Bonanza, Little House on the Prairie, and other cult classics starring Michael Landon. He became famous quickly, but his legacy will last.
Landon will be remembered for his successful, if chaotic, life of action and memorable film roles. Hollywood stars were more than just faces to be recorded or on-screen personas.
Landon’s backstory is as intriguing as any of his characters, but his intriguing private life isn’t quite as examined as it would be if he were alive and famous today.
Michael Landon had nine children from three marriages. Did you know that his toughest challenge was parenting?
Landon supporters, rejoice. All you need to know about a 20th-century superstar!
Los Angeles gas station attendant Michael Landon’s life was altered forever. Bob Raison signed Eugene Orowitz, who became Michael Landon. It was considered a showbiz name.
Today, every classic TV viewer knows who he is.
Landon appeared in various mid-1950s television series before his big break. He played Little Jose Cartwright on Bonanza for 14 years until its 1973 cancellation.
In 1956, he received his first professional job in an episode on the TV series Telephone Time. He played Tom Dooley in The Legend of Tom Dooley, which led to his most memorable role as Little Jose Cartwright on Bonanza.
Michael found another big gig quickly. Charles Ingalls in Little House on the Prairie followed. Critics and viewers lauded Landon and the show. The show launched several of his co-stars.
Landon earned a Golden Globe for Best Actor in a Television Drama Series in 1979 for Little House on the Prairie, his second-longest performance. Four Emmys and 16 nominations for Little House.
Compared to today’s frenetic standards, he managed to keep his private life quite low-key for someone so famous and popular.
Landon has three marriages and nine children.
Landon occasionally discussed his tough childhood. He wanted to play powerful family men on TV. Landon tried to get along with his nine children off-screen.
According to reports, one of the actor’s children, Cheryl Landon, gave him his toughest struggle.
He adopted Mark Fraser Landon, his first child, from his first wife, Dodie Levy-Fraser. Michael adopted Josh Fraser Landon, Dodie’s son.
After marrying his second wife, Noe, Landon adopted more children and had his own biological children. Landon told PEOPLE that he treated Mark and Josh the same as his biological children:
“I despise when people label them ‘adopted’. They’re my sons—period.”
Michael Landon’s biological daughter, Cheryl, was his hardest parenting problem. Marjorie Lynn Noe, an actress, married Michael Landon when she was nine.
Cheryl battled her demons after early tragedies. Michael discussed his stepdaughter’s Miltown addiction in a 1983 Washington Post interview.
“I suspected it during her last two years of high school,” he stated. She attended Arizona University. And I used all the justifications; no matter what she told me, I would believe because I wanted to believe.”
During Cheryl’s illness, Landon acknowledged having thoughts that led to feelings of remorse. In an interview with The Post, he admitted, “You get very guilty about some of the thoughts you have towards your own child, one of which is, ‘I wish she would not exist.'”
“If she didn’t exist, I wouldn’t feel all this pain.”
Cheryl was in a terrible Tucson automobile wreck at 20. Only Cheryl survived the crash. She survived after being in a coma for several days.
My father resurrected me. He sat with me for a month. After the doctors gave up on me, he said, “Fight, Baby!” Cheryl told Chicago Tribune.
“Most people don’t pray very hard until they truly need it,” Landon remarked. Many elderly folks become religious. I’m not sure if it’s a precaution. I never prayed harder than then. She lived.
Today, the 69-year-old Cheryl lives a tranquil life away from the limelight. Her love for her father lasted till the day he passed away. She even penned a book about her, and her father’s relationship titled I Promised My Dad: An Intimate Portrait of Michael Landon.
Tragically, in 1991, Landon was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and went suddenly a few months later at 54.
His pancreatic tumour quadrupled and expanded to his liver a month after diagnosis. He died July 1, 1991, with his wife, Cindy Landon.
In his last discussion with Life Magazine, Michael shared a poignant insight into the bed ritual he developed with his daughter Jennifer and his son Sean during the weeks before his demise.
Michael said his kids could ask one question before bed. Sean, 4, frequently questioned his dad, “What was the worst thing you did as a little boy?”
Every night, the dying actor struggled to answer. His 7-year-old daughter Jennifer posed queries of a more distressing sort. She asked Michael about his death.
Michael was a versatile actor. Looking into his daughter’s eyes and answering that question left him speechless. He concluded that he was clueless.
“Then I stated that even if I were to die, they would be alright,” Landon explained and continued: “They would miss me tremendously, and I would miss them terribly. No change.