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Michael Landon Poster

Biography

Jump to: Overview (5) | Mini Bio (1) | Spouse (3) | Trade Mark (5) | Trivia (91) | Personal Quotes (24)

Overview (5)

Date of Birth 31 October 1936Forest Hills, Queens, New York City, New York, USA
Date of Death 1 July 1991Malibu, California, USA  (pancreatic and liver cancer)
Birth NameEugene Maurice Orowitz
Nicknames Mike
Emo
Height 5' 9" (1.75 m)

Mini Bio (1)

Michael Landon was born Eugene Maurice Orowitz, on October 31, 1936, in Forest Hills, Queens, New York. In 1941, he and his family moved to Collingswood, New Jersey.

When Eugene was in high school, he participated -- and did very well -- in track and field, especially javelin throwing, and his athletic skills earned him a scholarship to USC. However, an accident injured his arm, ending his athletic career -- and his term at USC -- and he worked a number of odd jobs and small roles to make ends meet and decided that acting was for him. However, he thought that his real name was not a suitable one for an aspiring actor, and so "Michael Landon" was born.

Two of his first big roles were as Tony Rivers in I Was a Teenage Werewolf (1957) and as Tom Dooley in the western The Legend of Tom Dooley (1959). That same year he was approached by producer David Dortort to star in a pilot called The Restless Gun (1957), which was renamed when the series was picked up to Bonanza (1959). Landon played Little Joe Cartwright, the youngest of the three Cartwright brothers, a cocky and somewhat rebellious youth nevertheless had a way with the ladies. For 14 years, Landon became the heart and soul of the show, endearing himself to both younger and older viewers, and he became a household name during the 1960s and 1970s.

In 1968, after almost ten years of playing Little Joe, he wanted an opportunity to direct and write some episodes of the show. After the season finale in 1972, Dan Blocker, who played his older brother Hoss and was also a close friend, died from a blood clot in his lung, after gall bladder surgery, but Michael decided to go back to work, revisiting his own character in a two-part episode called "Forever."

Bonanza (1959) was finally canceled in early 1973, after 14 years and 430 episodes. Michael didn't have to wait long until he landed another successful role that most TV audiences of the 1970s would thoroughly enjoy, his second TV western, for NBC, Little House on the Prairie (1974). That show was based on a popular book written by Laura Ingalls Wilder, and he played enduring patriarch and farmer Charles Ingalls. Unlike Bonanza (1959), where he was mostly just a "hired gun," on this show he served as the producer, writer, director, and executive producer. By the end of its eighth season in 1982, Landon decided to step down from his role on "Little House" as he saw his TV children grown up and moved out of their father's house, and a year later, the show was canceled. After 14 years on Bonanza (1959) and 8 years on Little House on the Prairie (1974), it was about time to focus on something else, and once again, he didn't have to wait too long before Highway to Heaven (1984) came along. Unlike the western shows that he did for 23 years, this NBC fantasy/drama show focused on Jonathan Smith, an angel whose job was to save peoples' lives and work for God, his boss. Victor French played ex-cop Mark Gordon, who turned down a fortune but had redeemed himself by meeting Jonathan.

By the end of the fifth season in 1989, French was diagnosed with lung cancer and died in June of that same year. Landon was devastated by the loss and pulled the plug on Highway to Heaven (1984). In early 1991, after 35 years of working on NBC, he was axed by the network, so he moved to CBS to star in the pilot of a two-hour movie, Us (1991), in which he played Jeff Hayes, a man freed from prison by new evidence after 18 years wrongfully spent inside. This was going to be another one of Landon's shows but, in April 1991, he was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. He later appeared on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson (1962) to talk about his battle with the disease, and many people in the audience were affected by the courage and energy he showed. Unfortunately, he was already terminally ill by that time, and on July 1, 1991, after a three-month battle, he finally succumbed to the disease. His family, his colleagues, and his children were all by his side.

- IMDb Mini Biography By: Gary Richard Collins II <hugsarealwaysinorder@yahoo.com>

Spouse (3)

Cindy Landon (14 February 1983 - 1 July 1991) (his death) (2 children)
Lynn Noe (12 January 1963 - 2 January 1982) (divorced) (4 children)
Dodie Levy-Fraser (11 March 1956 - 1 December 1962) (divorced) (2 children)

Trade Mark (5)

Played friendly roles that depend upon family values
Gravelly, raspy voice
Thick, curly, bouncy, brown hair.
His youthful appearance.
Always known for his jokes.

