Jump to content
Forums forums
PRIMETIMER
moonb

Why We Love LHOTP: Things Michael Landon Did Right

Recommended Posts

I know we snark because we love, but this thread is for genuinely good moments, scenes, actors, and the like.

 

To start off: like so many posters have mentioned, Karen Grassle is a great Ma. Too soft for the Little House series, yes, but it would be REALLY difficult to translate RL Ma's 19th century child rearing to 1970s TV with any warmth. Just too big a gap there. The first scene I think of is in the Pilot when Mr. Edwards brings Laura and Mary their Christmas gifts, and she beams at him. Aw. That scene, both in the book and TV show, was really boring to me as a kid, but as an adult it makes me teary.

 

The Pilot: Like previous posters have mentioned, this has some great writing in it, including Laura's VO at leaving the big woods: "I knew there would be rivers to cross and hills to climb, and I was glad; for this is a fair land and I rejoiced that I would see it." The pilot gets as close as the show ever would to the real dangers of life in the 19th century - including not knowing what would happen next.

  • Like 3

Share this post


Link to post

Actually, most of his casting was pretty damn good.  Even MSA was perfect in the looks department. Not ML's fault that she turned into such a bitch.  Or that the cute Greenbush twins turned out to share one brain.

I do love that we managed to fill 3000 pages of snark over at TWoP. but on the topic of what ML got right? Three replies.

  • Like 3

Share this post


Link to post

Ha, yep!  Even both my favorites are right out of the pilot - as though the snark train and bongs started just a few episodes into the series.

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post

I do love that we managed to fill 3000 pages of snark over at TWoP. but on the topic of what ML got right? Three replies.

I think that 3000 pages of snark is a compliment to ML in it's own way. People still being interested in commenting on LHOTP after all this time must mean ML did a lot of things right, even though some of them seem so wrong.

  • Like 4

Share this post


Link to post

Arguably my favorite moment in the entire series is a sweet little one between Half Pint and Pa, of course.  I think it's in "The Richest Man in Walnut Grove," when Pa can't pay the bill at the Mercantile and everyone in the family pitches in to help out.  Nellie and Willie make fun of the way Pa smells and Laura winds up telling Pa in the barn loft.  He makes one of his patented heartwarming speeches of encouragement, and Laura starts to head down the ladder, then stops and says, "Pa?  I just love you so much."  Her little face and her little voice and his response to it...

TEARS.  My gosh, the tears.  They had such fantastic father-daughter chemistry.  I know Melissa Gilbert has done a lot of interviews wherein she talks about how real those moments between them were, and how much they really loved each other. 

 

I definitely wouldn't be such a fan of the show if it weren't for all the things ML et al. did right.  The things he did wrong just make it that much more fun. 

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post

TV Nellie has to be one of the best creations ever, and Nellie and Harriet were a fantastic comic duo.

 

Laura and Nellie had great hate chemistry.  It was no fun when they matured and decided to like each other.

Edited by Brn2bwild
  • Like 2

Share this post


Link to post

I've been reading the LH book forum and finding it fascinating, especially what a dead beat real life Pa was. Made me realize that deal show Pa makes to finish his work or forfeit the oxen was really risky and dumb thing to do. The whole family could have ended up starving if he didn't get the work done, which he nearly didn't. More real Pa than show Pa in a way. Of course everything works out okay on the show.

Share this post


Link to post

DoughGirl, I've been reading the LH book forum, too, and finding out more about the real life Charles Ingalls has been fascinating and damaging at the same time. Laura seemed to worship and adore her Pa, so we get a very sanitized version of him in the books. By and large, I think Michael Landon largely followed this trend and put a positive spin on Pa's actions. However, you're right that he did get closer to real-life Pa with some of the questionable decisions TV Charles made. You mentioned his stupid deal in Harvest of Friends, but there is also the time he gets an Inheritance, buys a bunch of needless crap on credit before he even sees a penny of it, and then almost loses his property because it is Confederate money and worthless. Of course, his friends bailed him out by buying back all his property at the Oleson's auction for mere pennies. I think Pa got everything back for something like 4 cents. I've always been ticked off about this. The Olesons get stuck paying the bills and don't get anything back for it because Pa was an idiot, and his friends are all enablers! Sadly for real-life Pa, he didn't have a bunch of loyal, trustworthy friends to bail him out whenever he did something stupid. Instead, he had to pack up his family and leave town in the middle of the night.

