‘Little House on the Prairie’: Why Michael Landon and Victor French Had a ‘Big Falling Out’
When Michael Landon left Bonanza to create Little House on the Prairie, he recruited actor Victor French to join him. With Landon serving as executive producer and star of the show as Charles Ingalls, he gave French the role of the amiable mountain man Isaiah Edwards.
The two actors had a very close friendship that hit a snag when French was interested in pursuing another opportunity on the small screen.
Victor French was a beloved cast member
For the first four seasons of Little House, Charlotte Stewart portrayed Eva Beadle, the Walnut Grove school teacher. In her book Little House in the Hollywood Hills: A Bad Girl’s Guide to Becoming Miss Beadle, Mary X, and Me, Stewart raved about French’s warm demeanor and acting talent.
“A lot of fans never got to see past the bearded, backcountry, yee-haw charm of the character he played to know what a passionate and fine actor he was,” she wrote. “French had worked with Leonard Nimoy, Richard Chamberlain, Vic Morrow, and others to found a nonprofit theater company in L.A. called Company of Angels.”
Stewart gushed about her co-star’s down-to-earth nature, revealing the actor, while large in stature, was basically a big softie.
“He was also a private acting teacher with a great reputation,” Stewart said of French. “More than anything though, he was a big, sweet, funny, lovable teddy bear of a guy.”
‘Little House’ star headed to ‘Carter Country’
Landon and French were very close on set, until French was presented with a new acting role.
“Victor was very much inside the Mike Landon and crew frat group,” Stewart recalled. “[French] wrote and directed quite a number of episodes. The two had a big falling out later in the run of the show when, without Mike’s blessing, Victor left to star in his own sitcom called Carter Country.”
Feeling spurned by his pal defecting to another show, Landon removed the Edwards’ family from Walnut Grove.
“You can’t blame Victor for taking a shot at some more income and giving his star a bit of a boost,” Stewart remarked. “But Mike was pissed off and felt betrayed, and he wrote Mr. Edwards and his family entirely out of the show.”
Michael Landon and Victor French made amends
Carter Country lasted only two seasons. Landon and French went on to bury the hatchet and resume their friendship. When Landon decided to bring the Edwards family back to Little House, they were minus one relative.
“He and Michael patched things up and Mr. Edwards and his family miraculously reappeared in Walnut Grove,” Stewart explained. “Well, all but one – Radames Pera had played Mr. Edwards’ adopted son John Sanderson.”
The character had been permanently written out of the show, supposedly killed in a street car accident. Apparently, Pera thought he still had a chance to reprise his role.
“When Radames heard the news of Victor and the Edwards family coming back to the show, he naturally saw it as a return for his character as well,” Stewart revealed, noting that the actor soon discovered he wouldn’t be heading back to Walnut Grove. “His character was dead and Radames was collateral damage of the Michael-Victor falling out.”
Landon and French maintained a lifelong friendship, collaborating on the NBC series Highway to Heaven after Little House went off the air.