Trivia (91)

Children: Mark Fraser Landon (adopted-born October 1, 1958); aka Mark Landon) and Josh Fraser Landon (adopted as newborn in 1960-born February 11, 1960) with Dodie Levy-Fraser. Leslie Ann Landon (b 11 October 1963; aka Leslie Landon), Michael Graham Landon (b. 20 June 1965; aka Michael Landon Jr.), Shawna Leigh Landon (b. December 4, 1971; aka Shawna Landon) and Christopher Beau Landon (b. 27 February 1975; Christopher Landon) with Lynn Noe and Jennifer Rachel Landon (b. 29 August 1983; aka Jennifer Landon)and Sean Matthew Landon (b. 6/1986) with Cindy Landon. He also had a step-daughter, Cheryl Ann Pontrelli.
Interred at Hillside Memorial Park, Culver City, California, USA.
Actress Melissa Gilbert's son Michael (b. 1995) was named after him.
His birthplace, Forest Hills, is a neighborhood area in Queens, New York.
U.S. President Ronald Reagan and his wife, Nancy Reagan Reagan, attended Landon's memorial service the day after his death.
Inducted (as a cast member of "Little House on the Prairie") into the Hall of Great Western Performers of the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum in 1998.
Always claimed to have chosen his professional name by picking the name Michael Landon out of the Los Angeles telephone directory.
His mother Peggy died on March 15, 1981.
His father was from a Jewish family and his mother was of Irish Catholic background.
Never legally adopted his stepdaughter, Cheryl, because of her birth father's objections.
Started having grey hair at age 20.
The youngest of two children.
Won the freshman javelin toss at the University of Southern California-Los Angeles.
Comedian and ex-talk show host, Johnny Carson was a longtime friend of his and had (in private) always confided in Landon and shared his own issues with him.
Before his death, he appeared on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson (1962) to talk about his brave battle against cancer and his life and it was the highest-rated show of all time.
He was attending USC on an athletic scholarship but tore his shoulder ligaments, which would prevent him from throwing the javelin again.
His last wife was former make-up artist Cindy Clerico, whom he met near the end of the "Little House" run in 1981, and married two years later.
Grew up in the southern New Jersey town of Collingswood and graduated Collingswood High School in 1954.
Charles Ingalls, Landon's character on Little House on the Prairie (1974), was ranked #4 in TV Guide's list of the "50 Greatest TV Dads of All Time" [20 June 2004 issue].
Studied karate under Chuck Norris, as did the children of his "Bonanza" co-star Dan Blocker.
Before he became a successful actor, he worked in a warehouse and at a gas station.
Starred with Victor French in two of his successful TV series.
His second wife, Marjorie Lynn Noe, was one of the few people who refused to attend his funeral, because she told her children that the divorce had already been like a death to her.
When he filed for divorce from Lynn, it cost him $26 million. Though he gave her his $3.5-million, 35-room Beverly Hills mansion, this bitter divorce was a devastating blow for Lynn, who stated on TV that her ex-husband had become her angel. (16 April 1981)
In 1954, he was the national high school record holder in the javelin throw.
Wrote and directed two movies that were semi-autobiographical: The Loneliest Runner (1976) and Sam's Son (1984).
By most accounts he was exactly like the kind, gentle, heroic characters he portrayed onscreen and in fact few, if any, people complained about working with him, something rare in Hollywood.
12 years after his death, his eldest sister, Evelyn, died on New Years' Day, 2003.
He smoked 4 packs of unfiltered Menthol cigarettes a day during his lifetime, which probably contributed to the pancreatic cancer that killed him.
His stepdaughter, Cheryl, recalled in his biography "I Promised My Dad" that once Landon was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, he realized that all the years of smoking, drinking and eating an unhealthy diet had taken their toll. Later, despite going on a regimen that included a naturalistic approach to the cancer (coffee enemas and a healthy diet), Landon was devastated to learn that the cancer had tripled in size.
