Across eight seasons, television viewers knew Michael Landon as Charles Ingalls, a wholesome, steadfast, loyal, and inspiring figure in quaint Walnut Grove. His actor, Michael Landon, however, did not always live Pa’s lifestyle. Alison Arngrim is now providing further insight into the differences between Landon and his on-screen persona.
Her statements are also meant to back claims coming from Karen Grassle, whose upcoming memoir claims Landon was not pleasant to know as a person and made hurtful comments between work. Grassle has kept up a steady presence online even decades after Little House on the Prairie, where she played Landon’s on-screen wife Caroline Ingalls.
Alison Arngrim opens up about “dangerous” Michael Landon
Arngrim, who played Nellie Oleson on Little House on the Prairie, did not portray Landon as similar to Pa. On the contrary, she claimed he was “more mad, bad, and dangerous to know,” calling him a “manic” who “drank, smoked,” and made “terrible jokes.” She also said he encouraged a toxic workplace that was especially sexist against women and openly enthusiastic about beer-drinking culture.
“I was a teenager and thought it was a riot,” Arngrim admitted. As a result, she did not become engaged in any conflicts with Landon and instead actually enjoyed his behavior as something risque and fun. However, she added, “He was not everyone’s cup of tea, that is absolutely true.” Arngrim thought Landon a “marvelous” person and claimed he played a significant role in securing Karen Grassle’s role for her. But when Grassle’s impending memoir provides a cooler assessment of Landon, Arngrim calls it a “fair” assessment. Just what is the book saying?
Not bringing out the best in others
Working so closely together for so many years, relying on one another to bring their best performance so such a big project could continue, provided a breeding ground for conflicts between colleagues. However, the makeup department served as “the demilitarized zone” where everyone’s problems waited at the door.
So, to an extent, Grassle allows the tension between herself and Landon to be called two-way, as she herself battled alcoholism while he too battled substance abuse, and the two struggling forces were unable to give their relationship a proper mend. However, the memoir, Bright Lights, Prairie Dust: Reflections on Life, Loss, and Love from Little House’s Ma, alleges something more. Grassle claims Landon “insulted” her and her body. He would also make crude jokes right on set, and affected her pay by saying she could not be paid more than the child actors. Some of his jokes, she claims, could use anatomical slurs or were “disgusting jokes about how a woman smelled after sex.”
Arngrim likened the experience to Mad Men, adding the context, “The reality is it was the 1970s. It was like Mad Men, she said. ‘It was another era and an old boy’s club.”