Karen Grassle 'Grateful' She 'Mended Fences' with Little House Costar Michael Landon Before His Death
Karen Grassle is reflecting on her differences with costar Michael Landon, and why she's glad they reconnected prior to his death.
The 79-year-old actress writes about her career, relationships, mental health, struggle with alcoholism, and more in her new memoir Bright Lights, Prairie Dust, out Nov. 16. Speaking with the New York Post, Grassle recalled her most iconic role on the television series Little House on the Prairie playing Caroline Ingalls, aka "Ma," opposite Bonanza star Michael Landon.
Grassle said Landon was an "amazing, multi-talented person" who was "very highly strung, but he was carrying the weight of the show on his shoulders." Going into the series' second season — which aired in 1975-1976 — however, the two butted heads, according to the Post, when she asked for a raise and Landon denied it.
"I felt insulted as his costar on a hit series. I didn't want to gouge anybody, but I expected a fair wage," she said of Landon, who was also an executive producer on the show.
The actress said Landon became cold toward her on set, allegedly making crude jokes that made her want to "disappear."
"Mike would say 'c---' and make disgusting jokes about how a woman smelled after sex," Grassle claimed to the Post, adding, "It was almost like I was frozen. But, as a woman in the 1970s film industry, I was so accustomed to these putdowns, it never occurred to me to sharply rebuke him. I kept up the professionalism. I'd be the good girl, play the part and hope."
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Grassle eventually got her raise and overcame her problems with alcohol at the time. She even reconciled with Landon, who later died in July 1991 from pancreatic cancer. He was 54.
"I am very grateful that we mended our fences," she said.
Landon's daughter Leslie Landon Matthews told PEOPLE in July, on the 30th anniversary of his death, that Landon "was a busy man burning the candle at both ends. I think his own health got put on the back burner."
As for the legacy he left behind, Matthews said at the time, "I feel like the takeaway was loving one another and accepting people for who they are. I think he was very proud of the fact that he could bring families together to watch entertainment that was going to bring a wide range of emotions. I think he would be disappointed at how families today disengage from each other. He would tell people, 'Put your phone down. Sit around the dinner table and talk.' "