He was left-handed, and his awkward handwriting (he often hand-wrote scripts) sometimes made it difficult for his secretary to read what he'd written).
Despite being given a less than three per cent chance of survival, Landon announced he was going to beat his pancreatic cancer. Unfortunately by the time of the diagnosis it had already spread to his liver and stomach.
Wore lifts in Bonanza (1959) so he would not be dwarfed by considerably taller co-stars Dan Blocker and Lorne Greene.
Like his Bonanza (1959) co-star Lorne Greene, Landon was a staunch supporter of the Republican Party.
Had an IQ of 159.
Graduated third from the bottom of his class academically in 1954.
Is buried at the same cemetery as his TV father, Lorne Greene (Hillside Memorial Park, Culver City, California).
Best remembered by the public for his role as Little Joe on Bonanza (1959) and for his starring role as Charles Ingalls on Little House on the Prairie (1974).
Brian Keith and Ernest Borgnine attended his funeral.
His father died of a heart attack in February 1959.
His daughter Leslie Landon attended the same middle school as his future Little House on the Prairie (1974), co-star, Melissa Gilbert. Leslie heard Gilbert in the school cafeteria say that she was going to play Laura Ingalls.
He encouraged his children, not to make the same mistake Landon had made, when he was a teenager. As a result, his children were told to study, without watching television, except if it was Little House on the Prairie (1974).
Landon had appeared in almost every episode of Little House on the Prairie (1974), from 1974 to 1982, with the exception of the final year. He appeared in 177 of the 204 episodes of the series.
According to Little House on the Prairie (1974), co-star, Karen Grassle, she once said in an interview that he had a very lonely childhood as a result of his parents fighting.
Had a lot of hobbies during the prime of his life: fishing, karate, golfing, swimming, spending family time, painting, cooking, playing bridge, playing with disabled people and weightlifting.
He once invited Shirley Jones to an art exhibit.
After his second divorce and the cancellation of Little House on the Prairie (1974), Melissa Gilbert didn't keep Landon in touch at all, until she reluctantly called him, when watching her TV father on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson (1962). After the call, she went to the Landon home, where Gilbert was his caregiver until his death.
His adoptive son, Mark Landon, died in May 2009 at the age of 60.
His final show Highway to Heaven (1984) was canceled at the end of the fifth season, because of low ratings.
Attended Ronald Reagan's second inauguration as Governor of California on 3 January 1971, and his first inauguration as President of the United States on 20 January 1981.
Publicly supported Richard Nixon in the 1972 presidential election, and campaigned for Ronald Reagan in the 1980 and 1984 presidential elections.
Left an estate worth $100 million.
On 21 May 1991 he had a near fatal blood clot in his left leg that was successfully treated at Cedars-Sinai Hospital.
Encouraged by his wife, Landon quit smoking in the summer of 1989 following his friend Victor French's death.
Almost got the lead role in The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis (1959).
Was raised near the same city as Bill Cosby.
Was a spokesperson for the public service message, Pharmacists Against Drug Abuse, in the early 1980s.
Michael and his first wife Dodie were adopting a son named Jason in 1961. Shortly before or after their divorce in 1962, Dodie gave the child up for adoption to another couple.
When Michael and Dodie's marriage was floundering, they thought adopting another baby might help, they called him Jason. But they both realized before the final adoption papers had been signed, that it wasn't the answer. They gave the infant back to the agency & went ahead with a divorce. Michael moved out & got his own apartment (he was allowed visitation w/Mark and Josh). He saw Lynn Noe (2nd wife) on the "Bonanza" set and married her in 1963.
