‘Little House on the Prairie’: Why Michael Landon’s Ex-Wife Once Said She Felt ‘Lost’ Before He Had an Affair

Michael Landon played the quintessential father on Little House on the Prairie. As Charles “Pa” Ingalls, his character was the one to which his family looked for guidance and support. Off-screen, many of Landon’s cast members admired him and considered Landon as their father figure. 

Toward the end of the series, Landon’s real-life family made headlines. He and his second wife, Lynn Noe, faced marital problems that soon drove a wedge between Landon and his crew. 

Marjorie Lynn Noe Landon and Michael Landon|American Broadcasting Companies via Getty Images

Michael Landon and Lynn Noe eloped in 1963

Landon and Noe married long before he created and starred in Little House on the Prairie. According to AmoMama, the pair reportedly met while they filmed an episode of Landon’s other hit show, Bonanza. Noe, born Marilyn Lynn Noe, appeared on the series. Soon after their first meeting, Landon and Noe fell in love. They decided to elope in Mexico in 1963 and started a family from there. During their marriage, the couple had four children- Michael Landon, Jr., Leslie Landon, Shawna Landon, and Christopher Landon. 

Actor Michael Landon and wife Lynn Noe attend the Hollywood Radio and Television Society's 16th Annual International Broadcasting Awards on March 4, 1976 at Century Plaza Hotel in Los Angeles, California.
Marjorie Lynn Noe Landon and Michael Landon|Ron Galella/Ron Galella Collection

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At first, Landon and Noe seemed to have the perfect relationship. Noe often visited the set of Little House on the Prairie, and their children were close to some of the cast members. Melissa Gilbert, who played Laura Ingalls on the NBC series, recalled spending time at home with the Landon family. 

“I slept at their house and they at mine, often enough that they felt like my weekend family, and I thought Mike and Lynn were the most glamorous, loving couple,” she wrote in her memoir, Prairie Tale.

Michael Landon had an affair with a stand-in on ‘Little House on the Prairie’

Noe and Landon’s marriage took a hit in the early 1980s. While filming Little House on the Prairie, Landon became friendly with a stand-in named Cindy Clerico. At the time, Clerico was 28-years-old, and Landon was in his late 40s. However, their relationship blossomed, and Landon fell in love with Clerico. Eventually, he asked Noe for a divorce after 19 years of marriage. 

Marjorie Lynn Noe Landon, Michael Landon, and Barbara Walters|American Broadcasting Companies via Getty Images

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On May 27, 1985, People released a cover story on Landon. In the article, the outlet spoke to Noe about her relationship with Landon post-divorce. Noe shared that the divorce changed her for the better. By ending her marriage, Noe got back to the person she used to be. 

“I was too busy being the kind of wife he wanted me to be,” Noe said, adding that she “lost myself little by little. I made Michael my god.”

The actor continued to say that she doesn’t blame Clerico for her and Landon’s divorce. Noe said she accepted that Landon wasn’t satisfied with their marriage. 

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

Michael Landon disappointed Melissa Gilbert because of his affair

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Landon’s divorce from Noe soon hurt his relationship with his on-screen daughter. Gilbert wrote in her book, Prairie Tale, that Landon left Noe and their children for Clerico. Before the split, Gilbert saw suspicious behavior between Landon and his soon-to-be third wife. She recalled feeling like she had to choose a side in the divorce. Because of her family’s allegiance to Noe, Gilbert decided to end her relationship with Landon. 

“It was assumed I could soldier on as always with Mike after he’d left his wife,” she wrote. “I was caught in the middle as the people all around me chose sides.” 

“He was creating a new life for him, one that didn’t include me. I get it now. My family’s allegiance was with Auntie Lynn and the kids, so my relationship with Mike began to dissolve.”

Gilbert and Landon reconnected years later at his daughter Leslie’s wedding. Before he died of cancer in 1991, Gilbert helped to take care of him.