The face of Michael Landon It was always synonymous with television tenderness. His role as a young cowboy in Bonanza (1959-1973), of loving father in Little house on the prairie (1974-1983) and his good-natured angel from Highway to heaven (1984-1989) created a mirage of empathy, sympathy and public candor. But according to his fictional wife in the Ingalls series, the reality was very different.
This is how it reveals Karen grassle, the actress remembered by ’80s television audiences as Caroline Ingalls, the doting mother and devoted wife of all nine seasons of The house on the prairie. In his experience there was another face of Michael Landon, sexist and cruel, that the public did not get to know.
I mean, how did it happen with Kirk Douglas recently, another idealized myth that falls from the Hollywood firmament.
Karen grassle He has decided to open up in his memories at the age of 79, no less than three decades after the death of his co-star as a result of pancreatic cancer. And his memories are far from that image of an idyllic father and good guy that Michael Landon had throughout his career.
The actress, who never relived the success and recognition of the family series, recalls in her book Bright Lights, Prairie Dust: Life, Loss and Love from Little House’s Ma -which is published in the US on November 16- that her partner and cast leader used to make her uncomfortable by talking openly about sex, making her bullying and treating her as less.
During the series’ first year, Grassle would see his boss (Landon was also the executive producer of Little house on the prairie) as a demanding man but “wonderful, multi-talented ” who carried the weight of the program on his shoulders. However, everything was changing little by little. Especially after asking for a raise.
At first Karen used to earn between $ 2,000 and $ 4,000 a week but given the success of the series and the demanding and demanding commitment that the project required, she asked for a raise. Before starting the second season, Michael Landon denied her request and according to the actress, He told her that his earnings should be similar to what the children of the series received and, to make it even worse, added that he was not as popular with the public as she thought. “I felt insulted as a co-star on a hit series ”, Karen says, according to New York Post.
After that rejected request, his participation in the series was reduced. She tells that they left her out of plots and scenes, that Michael Landon provoked jokes at his expense among the technical team by making fun of his figure and facial expressions when they reviewed the shots on the monitor.
Not only that, according to Karen, her partner and team leader began to behave rude to her, especially in the sequences they recorded in the marriage room with the encouragement of the male employees around them. The actress recalls that Michael Landon used insulting words and “he made disgusting jokes about a woman’s smell after sex. ” She affirms that those comments made her want to “vanish”.
“I almost felt frozen but, as a woman in the film industry in the 1970s, I was used to such humiliations, it never occurred to me to reprimand him” Add. “I kept professionalism. Be a good girl, do my part and wait ”.
However, Landon would have maintained a sexist attitude to the point of talking about his livid in front of her. Grassle recalls that near the last few years of the series the actor began to comment on set how much his sexual appetite had been resurrected thanks to bee pollen supplements. “But I didn’t want to talk about his penis ” remembers the actress.
However, that gleeful and gleefully sexual look he supposedly displayed was not the result of the supplements, but of an affair he had with an 18-year-old girl when he was over 45. It was about Cindy Clorico who worked as a replacement for Melissa Francis (Cassandra Crooper Ingalls) in some scenes. “They began to move away, talking ”, remembers Grassle about the beginning of the romance. “It was very uncomfortable for us in the company. They all saw it. “
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The news exploded in the tabloids, becoming a national scandal when Landon had a reputation as a faithful husband and good father thanks to the series, his two marriages and with 7 children until then. The affair divided the set where there was a good relationship with the actor’s wife, Marjorie Lynn Noe. Grassle used to spend time with her and at the couple’s home. “He had been kind to me. I thought of her children – there were three yet [viviendo] at home and younger than Cindy ”, recalls the actress adding how much Lynn “He did everything the Landon way ”, taking care of the family while he worked long hours, accompanying him to his events and “staying home for Christmas while he gambled at the office. “
The scandal reached international media, Landon announced that he was returning to his wife after an altercation when the woman found him with his lover and allegedly threw a bottle of vodka at his head. But in the end the couple divorced and Landon married the young, pregnant Cindy.
Shortly thereafter the new wife was introduced as a new makeup artist as she enraged the set by arriving in a Porsche. Karen even remembers how much that news affected Melissa Gilbert – the young Laura Ingalls in the series – because she had a very close relationship with Landon and his wife, even spending vacations with them from time to time. For her the actor was a father figure after the death of his father when he was 11 years old.
Karen remembers that she was not the only one who suffered the sexist salary difference in production. Katherine McGregor, who played the store’s owner, Harriet Oleson – had a strained relationship with Landon precisely because of his low pay. According to Grassle, that was the reason why Katherine did not want to appear in the film that was made of the series in 1984. Because “I didn’t want to have anything to do with him. “
After years of fighting Karen Grassle finally got Landon and NBC to double her salary, contributing to a friendly reconciliation with the actor before the end of the series. But, judging by his account in his biography, we could believe that it would only have been a cordial treatment to have the party in peace.
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The other side of Michael Landon from ‘Little House on the Prairie’ is to stay checked