“When you hold someone in such high esteem, you can’t believe it when they fall.” In 2010, Mary Ingalls’ Melissa Sue Anderson got candid with Pop Entertainment on her relationship with ‘Little House on the Prairie‘s patriarch, Michael Landon.
Sometimes, it seems, on-screen relationships can heavily mirror that of what actors experience off-screen. Such was the case for Melissa Sue Anderson, famous for portraying the most troublesome of Ingalls daughters: Mary.
Though she would remain lifelong friends with Michael Landon, Anderson wound up in disbelief – along with the rest of the world – when it was revealed that the married Charles Ingalls actor was having an illicit affair.
“He went in and out of favor with me occasionally,” Anderson told the trade at the time. “When you hold someone in such high esteem, you can’t believe it when they fall. And I don’t think I was the only one. But it taught me a great lesson very early on that I had to work with him every day, no matter what.”
As for legendary leading man Landon, Anderson knew he wasn’t perfect. “And he never said that he was,” she continues. “When I was writing about this in [my] book, the Tiger Woods thing was happening. And I thought, Mike Landon was nothing like Tiger Woods. We all build them up, even me. He was big in our minds.”
And big Landon was. From ‘Bonanza’ to ‘Little House on the Prairie’s long-running television and film presence, his face was a fixture for generations. This was doubly true for those who lived, worked and loved beneath his legacy, too.
“He was my boss and I did love him,” Anderson recalls. “He was a great guy and a great person in my life, like a big brother to me. So I had to get over it and move on. I had to accept it as part of life.”
‘Little House on the Prairie’: Family On-Screen and Off
And move on she did. Both did, in fact. Their relationship would be lifelong for Landon, with Anderson sticking by his side until his last years.
“I was friends with him and worked with him up to the year before he died,” she says. “He came to my wedding. He got sick right after I had my daughter. All those years I was close to him.”
After everything they had been through, Anderson never lost faith in Michael Landon, and it shows.
“Without Mike Landon, ‘Little House on the Prairie’ wouldn’t happen,” she reiterates to Pop Entertainment. “The whole reason that ‘Little House’ sold as a pilot and went to a series was because of him. It certainly wasn’t the rest of us. I mean, we were all fine, but he was a huge star with great charisma.’
These certainly are, however, modest words from Mary Ingalls star. Anderson would be the only actor to win an Emmy for her work in the series. She was the only to ever see nomination, too.