Melissa Sue Anderson played Michael Landon's daughter Mary Ingalls in the NBC drama series "Little House on the Prairie." Landon reportedly bragged about his sex life with a teen on the "Little House" set. Their relationship shook Anderson.
Melissa Sue Anderson once spoke out about her relationship with actor Michael Landon following his passing. She was head over heels in love with him and declared it a few times.
Here are the details about Anderson and Landon's love and relationship, including his full-blown affair with a woman who was years his junior.
ANDERSON'S RELATIONSHIP WITH LANDON BEFORE HIS AFFAIR
Landon played Anderson's co-star on "Little House," as Pa Ingalls, and she revealed he helped her the most in her career and that she learned a lot from him:
“I’ve learned everything from him. He is a super person. I have never met anyone like him. He writes and directs and does everything! Someday I’d like to direct TV shows. I’ve learned a lot from just watching him.”
Melissa Sue Anderson as Mary Ingalls, Michael Landon as Charles Ingalls on "Little House on the Prairie," on March 13 1978. / Source: Getty Images
Anderson is a former child star who broke into stardom at nine years old when she landed her most prominent role yet in "Little House" as young Mary.
The 59-year-old revealed that she had never had any acting lessons before and only learned what she could from watching others and from her own experience of playing the part:
“I’ve never had any acting lessons. I’ve learned from watching others and from playing this part.”
Young Melissa Sue Anderson as Mary Ingalls, Michael Landon as Charles Ingalls on "Little House on the Prairie." / Source: Getty Images
In adjusting to her newfound fame, Anderson found it difficult to fit in, and the public often misunderstood her. "People thought I was aloof," said the Canadian actress, "but I was just shy. I was serious about what I did. I wanted to do a great job."
One of the people who had doubts about her ability was the late Landon, who had already established himself as an actor and was a big television star when he put the TV series together and played her Pa.
Anderson credits the show's success to the determination and vision of the producer. She said the series sold as a pilot and went to a series because of Landon.
Melissa Sue Anderson as Mary Ingalls, Michael Landon as Charles Ingalls on "Little House on the Prairie," on September 19 1977. / Source: Getty Images
ANDERSON'S DECLARATIONS OF LOVE & LANDON'S AFFAIR
Anderson has been the filmmaker's admirer since she was young. The Daily Herald reported in 1974 that she shamelessly declared her love for the then-married co-star and admitted to watching all his old reruns on the defunct "Bonanza" series.
She was 12 years old at the time, and he was 40. The second time she declared her love for him was in her book after Landon's death.
Anderson had also discovered something about the New York native. She got shaken when news reports revealed that the married man was having an affair.
Michael Landon and wife Cindy Clerico attend the premiere of "Sam's Son" at the Academy Theater on August 15, 1984 in Beverly Hills, California. / Source: Getty Images
"He went in and out of favor with me occasionally. When you hold someone in such high esteem, you can't believe it when they fall. And I don't think I was the only one," said Anderson.
"But it taught me a great lesson very early on that I had to work with him every day, no matter what. He was my boss, and I did love him. He was a great guy and a great person in my life, like a big brother to me. So, I had to get over it and move on," she continued.
According to co-star Karen Grassle who played his TV wife on the show, Landon bragged about his sex life with a teen on the "Little House" set.
Michael Landon and Cindy Clerico seen at the Sherry Netherland Hotel on November 21, 1982 in Los Angeles, California. / Source: Getty Images
He raved about the remarkable effects of natural supplements he had started taking back then to improve his sex life. Grassle revealed:
“Mike began to arrive jubilant at the makeup table, crowing about the benefits of bee pollen for the aging male.”
It was not long after the cast and crew discovered the reason behind his boastfulness. Landon was having an affair with Cindy Clerico, a teenager working as a stand-in for his co-star Melissa Francis (Cassandra Cooper Ingalls). The 18-year-old was more than 20 years his junior.
Cindy Landon and husband Michael Landon during "Beaches" premiere at Academy Theater in Los Angeles, California. / Source: Getty Images
Soon, newspapers reported that he had moved out of his family home and into Clerico's seaside apartment. At first, Landon insisted that his infidelity was not a sign of his second marriage ending.
He confirmed that he did move out of his home and that his wife Lynn Noe, whom he wed in 1963, took the kids out on vacation in Spain. They were not talking about divorce at that time.
Noe called that period a trial separation and that it was important for her and Landon to reassess their marriage to see where they went wrong.
Lynn Noe Landon and spouse Michael Landon during their appearance on the ABC TV special "The Barbara Walters Special," in 1978. / Source: Getty Images
The former couple tried to salvage their union and even planned to renew their wedding vows that same year during a ceremony only their children would attend.
However, it never happened, and they decided to file for an amicable divorce. In 1981, a reporter estimated the divorce settlement with Noe, 88, saying it would cost her estranged spouse more than $5 million.
Nevertheless, Landon went ahead with the divorce in 1982 because not only had Clerio caught his eye, she proved to be his soulmate. They eventually wed a year later and remained married until he died.
