Michael Landon: Life, Career, Un-timely Death

Michael's Childhood

Michael Landon was born on October 31, 1936 in Forest Hills, New York.

Landon's given name was Eugene Maurice Orowitz. He changed his name because he thought it would help his acting career.

His father, Eli Maurice Orowitz, was Jewish and his mother, Peggy O'Neill, was an Irish American Catholic. Michael identified himself as Jewish. What's interesting about this is traditionally when someone has a Jewish father and a non-Jewish mother, the child is not considered Jewish. Michael didn't see it that way. :)

He did not have the type of functional and healthy childhood that he, as Charles Ingalls, gives his children on Little House on the Prairie. On the contrary he struggled with a mother who embarrassed him in front of the neighbors and his friends by displaying his wet bed sheets outside to shame him into fixing his bed-wetting problem. She was also mentally unstable. His parents often fought like cats and dogs over issues such as religion.

Michael Landon's Career, 1956-1991

Michael Landon was a gifted actor, director, and producer. He starred in three very popular NBC TV series:

  • Little Joe Cartwright in Bonanza (1959-1973)
  • Charles Ingalls in Little House on the Prairie (1974-1983)
  • Jonathan Smith in Highway to Heaven (1984-1989)

In 1976, Michael Landon wrote and directed The Loneliest Runner, an auto-biographical movie.

He had many roles on television and he often performed his own stunts. He talked the "higher ups" on Bonanza into letting him write and direct some episodes. They did and his new career began. That's a good reminder to try many things and ask many questions. Pursue what you are interested in and see where it takes you.

The year after Bonanza ended, Michael starred as Charles Ingalls in the pilot movie for the television series Little House on the Prairie. The show was based on the books written by Laura Ingalls Wilder. The Little House cast never dreamed that Little House would still be so popular after all these years or that it would even last as many seasons as it did!

The "final act" for Michael Landon's career was the beginning of what could have become another spectacular television series for him. It was in 1991 when Michael starred in the pilot movie called Us. On April 5 of that same year, he was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.

I know that Michael tried many natural treatments to rid his body of the disease, but he did attribute his cancer to eating too much of the wrong foods, drinking too much, and smoking too many cigarettes; basically his lifestyle.

Micheal Landon's Un-timely Death

On May 9, 1991, he appeared with Johnny Carson on The Tonight Show to discuss his cancer. In June 1991, Landon made the cover of Life Magazine. In May, in a private interview, he discussed his life, family, and his struggle to live.

Within two short months, on July 1, 1991, Michael Landon died in Malibu at the age of 54.

Michael's Spouses and Children

  • Wife: Dodie Frasier (March 1956 - March 1962, divorced)
  • Child: Mark Fraser Landon, born October 1, 1948, died May 11, 2009
  • Child: Josh Fraser Landon, born February 11, 1960

  • Wife: Lynn Noe (January 1963 - 1982, divorced)
  • Child: Cheryl Lynn Landon, born November 16, 1953. She was Lynn's daughter and was six when Lynn and Michael married.
  • Child: Leslie Ann Landon, born October 11, 1962. She was born while Michael was still legally married to his first wife. A Ph.D. in psychology, she is a therapist, specializing in children dealing with loss. She is married and has four children. She played school teacher Etta Plum on Little House.
  • Child: Michael Landon Jr., born June 20, 1964
  • Child: Shawna Leigh Landon, born December 4, 1971
  • Child: Christopher Beau Landon, born February 27, 1975

  • Wife: Cindy Clerico (February 14, 1983 - 1991, widowed)
  • Child: Jennifer Rachel Landon, born August 29, 1983. Jennifer Landon is a Daytime Emmy-winning actress
  • Child: Sean Matthew Landon, born August 5, 1986

Little House On The Prairie

Laura Ingalls Wilder

Love Comes Softly (Movie Series)

Old TV Series

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