Share this post


Link to post

DoughGirl, I've been reading the LH book forum, too, and finding out more about the real life Charles Ingalls has been fascinating and damaging at the same time. Laura seemed to worship and adore her Pa, so we get a very sanitized version of him in the books. By and large, I think Michael Landon largely followed this trend and put a positive spin on Pa's actions. However, you're right that he did get closer to real-life Pa with some of the questionable decisions TV Charles made. You mentioned his stupid deal in Harvest of Friends, but there is also the time he gets an Inheritance, buys a bunch of needless crap on credit before he even sees a penny of it, and then almost loses his property because it is Confederate money and worthless. Of course, his friends bailed him out by buying back all his property at the Oleson's auction for mere pennies. I think Pa got everything back for something like 4 cents. I've always been ticked off about this. The Olesons get stuck paying the bills and don't get anything back for it because Pa was an idiot, and his friends are all enablers! Sadly for real-life Pa, he didn't have a bunch of loyal, trustworthy friends to bail him out whenever he did something stupid. Instead, he had to pack up his family and leave town in the middle of the night.

Yep. Harriet was in her rights to be up in arms at the auction. But they tried to spin it like she and Nels and the Reverand twisted his arm to buy on credit so it wasn't really Pa's fault.

Then there was the time Pa had a midlife crisis and ran away to town to sell his hand carved tables leaving the family to rely on hired help to run the farm. The hired man took advantage and was sleeping on the job so Albert and James ended up doing all the farm work.

Almanzo wasn't much better, leaving pregnant Laura in a drought with an orchard full of new trees to be watered. And who's idea was it? Pa. "I already took the freighting job to Arizona for us." Guess it was just tough luck for Laura.

Share this post


Link to post

 

Almanzo wasn't much better, leaving pregnant Laura in a drought with an orchard full of new trees to be watered. And who's idea was it? Pa. "I already took the freighting job to Arizona for us." Guess it was just tough luck for Laura.

Very true. Thank God for Willie, or Laura would have been toast! Most of the men were pretty useless on this show, weren't they? Most people blame Mary for leaving the baby behind in the burning blind school (and she certainly has some culpability),but I've always felt Adam was equally to blame. He runs in, grabs her by the arm and drags her toward the door so they can get the children out. She actually turns back when the baby cries, but Alice says to go on and that she'll get the baby. Both Mary and Adam should have said, "Uh, no, we'll take the extra 2 seconds and pick the baby up." 

  • Like 3

Share this post


Link to post
Then there was the time Pa had a midlife crisis and ran away to town to sell his hand carved tables leaving the family to rely on hired help to run the farm. The hired man took advantage and was sleeping on the job so Albert and James ended up doing all the farm work.

 

I haven't read the books so I don't know if it's reflected more in there but how were the women and children not in danger more at stuff like this?  Ridiculous.

 

Almanzo wasn't much better, leaving pregnant Laura in a drought with an orchard full of new trees to be watered. And who's idea was it? Pa. "I already took the freighting job to Arizona for us." Guess it was just tough luck for Laura.

 

Hey.  A job is a job.  I'll answer to Manly, Alamanzee or Zaldamo.  No idea who Almanzo is.  ;)

  • Like 2

Share this post


Link to post

I haven't read the books either but I also remember being aghast during the pilot that Pa would take off for the city/town and leave Ma and the girls alone on the prairie for days. Even knowing the Indians were killing white settlers at the very same time. Terrified Ma was sitting in that rocker praying with a rifle in her hands. In strolls Pa almost giving her a heart attack.

Couldn't he at least taken the family with him if it was a necessary trip away?

Share this post


Link to post

I remember a plot point during one of the LH books where Pa has gone into town for supplies or something and it takes like 2 or 3 days to get there and back. It's during the dead of winter and a blizzard comes up. Ma is worried wondering if he's gotten caught in the blizzard and frozen to death, but he makes it home, much later than expected.

