Little House on the Prairie’: Michael Landon Once Shared Why He Had an Affair During His Second Marriage

Michael Landon, the actor who played Charles “Pa” Ingalls on Little House on the Prairie, had multiple accolades in his career. His wholesome image on the show made even some of his co-stars look to Landon as a father figure. However, his affair with his third wife, Cindy Clerico, tainted Landon’s on-screen persona.

Before he died in 1991, Landon decided to discuss his affair, second marriage to Lynn Noe, and new life with Clerico.

Michael Landon and Cindy Landon|Ron Galella/Ron Galella Collection

Michael Landon and his second wife ‘fought a lot’ 

Throughout his life, Landon was married three times. He and his first wife, Dodie Levy-Fraser, got married in 1956. The relationship lasted for six years, and they filed for divorce in 1962. Of the divorce, Landon told People that both he and Fraser were young when they said, “I do.” 

Actor Michael Landon and wife Lynn Noe sighted on February 9, 1979 on Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills, California.
Michael Landon and Lynn Noe|Ron Galella/Ron Galella Collection

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After he divorced Fraser, Landon met actor Lynn Noe. Born Marjorie Lynn Noe, she worked on the set of Bonanza, where Landon played the role of Little Joe Cartwright. Eventually, Landon and Noe got married. During their marriage, the couple welcomed four children. 

When Landon became the creator and star of Little House on the Prairie, he soon faced marital issues. Several cast members, including Melissa Gilbert, who played Laura Ingalls, noticed Landon spent a lot of time with a “stand-in,” Clerico. Soon after he met Clerico, Landon and Noe separated after 19 years of marriage. 

According to INSP, Landon shared that his affair wasn’t the sole reason his marriage ended. Following their separation, Landon said he only wanted to stop the fighting between him and Noe. 

“Lynn and I fought a lot, about jealousy, about my being tied up with my work,” Landon explained. “I’d go into depressed moods, and then I’d go around screaming at people at home and in the studio. Nobody’s perfect. Not Charles Ingalls. Not Michael Landon.”

Why Michael Landon had an affair

Landon and Clerico’s affair happened around the early 1980s. Once Landon divorced Noe, he married Clerico in 1983. The couple went on to have two children and were together when Landon died. 

Actor Michael Landon, wife Cindy Landon, daughter Jennifer Landon and son Sean Landon attend the Third Annual Moonlight Roundup Extravaganza to Benefit Free Arts for Abused Children on July 29, 1989 at the Calamigos Ranch in Malibu, California.
Michael Landon, Cindy Landon, Jennifer Landon and Sean Landon|Ron Galella/Ron Galella Collection

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Although their love was real, Landon received criticism for leaving his wife of over a decade for a younger woman. In his 1985 interview with People, Landon admitted that it made him angry when the public referred to his marriage as a mid-life crisis. He also said that his relationship with Clerico stretched beyond their age differences. 

“You don’t dissolve a relationship to go to bed with someone 20 years younger. You have to have major differences, and a deep-rooted need to stop a relationship after as many years as I was married. I would have done anything to make that relationship continue, but I could not. It’s not just difficult for the wife. It is painful for the husband too. But it is far better than letting it stay the way it was.” 

Landon also added that the divorce from Noe helped their co-parenting relationship. At the time, he said his ex-wife was a “much happier person now than she was” when they were married.