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Michael Landon Taught Alison Arngrim How To Best Interact With Fans

Child stardom can feel like a ticket to early success, but even the most famous young star doesn’t know everything yet. Little House on the Prairie icon Michael Landon took it upon himself set an example for the younger cast, including Alison Arngrim, about how to interact with fans during a formative time in their lives.

To the characters of Walnut Grove and to America at large, Landon was Pa Ingalls, a symbol of compassion, strength, and justice. As “Nasty” Nellie Oleson, Arngrim got a front-row seat to Landon as both an actor and a man. Both were remarkable, though the human side of Landon proved just how nuanced even the most seemingly perfect of people can be. But when he showed his respectable side, it was through actions that left a positive impression on Arngrim for years to come.

Alison Arngrim recalled Michael Landon showing them how to interact with fans

Alison Arngrim says Michael Landon showed her and the younger cast how to interact with fans / Everett Collection

Although anyone’s fame wouldn’t exist without fans, not every star remembers that those who adore their work are people just like them. For instance, when approached by a child wanting an autograph, Star Wars icon Sir Alec Guinness made the child promise to not watch the film ever again.

RELATED: ‘Little House On The Prairie’ Cast Remembers Michael Landon Ahead Of Show’s 50th Anniversary

Not Landon.

“He taught me about fans,” said Arngrim, speaking with Larry King in 2004. “We’d be on the sets, and he’d be in the middle of screaming at someone, and a family would come on the set and he would drop what he was doing, turn around and say, here, sign autographs, hold the baby, kiss the wife, pose for pictures and then say ‘OK, thank you’ and then turn back and go ‘and another thing’ and go back to what he was doing.”

For Arngrin, this practice came to represent the ultimate display of professionalism and part of what made Little House such a timeless phenomenon celebrated by so many.

He was a quintessential loose cannon, in every aspect of life

Landon was an example to follow in some areas but not in others / ©NBC / courtesy Everett Collection

While Landon was exemplary with prioritizing fans over execs, he was an unpredictable, willful presence on the set and off. Arngrin would even go so far as to say “Michael Landon was one of the biggest walking bundles of contradictions I have ever met.”

“He was a ‘family man’ and talked endlessly about Lynn, his second wife, and his children, to whom he seemed utterly devoted,” she went on. “He had divorced his first wife, with whom he also had children, when he got caught having an affair on the set of Bonanza with Lynn (she was working as an extra and a stand-in). He went on to divorce Lynn for Cindy (a Little House stand-in…) when Lynn caught them at it. I can’t imagine what must have gone through her mind then, after having gotten her start the same way.”

LITTLE HOUSE ON THE PRAIRIE, Karen Grassle, Katherine MacGregor, Alison Arngrim, Melissa Gilbert, ‘Oleson vs. Oleson’, (Season 7, aired January 5, 1981), 1974-83, © NBC / Courtesy: Everett Collection

At the same time, she saw an actor who prioritized his craft and the fans that made him a success over Hollywood bureaucracy. “I think it’s something that the networks didn’t get it, Hollywood didn’t get it,” asserted Arngrim. “People think of Mike Landon as establishment. He was so anti-Hollywood establishment you would not believe it.”

What was your favorite project Arngrim and Landon have ever been in?

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