‘Little House on the Prairie’: The Prank Michael Landon Would Play on the Women Who ‘Came Out in Droves To Watch Him Work and To Swoon’
Michael Landon was popular with the ladies. When he played Charles Ingalls and served as executive producer, writer, and director on Little House on the Prairie, he’d often get female visitors, according to Melissa Gilbert, the actor who played Laura Ingalls. Landon, apparently, always took the opportunity to play a friendly prank on the ‘droves’ of women who came to see him in action.
Melissa Gilbert ‘could hardly take [her] eyes off’ Michael Landon when they first started working together on ‘Little House on the Prairie’
Young Gilbert wasn’t immune to Landon’s charisma and good looks as a little girl. In her memoir, Prairie Tale, she describes immediately being unable to “take [her] eyes off” Landon when they filmed the pilot.
“I’d never seen a man in person who was built like him,” she wrote. “He was an upside-down triangle, thick and muscular, and tough beyond my imagination.”
Before Landon, Gilbert had “never seen such a macho man.”
“He was like James Bond—or Batman,” she wrote.
Looking back, Gilbert thinks Landon greatly affected her taste in men.
“As a kid, I didn’t know he sipped vodka from his coffee mug every day almost as frequently as he pulled me into his sweat-soaked torso for a giant bear hug, but I’m sure he’s one of the primary reasons why as a young woman, I almost always picked men who smelled like alcohol,” she wrote.
How Michael Landon would prank the women who’d come to watch him work on ‘Little House on the Prairie’
In addition to being drawn to men who smelled of alcohol, Gilbert also found herself with a “preference for physical men with a sense of humor” later in life.
Landon loved a good prank. He had one, in particular, he’d play on the women who’d swoon over him on set.
“We shot exteriors on a Simi Valley ranch about ninety minutes north of Paramount, and if the sun was out, Mike would, by late morning, strip off his shirt and work in just his pants, boots, and suspenders,” wrote Gilbert. “(In all fairness, it could be hellaciously hot in Simi Valley.) Well, women came out in droves to watch him work and to swoon, and he loved playing a certain prank on them.”
First, Landon would instruct Gilbert to catch him a frog from the pond.
“I can still hear his surreptitious whisper, ‘Half Pint, go find me a little one,’” wrote Gilbert.
Then, he’d put the frog in his mouth and “walk over to where the women stood, say hello, and let the poor freaked-out frog jump out at them. As they gasped and shrieked, he flashed a naughty, self-satisfied grin that made him even more lovable.”