Michael Landon and Karen Grassle spent nine years starring as devoted married couple Charles and Carline Ingalls on the television show “Little House On The Prairie” from 1974 to 1983. Behind the scenes, however, Landon and Grassle reportedly did not always get along.
Charlotte Stewart, who played the role of Walnut Grove school teacher Eva Beadle during the first four seasons, revealed this in her book “Little House in the Hollywood Hills: A Bad Girl’s Guide to Becoming Miss Beadle, Mary X, and Me.”
Stewart wrote that when she first met Grassle, she was floored by her credentials.
“When I started working with Karen Grassle, I felt like a bumpkin around her,” Stewart confessed. “She had earned not one but two degrees at U.C. Berkeley… in English and Dramatic Arts. … She had also done a broad range of theater from Shakespeare both in the U.S. and in England to a stint on Broadway.”
“Her agent called, saying that Michael Landon from Bonanza was putting together a show based on ‘Little House on the Prairie,’” she added. “Karen had to ask who Michael was – being unclear which character he had played on the show.”
Stewart went on to talk about the issues that Landon and Grassle had with one another.
“She and Mike always had excellent chemistry on screen,” Stewart recalled. “Unfortunately in real life, Karen and Mike didn’t always get along. He would tease her without mercy for being serious-minded, and I think she got tired of not only his joking around, but of the easy-breezy approach he took to acting in general.”
Landon’s humorous personality was a direct contrast to the serious and methodical acting style of Grassle’s.
“Mike was an actor who did not seem to sweat at all in terms of his craft,” Stewart explained. “Time and time again, I saw him joshing and joking around with the crew, drinking vodka out of a coffee mug in the middle of the morning… moments later, he’d be in front of the camera as Pa with tears streaming down his cheeks in a scene about a dying colt or some disappointment suffered at Christmastime.”
However, Stewart went on to say that she saw Landon and Grassle’s contrasting personalities as an asset when it came to their onscreen pairing.
“I have to say that one of the things that worked well with Mike and Karen were in fact their differences,” she said. “There’s nothing more boring than watching two characters who are too much alike. Sparks often happen in that space between two actors where there’s friction.”
“Ultimately Karen – and everyone else – knew that it was Mike’s show and he would produce it the way he wanted to,” Stewart continued. “I think everyone in the cast agrees today that he worked some magic in terms of touching a lot of hearts. Something we did not always see at the time and really wouldn’t know until years, and in some cases, decades later.”