Michael Landon and wife Lynn Noe spotted on February 9, 1979 on Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills, California. / Source: Getty Images
Landon left his marriage of nineteen years to Noe for 28-year-old Clerico. He once cleared the assumption that he left his wife mainly because he wanted a younger woman:
“You don’t dissolve a relationship to go to bed with someone 20 years younger. You have to have major differences and a deep-rooted need to stop a relationship after as many years as I was married.”
Michael Landon, wife Lynn Noe, daughter Leslie Landon and son Michael Landon Jr. attend Fourth Annual People's Choice Awards on February 20, 1978 in Los Angeles, California. / Source: Getty Images
ANDERSON'S REVELATIONS ABOUT WORKING WITH LANDON
Meanwhile, his admirer, Anderson, once revealed some unsettling revelations about him in her book, "The Way, I See It: A Look Back at My Life on Little House."
She admitted that Landon was without question a good father from everything she witnessed about him. However, at work, it was a different story.
Pictured: Director Michael Landon in a white undershirt photographed with crew members on the set of " Little House on the Prairie," on December 10, 1975. / Source: Getty Images
"At work, he was controlling, and he could be mean at times. He would single out certain people and tease them publicly and relentlessly," wrote Anderson.
"He could also be vindictive. I remember him telling me the main reason he decided to blow up the town of Walnut Grove at the end of 'Little House' was so that no one else would ever be able to use our sets," she continued.
Filmmaker Michael Landon as Charles Philip Ingalls on the pilot of " Little House on the Prairie," aired on March 30, 1974. / Source: Getty Images
Despite what she knew about his bad side, Anderson was friends with Landon and even worked with him up to the year he tragically died.
He even attended her wedding in 1990 when she wed freelance illustrator Michael Sloan. "He came to my wedding. He got sick right after I had my daughter. All those years I was close to him," Anderson said of Landon.
Michael Landon as Charles Philip Ingalls, Melissa Sue Anderson as Mary Ingalls, and an unknown individual on "Little House on the Prairie," aired on November 1976. / Source: Getty Images
INSIDE MELISSA GILBERT'S RIFT WITH TV DAD LANDON
Not only was she shocked about Landon's affair with a teenager, but also her TV sister, Melissa Gilbert. His off-screen affair severed his relationship with Gilbert.
Gilbert was close to Landon's family, his son Michael Jr., and his daughter Leslie. Noe and Gilbert's mother, Barbara Crane, became extremely close and even vacationed together.
Actor Michael Landon Jr. and Melissa Gilbert attending the Third Annual Media Awards Gala "Changing Attitudes" at the Beverly Hilton Hotel on January 22, 1981 in Beverly Hills, California. / Source: Getty Images
One day Crane had to break the sad news to her daughter that Noe and Landon were separating. Gilbert did not like that TV's leading man was having an affair.
The actress noticed that Landon had been unusually attentive to makeup artist Clerico. However, she never thought in a million years that Landon would leave his wife for "that makeup girl," as many castmates referred to her.
Actress Melissa Gilbert as Laura Ingalls and Michael Landon as Charles Ingalls on "Little House on the Prairie," in 1974. / Source: Getty Images
After the "Little House" got canned in 1974, Gilbert did not stay in touch with Landon at all until she reluctantly called him, watching her television father on "The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson" (1962).
Following the phone call, Gilbert, now 57, went to Landon's home and was his caregiver until his death. The father of nine died on July 1, 1991, and a week after his passing, former executive producer from "Little House," Kent McCray, called Gilbert asking her to deliver one of the eulogies at the funeral.
She agreed with no hesitation but interestingly enough, the starlet said, "the second I hung up, I regretted it." Gilbert stressed what she would say about Landon because there was not much to say.
Michael Landon as Charles Philip Ingalls, Melissa Gilbert as Laura Ingalls on "Little House on the Prairie," on December 20, 1976. / Source: Getty Images
After struggling to find words to articulate their relationship, the California native finally found some words to pen down the night before the service.
Landon died from pancreatic cancer when she was 54 years old. Nearly three decades later, details surrounding his death got investigated.
Survivonet.com reported in June 2020 about a new documentary that suggested Landon may have gotten the disease from the "Little House" location.
Melissa Gilbert as Laura Ingalls Wilder, Michael Landon as Charles Philip Ingalls on "Little House on the Prairie," on March 30, 1974. / Source: Getty Images
The doccie, "Reelz Channel's Autopsy: The Last Hours of..." is a documentary-style TV show that looks into the deaths of various celebrities. The "Little House" location got looked into as a possible cause of Landon's cancer.
On the sneak preview of the show, a narrator explained that they filmed the series just 15 miles away from Santa Susana Nuclear Laboratory for nine years, where a partial meltdown of a nuclear reactor took place in 1959.
At the time, hundreds of residents started suffering from cancer, and scientists discovered that the lab had been a site of the worst radioactive disaster in US history and that years of contamination had prompted a cancer epidemic.
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