It is often true that actors who work on long-running television shows often become like family. When actors play a parent and a child, that bond can be especially strong. This was the case for Melissa Gilbert and Michael Landon on “Little House on the Prairie.”
The actress would go on to idolize the man who played her television father. She even came to view him as a superhero.
Gilbert was cast on the wildly popular television show when she was only a child. She played Laura Ingalls, the daughter of Landon’s character, Charles Ingalls. The actress talked about her experience on the show in her 2010 memoir – the appropriately named “Prairie Tale.”
It is clear from her book that Melissa Gilbert was very fond of Michael Landon. After she was cast on the show, she really got to know him while they worked together. At the start of filming, she had to get to know him. She also had to get to know the other cast and crew working on the show.
“… there were numerous people to meet and get acquainted with, starting with Michael (Landon), who was quite clearly in charge and the center of the ‘Little House’ universe,” Gilbert wrote in “Prairie Tale.”
It was while filming the first episode of “Little House on the Prairie” that Gilbert witnessed Landon’s anger. And while his anger was directed at someone else on set, she knew she never wanted him to be angry at her. Gilbert soon realized that Landon was going to be kind to her.
“But he couldn’t have been warmer or more nurturing to me, and I could hardly take my eyes off him,” Melissa Gilbert wrote in her memoir.
Melissa Gilbert Thought Michael Landon Was Different Than Other Adults She Had Met
Melissa Gilbert also wrote about how cool she thought Michael Landon was. She got to experience this first hand while she was working on “Little House on the Prairie.”
“I’d never seen a man in person who was built like him,” Melissa Gilbert also wrote in “Prairie Tale.” “He was an upside-down triangle, think and muscular, and tough beyond my imagination. He chain-smoked cigarettes. On our first day of shooting, we were out in the snow and he was giving us direction when he took out his cigarette and stubbed it out in the palm of his glove. … He did that all the time.
“Then he took out the tobacco, sprinkled it on the ground, and put the filter in his jacket pocket, where over the course of the day he’d build up a fair collection, which he threw out later,” Gilbert continued.
It was qualities and actions such as these that led Melissa Gilbert to think that Landon was a larger-than-life figure.
“I’d never seen such a macho man,” Gilbert wrote about Michael Landon. “He was like James Bond – or Batman.”