As Caroline Ingalls on Little House on the Prairie, Karen Grassle rose to fame as a great television actress. The program and its many characters continue to be recognizable today. Additionally, viewers from all over the world can and do keep watching the show.
Many actors and actresses have gushed over the fantastic environment on the Little House set. According to all accounts, Michael Landon was very concerned that everyone enjoy their time on set and depart on time to return home.
Karen Grassle, however, recently come forward to describe a very different kind of atmosphere, at least as it related to her and Michael Landon.
The iconic television program Little House on the Prairie is still broadcast in more than a hundred nations. In reality, since its 1974 debut, the program has never been entirely off the air.
Some of the actors in the historical western play about the Ingalls family, who lived on a farm in Plum Creek, close to Walnut Grove, Minnesota, became well-known thanks to their roles in the show.
The person who comes to mind most likely is Michael Landon, although he tragically passed away in 1991.
Among the other actors, Little House helped Melissa Gilbert and Karen Grassel to become household names. It’s challenging for me to pick a favorite performance from among so many excellent ones.
When Karen Grassel was cast in the role of Caroline Ingalls, a.k.a. “Ma,” on Little House on the Prairie, her life was forever altered.
California native Grassel, who was born on February 25th, 1942, attended the University of California for her undergraduate studies. Her next destination was London, where she enrolled in the famed Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts.
She worked extensively in theater with the Shakespeare company, but sadly, her financial situation wasn’t exactly right.
I spent a year in England teaching and working with a Shakespeare company, and I returned to the United States penniless, she said.
However, coincidences can also lead to some of life’s most amazing events. You might be in the perfect location at the perfect time to get the shot you so much need in life. Exactly that is what occurred to Karen Grassel.
Grassel was actually working on another project at the time casting for Little House on the Prairie was taking place. However, as is well known, she was soon cast in Little House as a result of a fortunate coincidence.
When I arrived at the airport, there was no ticket for the flight I was supposed to take to Los Angeles to play the lead in an independent film. Grassel thought back.
“Since my lover was with me, I wrote a bad check to get one because I had sublet my place. But the movie was canceled when I arrived in Los Angeles.
Her agency called her with a proposal at that point. Michael Landon, or as she referred to him at the time, “this guy from Bonanza,” was in it.
I wasn’t a big TV viewer, she said.
Naturally, she would be trying out for the Little House on the Prairie television show. The Midwest in the nineteenth century served as the setting for the drama series, which was based on the Ingalls family’s lives. The show’s star was Landon, and Grassel would try out for Caroline Ingalls.
Grassle claimed, “I was the sole person at the interview.”
“They had seen every suitable candidate in Hollywood. Due to the fact that they had cast everyone else, time was running out. Mike jumped up like a jack-in-the-box after I read my second scene to him and said, “Bring her to wardrobe!” However, NBC had to approve me, so he conducted executive interviews through closed-circuit TV.
When Grassel was offered the role, her life was irrevocably altered.
The process of auditioning for and joining a new program may be extremely terrifying. But Grassel pointed out that Landon always made an effort to include everyone.
She said that he “was always trying to make the staff laugh and make everyone happy.” He could be fairly cranky and was a very hard worker; he had a lot on his plate that first year. He was the lone captain since he and a producer quickly fell out.
She adapted well to life among the other performers and actresses. She connected particularly well with the kids working on the set, especially Laura Ingalls star Melisa Gilbert.
Karen made the decision to model Caroline, her own character, after her mother.She said, “Caroline was really tough and sturdy if you read Laura Ingalls Wilder’s writings and see images. “My mother taught in a one-room schoolhouse as a young woman and rode a horse to school barefoot! So I used her strength, integrity, and wisdom to infuse Caroline.
Even while Karen and every member of the cast and crew relished the excitement that was Little House, not everything that happened behind the scenes was ideal.
The stars sought a piece of the action as Little House grew in popularity and amassed an increasing number of spectators. At the time, Karen Grassle believed she deserved more money because she was one of the show’s stars.
Her quest for a better deal, however, resulted in a contentious fight with Michael Landon.