So I guess it wasn't just done on the show, although leaving for 3 months is different.

Anyway, I think ML did a lot of things right, wrong as well.

Casting Melissa Gilbert for one, was definitely awesome.

Share this post


Link to post

Confession - I never much cared for Laura's character and much preferred Mary's.  I also liked Ma, the Oleson's, and other characters that were regular but minor. Pa was often too melodramatic for me.

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post

Confession - I never much cared for Laura's character and much preferred Mary's.  I also liked Ma, the Oleson's, and other characters that were regular but minor. Pa was often too melodramatic for me.

I'm not crazy about Laura either. Too "plucky" or something. I think she was a nervy little thing.

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post

I haven't read the books either but I also remember being aghast during the pilot that Pa would take off for the city/town and leave Ma and the girls alone on the prairie for days. Even knowing the Indians were killing white settlers at the very same time. Terrified Ma was sitting in that rocker praying with a rifle in her hands. In strolls Pa almost giving her a heart attack.

Couldn't he at least taken the family with him if it was a necessary trip away?

 

Is that the time from the books where the native Americans visit Caroline and the girls?  I know that happened at least once, but, unlike in the show when it happens, it was friendly.  I mean, the native Americans were friendly; the settlers were just frightened because of the stories they'd heard.  But these men did nothing intimidating or anything, if I remember correctly.  I think they did make Caroline make them food but otherwise nothing bad happened.

 

Am I remembering that right?

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post

Is that the time from the books where the native Americans visit Caroline and the girls? I know that happened at least once, but, unlike in the show when it happens, it was friendly. I mean, the native Americans were friendly; the settlers were just frightened because of the stories they'd heard. But these men did nothing intimidating or anything, if I remember correctly. I think they did make Caroline make them food but otherwise nothing bad happened.

Am I remembering that right?

There was a scene like you described but IIRC the men were intimidating and helped themselves to whatever they wanted from the cabin. The scene I am thinking about took place when there was a real threat to the white settlers.

Edited to say I'm talking about the LHOTP pilot show, not the books.

Edited by DoughGirl

Share this post


Link to post

In the book, Charles was away for the day (hunting I think) when they came.  The had Ma make them cornbread and took Pa's tobacco, but didn't threaten or harm anyone.  That was also the time when Jack was tied up; Laura wanted to let him loose to protect them.  Fortunately, she didn't.

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post

In the book, Charles was away for the day (hunting I think) when they came.  The had Ma make them cornbread and took Pa's tobacco, but didn't threaten or harm anyone.  That was also the time when Jack was tied up; Laura wanted to let him loose to protect them.  Fortunately, she didn't.

I must be remembering it wrong because to me it seemed the men burst in and and we're not so nice.

Anyway, the original scene I was thinking of is when Pa went to town and left Ma and the girls home alone for more than a day.

Share this post


Link to post

I must be remembering it wrong because to me it seemed the men burst in and and we're not so nice.

Anyway, the original scene I was thinking of is when Pa went to town and left Ma and the girls home alone for more than a day.

 

IIRC, it happened a few times in the book.  The first time Jack was chained up and Laura wanted to let him go.  Ma cooked them a meal and I think they took tobacco and were going to take the furs that Pa was keeping to trade for a plough and seeds.  Another time it was the Osage leader who showed up - Pa was there, but couldn't speak his language so they just ate together. 

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post

Best casting:

Karen Grassle as Ma: "Clean, open, God-fearing." That what they were looking for.

Mellisa Gilbert as Laura Ingalls: All-American girl, not a raving beauty, but fresh, clean, full of a sense of wonder.

Alison Arngrim as Nellie Oleson: I really think Nellie Oleson saved AA's life. Literally.

  • Like 3

Share this post


Link to post

Another thing ML got right:

 

Michael Landon as Charles Ingalls.

Ok, here's how I can guess it came down. Mike read the books, really looked at them with a critical eye and thought, "Jeez, what a loser! I'm going to create a better Pa. Better yet, I am going to be Pa."

