‘Little House on the Prairie’: Why Everyone Wanted To Work for Michael Landon and the Nearly Impossible Way To Become a Crew Member

Little House on the Prairie wasn’t Michael Landon’s first big Hollywood gig. He was Little Joe Cartwright in Bonanza from 1959-1973. But he was seen as the leader, a father-figure almost, on “The Prairie.” There, in addition to playing Charles Ingalls, he served as executive producer, writer, and director.

According to Melissa Gilbert, who played Laura Ingalls, nearly every crew person in Hollywood wanted to work for Landon back in the day. Here’s why, and the nearly impossible way to get in on the action.

Michael Landon and a crew member
Michael Landon and a crew member | NBCU Photo Bank

How to work on a crew for Michael Landon

In Gilbert’s memoir, Prairie Tale, she spoke about how Landon often worked with the same people.

“Many on the crew had worked with him on Bonanza, and some had even been with him before that on other shows,” she wrote. “He inspired loyalty and expected it in return.”

Landon appreciated a consistent, loyal crew so much that it was almost impossible to break into the inner circle of working for him. You had to be born into it.

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“You couldn’t get a position on one of his crews unless your father was on the crew and left the job to you when he died,” wrote Gilbert. “He treated his crews the same way he treated his friends and family: there was no special favoritism, no caste system.” 

Gilbert recalls only two people ever getting their own trailers.

“The only two people I remember getting their own trailer were Mariette Hartley and Patricia Neal,” she wrote. “Mariette was breast-feeding a newborn, and Patricia was recovering from a stroke. Everyone else had the same kind of room on a honey wagon, including Michael.”

Why everyone wanted to work with Michael Landon 

In addition to the family atmosphere that Gilbert says Landon strove to create among everyone on set, Landon also allowed crew members to bring their families along on location.

“A lot of the crew had their families with them, including their kids, which made it fun for me; it was also one of the reasons people wanted to work on Mike’s shows,” wrote Gilbert. “If you went on location, you got to bring your family.”

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Gilbert writes that everyone felt like family on the set of Little House on the Prairie. Even though Landon was clearly running the show, he insisted on remaining casual with everyone involved.  

“He was always Mike,” wrote Gilbert. “I was quickly corrected after the first time I called him Mr. Landon. ‘It’s Mike,’ he said. Even though I’d never referred to an adult by his first name, it was Mike from then on. Everyone referred to him as Mike, never Mr. or sir or Michael. Just Mike.”