Little House on The Prairie's Ma and Pa didn't get along in real life

Little House on the Prairie star Karen Grassle accuses on-screen husband Michael Landon of bullying her on set, claiming he refused to pay her a ‘fair wage’, mocked her body, and made ‘disgusting’ jokes about sex

  • Grassle, 79, who played ‘Ma’ Caroline Ingalls on the show, which began airing in 1974, shares stories of her time on set in her upcoming memoir
  • She said Landon, who directed, produced, and starred in the show as Pa, wouldn’t pay her more than the child actors
  • After he refused her a raise, she claims he cut her scenes and wrote her out of storylines
  • She recalled him making jokes about her body and her facial expressions to crew and using foul language on set
  • He also made ‘disgusting jokes about how a woman smelled after sex,’ she said 

On screen, Little House on The Prairie’s Ma and Pa were the picture of marital bliss — but off-camera, there was no love lost between stars Michael Landon and Karen Grassle.

Nearly 40 years after the nine-season hit show ended, Grassle, now 79, has revealed that she and Landon, who died in 1991, were hardly enamored of one another — and in fact, he could be quite cruel.

In her upcoming memoir, Grassle recalled the ‘disgusting’ jokes Landon would tell on set, how he’d mock the way she looked, and that he ‘insulted’ her by insisting she shouldn’t be paid more than the child actors on the show, which began airing in 1974.

Revealed: On screen, Little House on The Prairie’s Ma and Pa were the picture of marital bliss -but off-camera, there was no love lost between stars Michael Landon and Karen Grassle

Not a fan: Grassle, now 79, has revealed that she and Landon, who died in 1991, were hardly enamored of one another — and in fact, he could be quite cruel

The behind-the-scene tidbits are revealed in her book, ‘Bright Lights, Prairie Dust: Reflections on Life, Loss, and Love from Little House’s Ma’

The behind-the-scene tidbits are revealed in her book, ‘Bright Lights, Prairie Dust: Reflections on Life, Loss, and Love from Little House’s Ma,’ according to the New York Post.

Grassle, who played Caroline Ingalls, described Landon — who starred as Charles Ingalls and also directed and produced the show — as an ‘amazing, multi-talented person’ with a controlling streak.

‘He was very highly strung, but he was carrying the weight of the show on his shoulders,’ she said.

But she doesn’t seem to think that was any excuse for some of his behavior.

The relationship appears to have grown rocky after Grassle, who was paid $2,000 to $4,000 week at the height of her fame, asked for a raise for the second season.

Landon said no, reportedly saying she should be making as much as the child actors — and insisting she wasn’t as popular as she believed she was. 

‘I felt insulted as his co-star on a hit series,’ she said. ‘I didn’t want to gouge anybody, but I expected a fair wage.’  

After that, she said, he began cutting her scenes and leaving her out of storylines altogether.

He could also be cruel, mocking her body and facial expressions to crew members — but Grassle didn’t feel she could call him out. 

‘It was almost like I was frozen,’ she said. ‘But, as a woman in the 1970s film industry, I was so accustomed to these putdowns, it never occurred to me to sharply rebuke him. I kept up the professionalism. I’d be the good girl, play the part and hope.’

What’s more, he made crude remarks, using nasty language like ‘c**t’ on set and making ‘disgusting jokes about how a woman smelled after sex.’

Not nice: He could also be cruel, mocking her body and facial expressions to crew members — but Grassle didn’t feel she could call him out

R-rated: What’s more, he made crude remarks, using nasty language like ‘c**t’ on set and making ‘ disgusting jokes about how a woman smelled after sex’

Many of Landon’s co-stars and colleagues have had kind words about him over the years, but Grassle is not the first to make critical remarks. 

Melissa Sue Anderson, who played Mary Ingalls, had her own comments in her book, ‘The Way I See It: A Look Back at My Life on Little House.’

‘Mike was a great father from everything that I saw,’ she 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.

‘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 died at age 54 in 1991 after a battle with pancreatic cancer.

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