I read ML had a pretty crappy childhood. Like his father would tell him at the dinner table, "Tell your mother to pass the salt." That bad. So, Mike over compensated by making Charles Ingalls into Super Pa. 

 

Super Pa straightens out drunks and his morphine addicted adopted son, helps Indians, assists Doc Baker with typhus and anthrax outbreaks, directs Almanzo's physical therapy after his stroke, is never predjudiced by the African American characters on the show.

Super Pa to the rescue!

 

ML isn't here to tell his side of things, so we can speculate.

Share this post


Link to post

Alison Arngrim was awesome. Nobody but her could have portrayed Nellie with such perfection. The episode where she graduates just aired. "Classmates, friends...others." When her mother presents her with a restaurant "Who. Is. Going. To. Do. The. Cooking?" Brilliance.

  • Like 3

Share this post


Link to post

At least when ML made the decision to have Mary go mline he stuck with it. On The Waltons, no matter what illness or accident befell a character, there was a miraculous cure. Unfortunately, ML did go for the miraculous cure later on with Adam and James.

Share this post


Link to post

I'm only mostly through season two and Arngrim has only been featured a few times. At this point in the series she's not all that great. She's playing a little snot with no subtlety. In one scene she was talking to Gilbert's chest and I don't know why the director wasn't yelling "Eyeline! Eyeline!" at her. 

 

Katherine "Scottie" MacGregor as Harriet Oleson is the only character who acts like she's in the 19th century. Her years of experience on the stage really pay off. She's always doing a performance of a performance since Harriet Oleson is always playing the part of Harriet Oleson. I love how her voice trills in the upper register as she tries to be polite and fails, then falls into a growling lower register as she gives up trying to be polite. 

Share this post


Link to post

I haven't read the books either but I also remember being aghast during the pilot that Pa would take off for the city/town and leave Ma and the girls alone on the prairie for days. Even knowing the Indians were killing white settlers at the very same time. Terrified Ma was sitting in that rocker praying with a rifle in her hands. In strolls Pa almost giving her a heart attack.

Couldn't he at least taken the family with him if it was a necessary trip away?

 

 

The episode in the rocker sitting with the gun was different from the Indians come calling episode.  It was more about Ma's fears than scary men actually in her house.

 

I think a man alone could make far better time on a long trip than dragging the family along.  Technically speaking, they'd be sitting ducks whether they stayed home or took the wagon.  I don't believe Ma ever rode a horse, did she?  She certainly discouraged Laura in the books.  

Share this post


Link to post

The episode in the rocker sitting with the gun was different from the Indians come calling episode.  It was more about Ma's fears than scary men actually in her house.

 

I think a man alone could make far better time on a long trip than dragging the family along.  Technically speaking, they'd be sitting ducks whether they stayed home or took the wagon.  I don't believe Ma ever rode a horse, did she?  She certainly discouraged Laura in the books.

Maybe I wasn't clear, but I was talking about the pilot episode for TV LHOTP, not different episodes, the books, or what may have happened in real life. IIRC, in the pilot episode the Native Americans were angry with the white settlers and were beating war drums every night which was why Ma was afraid. I think the Cheif or medicine man that gave Laura the totem necklace talked the natives out of attacking the settlers. Haven't seen it in awhile.

I am only talking about what I saw on the TV show pilot. I didn't write it and am not expressing my own feelings about Native Americans in any way.

I do think, speaking only of the pilot again, it was incredibly stupid and selfish of Pa to leave a woman and three children isolated and alone for days while he went off to town. Being slowed down is better off than your family ending up dead, for whatever reason.

Share this post


Link to post

If the Indians were going to attack, Pa being with them wouldn't have made a whit of difference.   Things were different back then.   Men went off hunting or looking for work for months at a time, women stayed home and ran the farm and took care of the kids.   It was what you did.   There was no Little Daycare on the Prairie to take care of the kids.   They were in the middle of BFE.   Pa left them alone or he didn't go.   