Was diagnosed with cancer, at the very same time actor Bill Bixby was. Coincidentally, both Bixby and Landon were at the same hospital. [5 April 1991].
Began his career as a contract player for Warner Bros. in 1956.
Beat out 2 other actors Robert Blake and Robert Fuller for a co-starring role as Little Joe Cartwright on Bonanza (1959). This was because David Dortort had mixed feelings about the new, unfamiliar actor auditioning for the part, thinking Landon was way too young to play the role. With the encouragement of David's wife, who picked up a publicity still of Landon, her husband changed his mind, and bestowed Landon the role.
Was hired to direct several episodes of Black Sheep Squadron (1976) that starred Robert Conrad. He was unavailable to do it, due to his contractual obligations working on Little House on the Prairie (1974), at the same network that 'Black Sheep Squadron,' was on, which was NBC.
Was associated with NBC from 1956 to 1990.
Used to play tennis with Robert Fuller.
His widow Cindy Landon is a vegetarian.
During childhood, he always worried about his mother's suicide attempts.
Had lived in the same area as Dick Van Dyke, Pernell Roberts and Larry Hagman.
Acting mentor and friend of Melissa Gilbert.
Acting mentor was Lorne Greene.
In 1993, TV Guide listed Bonanza (1959)'s September 1972 two-hour wedding episode, ("Forever"), as one of TV's most memorable specials. Landon's script fondly recalled brother Hoss, who was initially the story's groom, before Dan Blocker's untimely death.
Longtime friend of Victor French.
Began directing at age 32.
His father, Eli Orowitz, was a studio publicist and theater manager, his mother, Peggy Kathleen O'Neill Orowitz, was a popular comedienne and dancer.
When he married Dodie Levy-Fraser, his parents did not attend the wedding.
Before he was a successful actor and director, he was also a singer.
Depression ran in his family.
Was a spokesman for Kodak Camera in the 1970s and 1980s.
He met Marjorie Lynn Noe on the set of Bonanza (1959). They were married for 19 years until their 1982 divorce.
Was a student at Collingswood High School.
Michael Landon passed away on July 1, 1991. Just 2 months before his death, he made his final guest appearance on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson (1962).
A plaque and small playground referred to as the "Little Treehouse on the Prairie" was erected in Knights Park, a central park in Landon's hometown of Collingswood. In 2011, the plaque was removed from the park by the borough and was later given to a local newspaper by an unnamed person. According to the Collingswood, NJ website, the plaque was removed during a fall cleanup with plans to return it to a safer location. The plaque was reinstated next to a bench in a safer location the following summer.
Immediately jumped to Little House on the Prairie (1974) for the lead role of Charles Ingalls, primarily because of his popularity on Bonanza (1959).
His future Little House on the Prairie (1974) co-star, Karen Grassle was a fan of Bonanza (1959), who in turn was handpicked to play his wife, Caroline Ingalls, in the series.
Was the very first guest on the revised version of Match Game 73 (1973).
On an episode of Highway to Heaven (1984), he directed the episode in which young kids were being diagnosed with cancer, while attending summer camp. Six years later, Landon would be faced with that same disease and succumbed to it.
He was one of the four celebrities behind Bob Hope, Johnny Carson and Lucille Ball to appear on the front cover of TV Guide, 15 times.
His ex-Little House on the Prairie (1974) co-star, Melissa Gilbert said in an interview that when she lost her father, Landon became like a surrogate father to her.
His private life was always bothered by tabloid headlines.
He attended and celebrated his Bar Mitzvah at Temple Beth Sholom, a Conservative synagogue, then located in Haddon Heights, an area that did not allow Jews until after World War II, now in Cherry Hill. His family recalls that Landon 'went through a lot of hassle studying for the big event, which included bicycling to a nearby town every day to learn how to read Hebrew and do the chanting.'.

