extremely popular when it ran from 1974 to 1982.
Coming off his success on “Bonanza,” Landon was front and center of the show. He wasn’t only the star, but more often than not he was behind the camera as well. Landon served as the executive producer on the show and also directed 87 of the 204 episodes. For many of the young cast, Landon became like a mentor to them.
Michael Landon Has An Affair
For Anderson herself, the two had a great working friendship when on the show. She admired Landon, but after the show ended, the two drifted apart. One thing was Landon had a personal controversy within his life. Landon began an affair with a makeup artist on the show, Cindy Clerico. He eventually married Cindy after his marriage blew up. This made things awkward for Anderson.
“I don’t see him as much, I think I’ve grown up,” Anderson said. “And Michael’s whole life is changing —he’s making some personal as well as professional decisions.”
Anderson remained loyal to Landon’s previous wife Marjorie Lynn Noe. Over the course of the show, the two had grown close together as did the rest of the cast. Anderson didn’t agree with Landon’s affair and felt let down by the actor after she discovered it.
“For us, as kids, it was a real blow,” Anderson said. “Although we knew he could be difficult at times and had his flaws, we never dreamed he was capable of inflicting that kind of pain on his real family. For me personally, I had held him up to a higher moral standard. He had really let me down.”
Despite the betrayal, Anderson valued her once-friendship with Landon. The actor passed away from cancer in 1991.