Michael Landon and Karen Grassle played Charles and Caroline Ingalls on Little House on the Prairie. Grassle says she was caught off guard during a scene where Landon kissed her with an intensity that was unusual for their characters. Here’s what Grassle revealed about that day and why she thinks he suddenly added more emotion to his kissing style.
Karen Grassle says Michael Landon kissed her passionately
Grassle says she experienced conflict with Landon after she demanded changes to her contract and a higher salary. According to her, Landon’s on-set behavior suddenly changed. She says one day during a scene, Landon gave her a passionate kiss. This wasn’t typically the way their characters kissed, so she was taken aback.
Grassle thinks Landon adjusted the way he usually kissed her because he wanted to change her mind about the contract dispute. She believes Landon thought if he turned on the charm, she would give up her contract fight and accept a lower salary. However, she wasn’t moved by his actions.
“One day, out in the field, just as we were finishing a scene, and I was high-tailing it to an afternoon talk show, his usual peck to Caroline became a lengthy and deeply felt kiss,” says Grassle in her book Bright Lights, Prairie Dust. “Really? You’d really try that?”
Karen Grassle says she was placed “on ice”
When the kiss didn’t work and Grasse dug in her heels, she says Landon turned cold. According to her, they didn’t speak, which created a tense atmosphere on the set. She noticed what she says was a contrast between the warmth with which he treated guest stars and the chilly way he treated her. Grassle says she was “ignored and treated with contempt” and it was “excruciating.”
Grassle says her interactions with Landon reminded her of the dynamic between her and her alcoholic father. She says her father was loving and patient with her, but he would he become “cruel” at a moment’s notice. Consequently, Grassle developed low self-esteem from her childhood trauma.
Karen Grassle says Michael Landon had a lot to lose
Grassle believes Landon was afraid of losing what he built. Over the years, he gained the respect of so many people, and he built a thriving television production company. She says that by pushing back and demanding a fair wage, she was threatening Landon’s sense of control. Landon once said he needed to be in control, so this conflict with Grassle likely rattled him, and he wanted the contract dispute to be over as soon as possible.
Grassle says Landon tried to bring her “into line,” and it was probably tough for him when he couldn’t. She felt he thrived when people were obedient and did what he said. “The livelihoods of more than one hundred people depended on his success, so dealing with a stubborn leading lady must have been not just annoying but threatening to his whole scrupulously built construct,” wrote Grassle.