Michael Landon : biography
Michael Landon (born Eugene Maurice Orowitz; October 31, 1936 – July 1, 1991) was an American actor, writer, director, and producer. He is known for his roles as Little Joe Cartwright in Bonanza (1959–1973), Charles Ingalls in Little House on the Prairie (1974–1983), and Jonathan Smith in Highway to Heaven (1984–1989). Landon appeared on the cover of TV Guide 22 times, second only to Lucille Ball.TV Guide, "Michael Landon's Final Days" (July 20, 1991, p. 3)
Landon produced, wrote, and directed many of his series' episodes, including his shortest-lived production, Father Murphy, which starred his friend and "Little House" co-star Merlin Olsen. In 1981, Landon won recognition for his screenwriting with a Spur Award from the Western Writers of America. Although his youngest daughter Jennifer Landon and Bonanza co-star David Canary, have both won multiple Emmys, Michael Landon was never given the honor. In 1976, Landon wrote and directed an auto-biographical movie, The Loneliest Runner, which was nominated for two Emmys.
Landon was married three times, and father to nine children.
- Dodie Levy-Fraser (married March 1956; Landon filed for divorce in March 1962 – divorce finalized in December 1962)
- Mark Fraser Landon, born 1948 (adopted; Dodie's biological son), died May 11, 2009 – did some small acting, including role in the Landon TV movie Us
- Josh Fraser Landon, born 1960 (adopted as infant)
- Marjorie Lynn Noe (married January 12, 1963 – divorced 1982) had several small uncredited roles, including one in Bonanza
- Cheryl Lynn Landon / Cheryl Ann Pontrelli, born 1953, was Lynn's daughter from her first marriage and was nine when her mother and Landon married. Though Landon was unable to legally adopt her, he referred to her as his daughter. She has a Master's degree in Education and a teaching credential. She has one son.
- Leslie Ann Landon, born 1962, With a Ph.D. in psychology, Leslie Landon is a therapist, specializing in children who have experienced loss. She is married and has four children.
- Michael Landon, Jr., born 1964
- Shawna Leigh Landon, born 1971, appeared on Little House Years television movie and one episode of Little House on the Prairie
- Christopher Beau Landon, born 1975, a producer, writer and director
- Cindy Clerico (married on February 14, 1983), a makeup artist on Little House on the Prairie; currently also a producer
- Jennifer Rachel Landon, born 1983, a Daytime Emmy-winning actress (played Gwen Norbeck Munson on As the World Turns)
- Sean Matthew Landon, born 1986
In February 1959, Landon's father succumbed to a heart attack. In 1973, while a student at the University of Arizona, his eldest daughter Cheryl was involved in a serious car collision just outside of Tucson, Arizona. The sole survivor out of four involved in the collision, Cheryl Landon was hospitalized with serious injuries and remained in a coma for days. In March 1981, Landon's mother, Peggy, died.
A community building at Malibu's Bluffs Park was named "The Michael Landon Center" following the actor's death.
Landon's son, Michael Jr., produced a memorial special, Michael Landon: Memories with Laughter and Love, featuring the actor's family, friends and co-stars: Bonanza co-star David Canary said that one word that described Landon was "fearless" in his dealings with network brass. Melissa Gilbert, who played his daughter on Little House said that the actor made her feel "incredibly safe" and that he was "paternal". Often cited on the special was Landon's bizarre sense of humor, which included having toads leap from his mouth and dressing as a superhero to visit a pizza parlor.
In his final 1991 Tonight Show appearance, Johnny Carson related how the actor took him back to a restaurant the two had dined at previously. Carson had been led to believe he accidentally ran over the owner's cat in the parking lot during their first visit. When sitting down to eat the second time, Carson discovered that Landon had helped create a fake menu of dinner items featuring dead cat.
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