Melissa Gilbert Had a Bizarre Connection to Michael Landon That Had Nothing to Do With ‘Little House’
Though Melissa Gilbert spent years playing Michael Landon‘s daughter on Little House on the Prairie, they also share a link related to Lorne Greene, who played Landon’s father on TV’s Bonanza. But what was Greene’s connection to Gilbert? And what similarities did Greene’s relationship with Landon have with Landon’s bond with Gilbert?
Melissa Gilbert’s ‘Little House on the Prairie’ connection to Michael Landon
In Gilbert’s memoir, Prairie Tale, she wrote about auditioning for her iconic role as Laura Ingalls on Little House on the Prairie in 1974. And she revealed she was at school when she learned she got the part, but not through her agents or parents. Landon’s daughter, Leslie, spilled the metaphorical beans at lunch — which got her grounded.
After the death of Gilbert’s father, Landon became a father figure in her life. But they eventually stopped speaking for a long time following an affair that ended his second marriage. She later said she felt let down by Landon’s actions as someone who had been welcomed into his family, and they lost touch when he left the show in 1983.
However, they reconnected at Leslie’s wedding not long before Landon died in 1991.
Michael Landon’s ‘Bonanza’ connection to Lorne Green
Before Little House, Landon played “Little Joe” Cartwright on Bonanza for 14 years, from 1959 to 1973. Lorne Greene played his father, Ben, on the show during that time. And the show’s producer David Dortort described a relationship that sounds similar to the one Landon developed with Gilbert.
“Michael came from a family that was not functional … And he bore the scars of that. He was a wonderful, handsome young man, a great athlete, mind you, but he had been wounded, he had been scarred,” Dotort explained (per Outsider.)
He added, “And the most marvelous thing in the world to watch were scenes between him and Lorne Green.. The compassion and the understanding and the love. … Michael had found his father.”
Like Gilbert and Landon, the two actors developed a bond that lasted until Greene died in 1987.
Melissa Gilbert’s dog food connection to Lorne Greene
Gilbert, Landon, and Greene share an obscure connection besides playing family on classic TV shows. Coincidentally, Gilbert and Greene shared some screen time for a commercial in 1977.
The advertisement for Alpo dog food shows the young actor excitedly telling “Mr. Greene” about her dog Fluffy’s blue ribbon win in the dog show.
But the links don’t end there. Notably, Landon went for one last visit with his TV dad before Greene’s 1987 death, as Gilbert did less than five years later.
″The last time I saw [Greene] he couldn’t speak. I took his hand in mine and held it,” Landon shared (per AP.) “He looked at me and then slowly started to arm wrestle like we used to and he broke into a smile and nodded and everything was OK.”
In an interview with the Television Academy Foundation, Gilbert disclosed she went to see Landon for what she realized would be the last time just before he died in 1991. “It was really hard to see him so frail and sick …,” she shared.
And though she almost “chickened out” of the visit, she was “really glad” they had one last goodbye.