Here is the last part of my interview with Kent McCray. I hope you've enjoyed our conversations about the classic TV show Little House on the Prairie, some of what it took to create the show that is more popular today than when it originally aired, and Kent's memories of Michael Landon--a man who is still loved and missed by millions who enjoyed the characters he brought to life in their homes each week.
He (Michael) was the greatest that anyone could ever work with and I respected his ability and how he worked. He and I were very close, as you probably know. I was best man at his wedding and he was the best man at my wedding. He always said that I was the brother he never had. We always had that very close relationship that grew out of Bonanza and Little House.
Michael had the final say in everything. He would tell me to hire the crew, to handle the production and he told me, and I can quote him: “you tell me what to do and where we work and that’s the day’s work we’re going to do” He and I had the same attitude - you hire the best people you can find for the job and then get out of their way. If you hire good people, they don’t need to be told what to do, they know what to do. I’m not going to tell a prop man how to be a prop man. I’m not going to tell a wardrobe person how to do wardrobe, and that goes for every department.
Many shows, even today, are run by a committee. We had no committee. Michael and I ran the show. If anybody in the crew had a problem they would come to me first. If I couldn’t answer the problem, we would both go to Michael and get a definite answer. A lot of shows used to have production meetings for every show, which means you would sit down with all the department heads, and go through the schedule for the show. If anybody had a question, it was answered. It took all these different department heads three hours to go do this, which was a waste of time. On the pilot of Little House, the pilot of Father Murphy, and the pilot of Highway we had a production meeting. After that, no production meeting. Everybody did their job. That’s the way Michael liked to work and he was respected by everybody.
When we worked on location many times in Sonora, we would have bad weather; I would get up around two-thirty, three in the morning and go out to the office and try to lay out a day’s work. The problem with working in Sonora is that if it rains and the roads are dirt, you can’t get your trucks in because of the mud. So there are certain places we could work off the main road and get into a barn or something. I would call Michael around three, three-thirty to come down to the office and I would say, “Okay, it’s raining…we can do this, this and this here.” I would always give him options of different things we could do in different places. And he would say, okay, we’ll go to Plan A or Plan B, and I would get the trucks and everything to shoot there and then we would go down to another location.
He was always accepting of change. As a matter of fact, he always said it was very exciting, because he liked to do something off the cuff. At the end of the day it wasn’t the day’s work we had planned, but it was a day’s work that we got done. Many times we did more work on a day like that than we did on a day that we had planned, because he grasped the opportunity and with the skill that he had he transformed and did things differently. We always got a day’s work done. I always respected Mike and I loved him dearly. Mike was quoted in many articles as saying: “Kent is the brother I never had and I love him” I can honestly say, I felt that way about him.
While Kent considers himself retired, his wife, Susan is very busy these days. Susan's popular show Getting to Know You airs Tuesdays on KSAV.org at 6:30 PM Pacific with a repeat performance on Thursdays. You will find a schedule of upcoming interviews at www.susanmccray.com. In addition, Susan wrote a book about the young life of her father, Academy-Award-winning composer, Harry Sukman and recently compiled a CD of her father's work with the Vincent Falcone Trio. A new tribute CD titled Warm Heart, Cool Hands - Sukman Gold is also in the works. You'll find additional details and ordering information at www.susanmccray.com.