Melissa Gilbert met Michael Landon when she was 9 years old. She was auditioning to play Laura Ingalls on Little House on the Prairie and she thought the world of him right away.
“I read for [Michael Landon] in a room at Paramount Studios,” she wrote in her memoir, Prairie Tale. “I remember thinking, Oh gosh, he’s really handsome. He gave off a different kind of energy than ordinary people. It was a higher wattage.”
Through their years working together on the show, Gilbert and Landon became incredibly close. But that doesn’t mean the Laura Ingalls actor never saw her TV dad get angry. She remembers the first time she caught a glimpse of Landon’s infamous temper.
Melissa Gilbert on shooting ‘The Little House on the Prairie’ pilot with Michael Landon
Gilbert first witnessed a flash of Landon’s temper while filming the pilot for the show. Much of the two-hour TV movie was shot near the Sierras in Northern California
“My mother and I treated it like a big adventure, which it was,” she wrote “We were far from home. It was cold. And there were numerous people to meet and get acquainted with, starting with Michael, who was quite clearly in charge and the center of the Little House universe.”
The day before shooting began, the cast and crew were hit with a surprise snow storm. So Landon had to rewrite the script on the fly.
When Melissa Gilbert first saw Michael Landon’s temper
One of the Little House on the Prairie executive producers wanted to have the children playing barefoot in the open scene. Because of the cold, Landon was staunchly against the idea.
“Michael lit into him with both a bark and a bite that make me pause and say to myself, Whoa, I pray to God I’m never on the receiving end of that temper,” wrote Gilbert.
But, during the shoot, and for the next 9 years or so, Landon “couldn’t have been warmer or more nurturing” to Gilbert. He became a father figure to the Laura Ingalls actor, especially after her own father died.
The Pa Ingalls actor’s temper exploded after ‘Little House on the Prairie’ got canceled
On a couple of occasions here and there, Landon would be frustrated with Gilbert. Like the one time she didn’t know her lines for a scene. But she was never on the receiving end of a big blow-up. A big blow-up like the one she witnessed when Landon realized Little House on the Prairie had been canceled without the network personally notifying him.
“He was furious that he had never received an official phone call from NBC president Brandon Tartikoff or anyone else at the network, letting him know the fate of the show,” wrote Gilbert. “He had been on the network since 1959. Perceiving disrespect, Mike’s temper red-lined. He wanted to destroy all the sets—Walnut Grove, everything in Simi Valley.”
So that’s what he did. The Little House team asked the network to make three final series movies: Look Back to Yesterday, Bless All the Dear Children, and The Last Farewell. In the last one filmed, The Last Farewell, Landon blew up the set.
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