There was friction at times on the set of Little House on the Prairie. Executive producer Michael Landon ran a tight ship on the series, controlling everything from the show’s story lines to its casting.
At one point, Landon and another of the show’s producers were so at odds with one another that it got ugly between them. The discord between them grew, to the point that the actor refused to allow that producer back on the set ever.
Michael Landon poured everything into ‘Little House’
One of Landon’s co-stars on Little House was Mary Ingalls actor Melissa Sue Anderson, who in her memoir The Way I See It: A Look Back at My Life on Little House elaborated on Landon’s dominating nature on the family drama set in 1800s Minnesota.
Landon had everything riding on the success of this series, and it showed.
“Mike was a great father from everything that I saw,” Anderson wrote. “But at work, he was controlling, and he could be mean at times. He would single out certain people and tease them publicly and relentlessly.”
Although Landon promoted a family atmosphere on the show’s set, he did not like suggestions or changes that interfered with his vision for a scene or story line.
“You had to catch Mike on a very good day to get him to change any of his pre-planned blocking of a scene,” Anderson said. “Very, very rarely could you win a creative argument with him. … He could also be vindictive. I remember him telling me the main reason he decided to blow up the town of Walnut Grove at the end of Little House was so that no one else would ever be able to use our sets.”
Landon had conflicting issues with this producer
Little House had multiple producers. One of its executive producers Ed Friendly and Landon would butt heads from time to time, as fellow producer Kent McCray recalled in a conversation with the Archive of American Television in 2017.
“[Ed Friendly and Michael Landon] were both executive producers. Ed Friendly had bought the show. He had paid for the pilot to be written,” McCray explained.
The show was about six episodes into its first season when Friendly began to promote his concept for the show, McCray claimed, that all the children on the series should “look dirty and run around barefoot.”
Landon barred Ed Friendly from visiting the show’s set
With the show filming in the heat of Simi Valley, Landon felt it wasn’t practical to have child actors barefoot and he refused to do it. This created a friction between the two men in their vision for the show, McCray explained.
“Michael went to NBC and said, ‘I can’t work this way,’” McCray, who unfortunately was a “go-between” with Friendly and Landon, said.
Ultimately, Landon had had it with the cold war between himself and Friendly and told NBC, “This is no way to do the show. Either I do it or [Friendly] does it.”
Despite the fact that Ed Friendly owned the rights to Laura Ingall Wilder’s books, the network sided with Landon, in part because he was the show’s star and he was under contract.
McCray said, “[Friendly] was never allowed on the set from that time on.”
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