‘Little House on the Prairie’: Michael Landon’s Mistress Revealed the ‘PA Ingalls’ Actor’s Biggest Regret

Michael Landon captivated hearts on television for four decades. By the time the actor died in 1991, he was known for his role on Little House on the Prairie. Not only did Landon create the family drama, but he also starred in the show as Charles “Pa” Ingalls

Throughout his career, Landon became known for both his personal and professional life. In 2020, his mistress (and eventually wife) Cindy Clerico shared one of Landon’s biggest regrets. 

INGLEWOOD, CA - MARCH 14: Actor Michael Landon, wife Cindy Clerico, daughter Jennifer Landon and son Sean Landon attend the opening of the Moscow Circus on March 14, 1990 at the Great Western Forum in Inglewood, California.
Michael Landon, wife Cindy Clerico, daughter Jennifer Landon and son Sean Landon| Ron Galella/Ron Galella Collection

Michael Landon had several extramarital affairs

Landon was born in 1936 in Forest Hills, New York. He started acting in 1955 and landed roles on Telephone Time, and I Was A Teenage Werewolf. That same year, Landon met Dodie Levy-Fraser. She was a widowed legal secretary with two children when the couple connected. According to Insp, the pair got married in 1956. Landon also legally adopted Fraser’s children. 

LOS ANGELES - FEBRUARY 20: Actor Michael Landon, wife Lynn Noe, daughter Leslie Landon and son Michael Landon Jr. attend Fourth Annual People's Choice Awards on February 20, 1978 in Los Angeles, California.
Michael Landon, wife Lynn Noe, daughter Leslie Landon, and son Michael Landon Jr.|Ron Galella/Ron Galella Collection

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Several years later, Landon booked a starring role as Little Joe Cartwright on Bonanza. During that time, he met a fellow actor named Marjorie “Lynn” Noe. Soon after their first exchange, Landon left Fraser in 1962 to be with Noe. 

Noe and Landon married in 1963. The couple were together for 19 years and had five children. When Landon started working on Little House on the Prairie, Noe frequently visited the cast and crew. In the 1980s, while appearing in a TV movie, Landon met Cindy Clerico. Soon, Clerico became a stand-in on Little House on the Prairie. Several cast members, including Melissa Gilbert, recalled seeing Landon and Clerico’s developing relationship. 

Landon and Noe divorced in 1982. The following year, he and Clerico got married. Although the affair was a large contributor, Noe didn’t solely blame her ex-husband’s mistress for their divorce. 

“If it hadn’t been Cindy, it would have been somebody,” Noe told People. “He had reached that point in his life.”

Michael Landon’s biggest regret

After the news broke about Landon and Clerico’s affair, his seemingly wholesome image suffered. Many viewers of Little House on the Prairie were shocked that Landon acted outside of his famous character. The negative publicity soon affected Landon professionally, as he began to step away from the NBC hit.

MALIBU,CA - JULY 29: 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, wife Cindy Landon, daughter Jennifer Landon, and son Sean Landon|Ron Galella/Ron Galella Collection

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Landon continued to work after Little House on the Prairie ended in 1984. In 1991, Landon shared during an appearance on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson that he had pancreatic cancer. Several months later, Landon died on July 1, 1991. 

Clerico and Landon remained married until the day he died. In January 2019, she opened up about their relationship to Closer Weekly. During the interview, Clerico said Landon regretted spending time away from his children to work. When he died, Landon had a total of nine kids. 

“He wished he’d spent more time traveling with the family,” Clerico said of Landon’s biggest regret. “We did some. He got to go to Africa — which was one of his dream places — but we thought there would be a lot more, too.” 

Michael Landon’s children wanted his ‘respect’ 

Although he couldn’t take much vacation time, Landon’s children paid attention to his work ethic. In her interview with Closer, Clerico said Landon loved to “teach” their kids whenever he could. Landon’s daughter with Noe, Leslie, even appeared on Little House on the Prairie as Etta Plum

UNIVERSAL CITY,CA - NOVEMBER 21: Actor Michael Landon, wife Cindy Landon and daughter Jennifer Landon attend the "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Coming Out of Their Shells" Concert and Theatrical Performance on November 21, 1990 at Universal Amphitheatre in Univeral City, California.
Michael Landon, wife Cindy Landon and daughter Jennifer Landon|Ron Galella, Ltd/Ron Galella Collection

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Landon’s younger daughter with Clerico, Jennifer, told Closer that her father’s skills inspired her to venture into acting. She appeared in several soap operas and also landed a role in 2018’s The Front Runner. 

“I always had this feeling that even if I was afraid of something that I would do it because I wanted my father’s respect,” she said. “I wanted to be brave.”