Michael Landon Biography

Michael Landon was an actor, singer, screenwriter, director, and producer from America. Check out this biography to know about his childhood, family life, achievements and fun facts about him.

Michael Landon
Quick Facts

Birthday: October 31, 1936

Nationality: American

Famous: Actors American Men

Died At Age: 54

Sun Sign: Scorpio

Also Known As: Eugene Maurice Orowitz

Born in: Forest Hills, New York City, United States

Famous as: Actor

Height: 5'9" (175 cm), 5'9" Males

Family:

Spouse/Ex-: Cindy Landon (m. 1983–1991), Dodie Levy-Fraser (m. 1956–1962), Lynn Noe (m. 1963–1982)

father: Eli Maurice Orowitz

mother: Peggy

children: Cheryl Ann Pontrelli, Christopher Landon, Jennifer Landon, Josh Fraser Landon, Leslie Landon, Mark Landon, Michael Landon Jr., Sean Matthew Landon, Shawna Landon

Died on: July 1, 1991

Cause of Death: Cancer

City: New York City

U.S. State: New Yorkers

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Michael Landon was a popular American actor, director, and producer. Considered to be a television legend, he was featured on the cover of TV Guide 22 times, second only to Lucille Ball. Landon, who was from a Jewish-Catholic family, grew up in a largely Protestant neighbourhood, battling personal issues both at home and the schoolyard. Overcoming the odds, he successfully auditioned for the Warner Bros. acting school and made his screen debut in 1955 in an episode of the comedy-western ‘Luke and the Tenderfoot’. He landed his first leading role in the cult classic ‘I Was a Teenage Werewolf’ in 1957 and followed that up by playing an albino in the critically acclaimed ‘God’s Little Acre’. In 1959, he was cast in his career-defining role as Little Joe Cartwright in the Western-drama ‘Bonanza’. Since then, he had portrayed other memorable characters on TV, such as Charles Ingalls in ‘Little House on the Prairie’ and Jonathan Smith in ‘Highway to Heaven’, establishing a glorious and lasting legacy. He had written, directed, and produced several episodes of his various shows as well as numerous telefilms. He was also an accomplished singer, releasing several tracks over the years. In 1984, Landon received his own Star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

