After Melissa Gilbert was cast as Laura Ingalls on Little House on the Prairie, she became very close with Michael Landon (who played her father, Charles Ingalls), his wife Lynn Noe, and his children. Gilbert spent almost every weekend with the Landons, she considered them a second family. So when it came out that Landon and Noe were separating because the Little House star had been having an affair, Gilbert “was put in a horribly uncomfortable position.”
Melissa Gilbert didn’t know how to handle the Michael Landon affair scandal
Gilbert was a young teenager when Landon and Noe separated. In her memoir, Prairie Tale, the Laura Ingalls actor writes that it was a tough event for her to navigate.
“It was assumed I could soldier on as always with Mike after he’d left his wife—and my mother’s dearest friend—kind of date his son (who’d begun seeing other girls), and remain best friends with his daughter as their world crumbled and changed,” she wrote.
The only instructions Gilbert was given was to not talk about Landon in front of Noe and to not bring up Noe (or her mother) in front of Landon.
Melissa Gilbert sided with Lynn Noe at home and Michael Landon at ‘Little House on the Prairie’
Gilbert felt as though she was “caught in the middle as the people all around me chose sides.” But she didn’t want to pick one person over the other.
“Everyone on the crew supported Mike and so did I,” she wrote. “He was our boss and our pal. At home, though, we sided with Auntie Lynn. At the dinner table, my mom preached girl power and talked about what ‘a sh*t’ Mike was being to Auntie Lynn.”
Melissa Gilbert felt her relationship with Michael Landon begin to slip away
From the moment Gilbert was cast as Laura, she felt a closeness with Landon. She thought of him as a real father figure. In the midst of his separation from Noe, Gilbert wishes Landon would have talked to her about what was going on.
“Sometimes I would catch myself staring at Mike and wishing he would take me aside and say he knew it was awkward for me but things would turn out well,” she wrote. “He didn’t. I don’t think he ever talked about it to his own kids either.”
Things started to change. Landon moved out of his family’s home in Beverly Hills and got a house in Malibu. On Little House on the Prairie, he became less and less involved. His parts got smaller and he directed fewer episodes.
“He was creating a new life for himself—one that didn’t include me,” wrote Gilbert. “I get it now. My family’s allegiance was with Auntie Lynn and the kids, 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,” Gilbert continued.