Michael had extraordinary talent, she said. “A complex person with a damaged family who cared deeply about his staff. Michael, however, refused to pay me when the show reached the top 10 and I remarked, “Gee, it’s time to renegotiate my contract.” It was quite challenging.
As one might expect, there weren’t always tranquil surroundings on site. Landon and Karen’s relationship suffered greatly as a result of their disagreement. She was actually reluctant to bring up the fact that she wasn’t getting paid fairly.
Why? She was worried that she may permanently harm her connection with Landon.
“At the time, I didn’t speak out publicly,” she admitted. Except if Mike’s potential negative remarks about me were caused by the fact that I persisted in negotiating.
Since Grassle played Caroline Ingalls in Little House, it has been 40 years. Despite their disagreement over her pay, she and Landon rekindled their conversation just before Landon passed away in 1991.
Grassle recalled, “We had a nice call discussing the good old days. “I was happy that mending occurred,”
Cindy, Landon’s widow, also discussed her late husband’s actions during the Little House era. She was really employed as an extra for the show, and she first met Michael when working as an extra on the set of the 1976 television movie The Loneliest Runner.
People assumed he was really serious, but Michael wasn’t at all serious, Cindy said in 2019. He was fired up about his job, but he always returned home smiling. He was a wonderful parent who loved to teach the kids and was very curious about everything.
Jennifer, Landon’s daughter, continued, “He was just the best! That doesn’t imply we were given carte blanche. In our home, there was a great deal of respect and discipline, but my dad always made things so much fun, too. He was able to give you the impression that something miraculous could occur or that you were about to make a discovery.
Many of the actors and actresses who worked on Little House have said that it was a truly beautiful experience, regardless of how much time they spent on the project.
No matter what size of role they played, Michael Landon was reported to be able to make everyone feel comfortable. Dean Butler was able to witness this beginning with the auditions.
Butler intended to read for director Michael when he returned for a third time to try out for the part of Almanzo Wilder on Little House.
Butler reported that when she was reading for Michael, the man lifted his hand up like this to look at her through a pair of binoculars. “It was exciting to watch that, what an amazing director and star he was. He entered the room wearing everything—boots, pants, and all.
Landon had a positive opinion of Dean Butler. As we all know, he received the position quickly.
Butler stated, “At the conclusion of the reading, he asked, ‘What are you doing in May?’”
Landon had a positive opinion of Dean Butler. As we all know, he received the position quickly.“And as I struggled to stay seated, I remarked, “Well, I’ll be taking final examinations. When do they finish, he asked. And I replied, “On May 18,” when asked. He concluded by saying, “I’ll see you on the 21st.”
Butler said that, “how Michael portrayed it, both the books and the series of Little House were recounted through the eyes of a small girl.”
There was something charming, understated, and lovely about it. Little House was endearing and moving, and it made life seem lovely and cozy. The crowd responded to it magnificently because of its dreamlike quality.
Dean arrived at the Little House set just a few days after receiving his degree from college. Like any employment, the first day can occasionally be challenging and intimidating. But having Michael Landon close by made things much simpler.
Butler was had to pull a horse-drawn wagon 200 yards down a hill in his first scene. When Michael yelled “action,” he had never done it before, so things didn’t exactly go as planned.
As he was driving, he said, he had the notion, “Oh my god, this is my first shot, it’s my big day, this is it.”
Butler dropped the reins out of reflex and reached for his hat when the breeze took up his hat. The horses suddenly lost control and flew off the road and in the direction of an oak tree at the same time.
Despite the screams from the audience, a crew member was able to reach the horses just in time for them to avoid hitting the tree.
It could have gone better for Dean on his first day at Little House, and Michael Landon ended up performing the scenario.
Butler recalled Landon stating, “Well, I guess I have to double, you know,” as he approached me while chomping on a cigarette. “I cannot replace the show’s horses, but I can double you. Although it was my first experience being with Michael, it was a lot of fun.
As his son has stated, Landon was a true family man who made sure that the crew would be at home each evening enjoying dinner with their families. No matter if it’s in showbiz or not, I believe that’s how a truly outstanding profession should always operate.
We will always be grateful to Dean Butler, Karen Grassle, Michael Landon, and the rest of the cast for their outstanding work on the program!