‘Little House on the Prairie’: Why Melissa Gilbert Said Michael Landon’s Affair ‘Felt Like a Death’ To Her

Little House on the Prairie’s Melissa Gilbert had a beautiful relationship with her on-screen father, Michael Landon. Gilbert felt like Landon was a real-life father figure to her even when the cameras stopped rolling. But that all changed when he started an affair with his young mistress while married to his wife, Lynn.

After Landon left his former wife for his mistress, Gilbert says their relationship “dissolved.” Because of this, she felt like there was a death in the family.

Michael Landon and wife Cindy Landon in 1989
Michael Landon and wife Cindy Landon in 1989 | Ron Galella Collection/Getty Images

Michael Landon knew Melissa Gilbert was perfect for the role of Laura Ingalls

During Gilbert’s audition for Little House on the Prairie, she got the chance to do a screen test with Michael Landon. She claims in her memoir titled Prairie Tale that they instantly had a connection. 

And although the producers looked at countless other girls for the role, Landon later told Gilbert that he knew she was destined for the part from the moment she auditioned. All at once, Gilbert began to consider Landon as a genuine father figure to her. 

“It wasn’t a stretch at all to think of Mike (Landon) as my dad,” Gilbert writes in her memoir. And because of their father/daughter connection, it hurt that much more when the young starlet learned about Landon’s infidelity.

Melissa Gilbert felt betrayed and abandoned after Michael Landon’s affair 

Michael Landon and wife Cindy Landon
Michael Landon and wife Cindy Landon | Ron Galella Collection/Getty Images

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One day, Gilbert learned that Landon left his wife for his much younger mistress. Gilbert was devastated, because she had a close relationship with both Landon and his former wife, Lynn. It felt like the ultimate betrayal to Gilbert, who used to admire her on-screen father.

“(Landon) was creating a new life for himself- one that didn’t include me,” she writes. “I get it now. My family’s allegiance was with Lynn, so my relationship with Mike began to dissolve. No explanation. No discussion. No acknowledgment that I might be feeling confused, betrayed, and abandoned. To me, it was like a death but without the grief, since I’d never been allowed to experience that.”

She continues, saying, “I wasn’t supposed to feel anything because he wasn’t my real father, because it wasn’t my family, and because if you asked my mother, my life was charmed and perfect. I was on a hit TV show, met amazing people, and acted in movies during my time off. What complaints could I have?”   

The ‘Little House on the Prairie’ actor felt ‘uncomfortable’ because she had to pick sides

Michael Landon and wife Cindy Landon
Michael Landon and wife Cindy Landon | Ron Galella Collection via Getty Images

According to Gilbert, she felt like she had to choose sides during their split, which made her incredibly uncomfortable.

“At a certain point, I thought, What about me?” she writes. “I have to work with Mike. I can’t take sides. Yet he’s done something that’s turned my world into angry, opposing sides.

In conclusion, Gilbert says, “I was put in a horribly uncomfortable position.”