Personal Quotes (24)

Whatever you want to do, do it now. There are only so many tomorrows.
I was grown before I realized that other mothers didn't put their heads in the oven.
I felt my father's presence with me, enlightening my memories, helping me to commit to paper the feelings I had. . . I really heard my father speaking to me from the other dimension, filling my mind with just the right words. The story came so fast and was so right. In three days, the script was complete.
I want people to laugh and cry, not just sit and stare at the TV. Maybe I'm old- fashioned, but I think viewers are hungry for shows in which people say something meaningful.
[Discussing his illness]: Well, the news shocked the hell out of me. Nothing was further from my mind, since I'm only 54 and, with rare exceptions, I'd been healthy my whole life. Not that I don't deserve to have a cancer. I'm a good athlete and I work out hard - before this happened I could bench press 300, 350 pounds, no sweat - but I've abused my body over the years. I don't want people to think that everybody is a likely candidate for cancer of this type. I think I have it because for most of my life, though I was never a drunk, I drank too much. I also smoked too many cigarettes and ate a lot of wrong things. And if you do that, even if you think you're too strong to get anything, somehow you're going to pay.
[In 1982]: Nobody's perfect. Not Charles Ingalls. Not Michael Landon.
[About being so popular on television]: Boy, you gotta be real sick to get this much attention.
[During his last days]: I don't mind dying if I have to, but I'm damned if I want to pay for the guarantee. I'm sorry.
[About his physical technique]: I didn't have the right look. Back then actors were big, muscular, terrific! And I was still 125 pounds and the five foot eleven I'd always be.
[on the cancellation of Little House on the Prairie (1974)]: I wanted to destroy the entire town, which I did. Everybody needed the catharsis on that show. We were together for nine years, and that's why we blew it up. That, plus the fact, I didn't want anybody making a trashy movie at Walnut Grove, because I like that town.
[In 1974]: Yes I am perfect. It's a problem I've had all my life.
[In 1991]: If I'm gonna die, death's gonna have to do a lot of fighting to get me.
I never felt I was going to make it as an actor because to me actors were tall and handsome and had great voices.
[Who wrote the majority of the Little House on the Prairie (1974) episodes, where he had a voice in matters of the show's policy]: We're trying to stick close to the true story. The problem is the books were short and over four years - I think we can run four years - we'll need more than 100 stories. So, we have to invite some.
We each have our own miracles. I'm still hoping to beat it.
[Who differentiated between his Charles Ingalls character and himself]: Ingalls had a beard in real-life, but I don't. The problem is that I can't grow a beard - it just looks like stubble. I wasn't going to play the part for six months with a beard glued to my face so I decided to play him clean-shaven.
[Who said in 1980 of Pernell Roberts's departure on Bonanza (1959)]: Pernell didn't like the show and would let you know it, but he rarely cared to do much about improving it. To say a show stinks doesn't make it better. After he left we took one leaf out of the dining room table and we all made more money because we split the take three ways instead of four.
[In 1979]: People would do themselves a great favor if they would take the blame for things that go wrong, and say to themselves, 'I've got to do something about this.' But you can't do anything if you always blame your problems on someone else. You have to say, 'It's my fault, and I'd better do something about this.'
[When he began his directorial debut on Bonanza (1959)]: When I direct, I try to work with a minimum number of set-ups [individual scenes] possible so we have time to do certain shots you usually don't have a chance to do. In the first day of this show, for example, instead of having 15 set-ups, as is normal, we had only three in the can by noon. But they were intricate shots, and this technique pays off in the long run.
I feel sorry for people who have problems which are beyond their control, but most of life's problems are our own fault - and sympathy under those conditions doesn't do a bit of good.
[In 1976]: The very worst thing you can do to a man is to make him think he is a coward. If a guy needs his job in order to feed and clothe his kids, he'll put up with a lot of abuse before he fights back. I have seen many men mentally shattered by some big-mouth who screamed and yelled in order to get his way. Most of those men did not deserve the abuse but they had to have their jobs, so they kept their mouths shut - and that made them feel like cowards.
[About blaming one's boss]: When a man knows he's being wronged and that he should yell right back at his boss, but is afraid to because he fears being fired, then he had just convinced himself that he's a coward and that is one of the worst things you can do to a person. I don't blame a man for keeping his mouth shut in circumstances like that, but he will blame himself, and that is horrible.
[on his messy divorce from his second wife] The relationship lasted nineteen years. I don't consider that a failed marriage. I don't think it was a disaster. We produced some terrific kids. We just didn't grow in the same direction. We became different people. We both changed. To stay with someone when you no longer have anything in common is the cruelest thing to do to a child. It's much better to divorce and have two parents happy. I don't know if Charles Ingalls would have stayed married to Caroline as long as he did, except that it was a long way to the next house in those days. I was not an aging lecher looking for a fresh young thing. You don't dissolve a relationship to go to bed with someone twenty years younger. You have to have major differences to stop a relationship, after as many years as I was married. With a wife and seven children, there's always a problem. Lynn and I fought a lot, about jealousy, about my being tied up with my work. I'd go into depressed moods, and then I'd go around screaming at people at home and in the studio - and at everyone in sight. Banging down phones, swearing and yelling. But I figure if you don't have these kind of problems, life would just come up with some other unpleasantries for you. Nobody's perfect. Not Charles Ingalls. Not Michael Landon.
I came home and found my 12-year-old daughter devouring the Laura Ingalls Wilder books. Then I discovered that my wife had devoured them too when she was a girl, and was reading them again. So I went to NBC and told them Little House was it.

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