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Michael Landon
Childhood & Early Life
  • Originally named Eugene Maurice Orowitz, Landon was born on October 31, 1936, in New York City, New York to parents Peggy (née O'Neill) and Eli Maurice Orowitz. He had a sister named Evelyn who was three years older than him. In 1941, the family relocated to Philadelphia, New Jersey where his Bar Mitzvah was held at Temple Beth Shalom. Eli worked as a studio publicist and theatre manager while Peggy was a comedian and dancer.
  • He had a troublesome childhood with an emotionally unstable mother at home and social pressures at school. Once, during a beach vacation, his mother attempted suicide by drowning herself. Landon managed to save her but it deeply affected him. The incident, which he later dubbed as the worst experience in his life, left him in stress, which in turn caused his childhood problem of nocturnal enuresis to persist. His mother would hang the wet sheets outside his window to display them to the neighbours, further traumatising him.
  • Landon studied at Collingwood High School where he displayed prodigious skills as a javelin thrower. It even garnered him a sports scholarship to the University of Southern California but a torn ligament during his freshman year put a stop to his sports career.
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Career
  • As he did not think his original name was a good fit for an acting career, Orowitz picked the name “Michael Landon” from a phone book. After making his debut in the episode ‘The Boston Kid’ of the TV series ‘Luke and the Tenderfoot’, he appeared in a series of small roles before playing the titular character in the episode ‘The Mystery of Casper Hauser’ (1956) of CBS’ anthology series ‘Telephone Time’.
  • He also had recurring roles as Armand De Nivernais/Jerome Juventin in ‘The Adventures of Jim Bowie’ (1956) and as Race Stevens/Johnny Rico/Danny in ‘Crossroads’ (1956-57).
  • In 1957, he starred in the horror film ‘I Was a Teenage Werewolf’. Initially panned by the critics, the movie has come to be seen as one of the better examples of the 1950s drive-in horror genre. He subsequently made appearances in ‘Maracaibo’ (1958), ‘High School Confidential’ (1958), and ‘The Legend of Tom Dooley’ (1959). His performance as Dave Dawson in the controversial Anthony Mann film ‘God’s Little Acre’ earned him critical praise.
  • He was hired to play Little Joe Cartwright in ‘Bonanza’ at 22 years of age. Despite the NBC show being his first major TV production, Landon held his own against industry veterans Lorne Greene and Dan Blocker. He was by far the most popular member of the cast, a fact that later helped him renegotiate his contract with the producers to write and direct several episodes.
  • He played angel Jonathan Smith, who was stripped of his wings and sent to earth, in the NBC’s fantasy-drama ‘Highway to Heaven’ (1984-89). The show also starred Victor French and Dan Gordon. Landon served as a writer and director on multiple episodes on this project as well.
  • He released his first single, ‘Gimme a Little Kiss (Will "Ya" Huh)’/ ‘Be Patient With Me’ through Candlelight Records in 1957 right after the success of ‘I Was a Teenage Werewolf’. Some copies even had “Teenage Werewolf” on the cover instead of Landon’s own name. In 1964, he sang the track ‘Linda Is Lonesome’/’Without You’ for ‘Bonanza’.
  • In ‘Swing Out, Sweet Land’ (1970), his first television movie, he shared screen space with John Wayne and Lucille Ball. He was a writer and director on the short-lived romantic anthology show ‘Love Story (1973). Landon wrote, directed, and acted in his last project, a made-for-television drama ‘Us’. The film premiered posthumously on CBS on September 20, 1991.
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Major Works
  • Michael Landon played Charles Ingalls, the lead protagonist and narrator of the show ‘Little House on the Prairie’ that revolved around the five members of the Ingalls family who lived on a farm in Walnut Grove, Minnesota, in the 1870s and 1880s. Premiering on September 11, 1974, the show aired for nine seasons before changing its name to ‘Little House: A New Beginning’ following Landon’s departure.
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Awards & Achievements
  • In 1969, Landon and the rest of the cast of ‘Bonanza’ won the Bambi Award for TV Series International. The show’s cast and crew were also conferred with the Bronze Wrangler Award for the Best Fictional Drama in 1970 for the episode ‘The Wish’.
  • He was granted the International Emmy Founders Award in 1982.
  • His Hollywood Walk of Fame Television Star is located at 1500 N. Vine Street.
  • For his contribution to the western genre, he received the Golden Boot Award in 1984.
  • Landon was also inducted into the Television Hall of Fame (class of 1995).
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Personal Life & Legacy
  • Michael Landon married his first wife, Dodie Levy-Fraser, in 1956. He adopted Dodie’s son from a previous relationship, Mark (1948-2009), soon after their wedding, and together, they adopted another boy named Josh (1960).
  • After their divorce in 1962, he wed actress Marjorie Lynn Noe in 1963. Besides Cheryl Lynn Landon, who was Lynn’s daughter from the previous marriage, they had two other daughters, Leslie Ann (1962) and Shawna Leigh (1971), and two sons, Michael Landon Jr. (1964) and Christopher Beau (1975) together. They divorced in 1982.
  • From 1983 until his death, he was married to make-up artist Cindy Clerico. She gave birth to a daughter named Jennifer Rachel (1983) and a son named Sean Matthew (1986).
  • Michael Landon passed away on July 1, 1991 at his home in Malibu, California after being diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in April that year. He was 54. He was buried at the Hillside Memorial Park Cemetery in Culver City, California.
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Trivia
  • The 1976 telefilm ‘The Loneliest Runner’, which Landon wrote and directed, was based on his childhood experience about running back home everyday to remove the dirty sheets that his mother had put out.
  • He was taught karate by Chuck Norris himself.
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1. These Wilder Years (1956)

  (Drama)

2. God's Little Acre (1958)

  (Comedy, Drama, Romance)


3. Maracaibo (1958)

  (Romance, Drama, Adventure)

4. Sam's Son (1984)

  (Drama)



5. The Errand Boy (1961)

  (Comedy, Family)

6. High School Confidential! (1958)

  (Drama, Crime)




7. The Legend of Tom Dooley (1959)

  (Drama, Western)

8. Fight for the Title (1957)

  (Short, Drama)





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Article Title
- Michael Landon Biography
Author
- Editors, TheFamousPeople.com
Website
- TheFamousPeople.com
URL
https://www.thefamouspeople.com/profiles/michael-landon-34834.php
Last Updated
- December 11, 2017

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