Michael Landon ( born Eugene Maurice Orowitz )grew up with all of us on television with such shows as Bonanza, Little House on the Prairie and Highway To Heaven, but who was the real person behind these shows?
Born in Queens New York Landon was brought up in a troubled household which caused stress on an adolescent Landon. In high school he earned an athletic scholarship to the University of Southern California,but that ended after a torn shoulder ligament.
His own acting career started with such roles in God’s Little Acre and I Was a Teenage Werewolf, High School Confidential, where he also recorded the single “Gimme a Little Kiss (Will “Ya” Huh)”/ “Be Patient With Me”. It would take a few years of acting and hard work before he landed his first big television role as Little Joe Cartwright in Bonanza; which incidentally was one of the first shows to be broadcast in color. The show would go on to be a huge hit and last for 14 year ending it’s run on January 16, 1973.
Not one to rest on his laurel Landon went to work on another hit show Little House on the Prairie in 1974; taken after the books by Laura Ingalls Wilder. The show focused on family values set in the landscape of 19th century life. Landon went on to become executive producer of the successful show having it nominated for several Emmy and Golden Globe awards. In 1982 the network retooled the show calling in Little House a New Beginning. The show ended in 1983.
After producing Bonanza and Little House on the Prairie; Landon went to work on another project called Highway to Heaven; where he played angel named Johnathan Smith. Their mission is to deliver love and understanding to people they encounter along the way.
Besides being an actor Landon also wrote, and directed movies making him a force to be reckoned with. After Highway to Heaven went off the air Landon moved to CBS to work on a new show called Us. Us didn’t make it any further than the pilot as Landon was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. On July 1, 1991, at age 54, Landon died in Malibu, California.
After his death a building was erected in his honor in Malibu’s Bluffs Park named “The Michael Landon Center”. Through out the making of television shows Landon was a huge family man; being married three times and fathering nine children.
Landon appeared on the cover of TV Guide 22 times, second only to Lucille Ball.Weather you were a fan of Michael Landon’s or not there is no denying his impact in television.