  • Like 3

Share this post


Link to post

I think Michael Landon was incredibly adept at reading an audience.  He brought LHOTP to tv when people were watching All in the Family, Sanford & Son, Maude, Good Times, etc.  Who would have thought during the early to mid 70s, post-Vietnam war, that people would want to watch a show then 100 years in the past about a pioneer family, with the head of the family being God fearing and easy to cry?  You wouldn't think but ML was spot on about people wanting or needing to watch a show about "simpler times."  He was also right about Highway to Heaven and, had he lived, I imagine he would have been right about the show he was developing when he fell ill.

Most importantly, though, I think he did everything right with regard to casting.  I haven't read the LH series of books since I was young but if I picked any of them up today, I would immediately visualize any character as the one I see on the tv show.  All of the main cast (including The Town) were spot on.  Even though we loved to dislike Mrs. Oleson and Nellie, you still had a soft spot for them mainly due to the actors. 

Not to take away from any actor but I think the best casting was Karen Grassle as Ma.  She was the perfect mix of pretty with a backbone, kind and caring and never less than maternal.

Overall, though, I cannot imagine anyone else in the roles. 

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post

I'm not sure what season it was in but by then the Ingalls had adopted (Jason Bateman) who had a life threatening ailment. Charles believed he got word from God to take him out into a field, make a temple and pray before it. When Jason is healed, man, it's a real tear jerker.

Share this post


Link to post
On 1/10/2017 at 1:53 PM, psychoticstate said:

I think Michael Landon was incredibly adept at reading an audience.  He brought LHOTP to tv when people were watching All in the Family, Sanford & Son, Maude, Good Times, etc.  Who would have thought during the early to mid 70s, post-Vietnam war, that people would want to watch a show then 100 years in the past about a pioneer family, with the head of the family being God fearing and easy to cry?  You wouldn't think but ML was spot on about people wanting or needing to watch a show about "simpler times."  He was also right about Highway to Heaven and, had he lived, I imagine he would have been right about the show he was developing when he fell ill.

Most importantly, though, I think he did everything right with regard to casting.  I haven't read the LH series of books since I was young but if I picked any of them up today, I would immediately visualize any character as the one I see on the tv show.  All of the main cast (including The Town) were spot on.  Even though we loved to dislike Mrs. Oleson and Nellie, you still had a soft spot for them mainly due to the actors. 

Not to take away from any actor but I think the best casting was Karen Grassle as Ma.  She was the perfect mix of pretty with a backbone, kind and caring and never less than maternal.

Overall, though, I cannot imagine anyone else in the roles. 

I read that NBC kept this show on for a bit too long as he could:  Bring in the show on time, under budget every week.  He made the kids go to school and have a somewhat normal life and tolerated no line counting or ego trips from actors.  If they did.....guess you were in the barn that caught fire that week!!

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
On 11/12/2014 at 11:32 AM, merylinkid said:

If the Indians were going to attack, Pa being with them wouldn't have made a whit of difference.  

Quite true. The thing is, unless you were lucky enough for it to be a one on one type of encounter, you would have pretty much been at the mercy of multiple adversaries, being saddled with one of those slow loading, single shot, muzzleloaders of the era. And for this particular time frame, this would have likely been the type of weapon that the real Pa would have been carrying as well. A 6 shot cap and ball revolver, or a shotgun with an open choke (wide spread shot pattern) would have provided a little more firepower, but with the drawback of having to be at closer ranges in order to be effective.

I’m surprised that of all the people that set out for the trek westward, that as many of them actually made it there alive. Then again, I’m surprised that the average lifespan even at the turn of the 20th century was as high as it was, prior to antibiotics.

Share this post


Link to post

On ‎8‎/‎9‎/‎2014 at 10:23 AM, Winipo75 said:

The Olesons get stuck paying the bills and don't get anything back for it because Pa was an idiot, and his friends are all enablers!

to be fair, though, the Olsons, mostly Harriet, are the ones that pressure him into buying the stuff.  Not saying that he should have listened, but considering her bullying and that school books for all the chileren were one of the main things he bought, it was a little cold of her to insist upon an immediate auction of all his possesions.  But, this was definitely a very good "don't count your chickens" lesson.

Share this post


Link to post
×
×
  • Create New...

Customize font-size