Michael Landon
Michael Landon
Michael Landon played the role of "Little Joe" Cartwright on "Bonanza".
Biographical information
Full Name: See below:
Birthname Eugene Maurice Orowitz
Occupation: Actor, Director, Producer, and Screenwriter
Years active: 1956-1991, his death
Gender: Male
Race/Ethnicity: Caucasian / American
Born: October 31, 1936
Birthplace: Brooklyn, NY, U.S.
Died: July 1, 1991(1991-07-01) (aged 1980)
Place of Death: Malibu, California, U.S. (pancreatic cancer)
Family/Relatives: 9 children, including Mark, Leslie, Michael Jr., Christopher, and Jennifer
Spouse(s): Dodie Levy-Fraser
(1956–1962, divorced)
Marjorie Lynn Noe (1963–1982, divorced)
Cindy (Clerico) Landon
(1983-1991, his death)
Series: Bonanza (TV Series)
No. of appearances: 427 in series
First Appeared in: A Rose for Lotta" (series pilot)
Last Episode Appearance: "The Hunter" (Season 14, series finale)
Character played: Joseph "Little Joe" Cartwright

​​Michael Landon (born Eugene Maurice Orowitz on October 31, 1936 – died July 1, 1991) was an American actor, writer, director, and producer. He is known for his roles as Joseph "Little Joe" Cartwright in the NBC-TV series Bonanza (1959–73), Charles Ingles in Little House on the Prairie (1974–83), and Jonathan Smith in the NBC-TV series Highway to Heaven (1984–89).

Acting careerEdit

Although his youngest daughter Jennifer Landon and Bonanza co-star David Canary have both won multiple Emmys, Michael Landon was never nominated for an Emmy. In 1976, Landon wrote and directed an auto-biographical movie, The Loneliest Runner, which was nominated for two Emmys.


Michael Landon as "Little Joe" Cartwright on the NBC-TV series "Bonanza" in the 1960s.

Bonanza role as "Little Joe"Edit

In 1959, at the age of 22, Landon began his first starring TV role as Little Joe Cartwright on ​Bonanza, one of the first TV series to be broadcast in color. Also starring on the show were Bonanza co-stars Lorne Greene, Pernell Roberts, and Dan Blocker. During Bonanza's sixth season (1964–1965), the show topped the Nielsen ratings and remained number one for three years. Receiving more fan mail than any other cast member, Landon negotiated with executive producer David Dortort and NBC to write and direct some episodes. In 1962, Landon wrote his first script. In 1968, Landon directed his first episode.

In 1993, TV guide listed Little Joe's September 1972 two-hour wedding episode ("Forever"), as one of TV's most memorable specials. Landon's script recalled Joe Cartwright's brother, Hoss Eric Cartwright, who was initially the story's groom, before Dan Blocker's death. During the final season, the ratings declined, and NBC canceled Bonanza in November 1972. The final Bonanza episode, "The Hunter", aired on January 16, 1973.

"Little House on the Prairie" TV ssriesEdit

The year after Bonanza's cancellation by NBC-TV, Landon went on to star as Charles Ingalls in the pilot of what became another very successful television series, Little House on the Prairie, airing again, for NBC-TV. The show was taken from a 1935 book written by Laura Ingalls Wilder, whose character in the show was played by nine-year-old actress Melissa Gilbert. In addition to Gilbert, two other unknown actresses also starred on the show: Melissa Sue Anderson, who appeared as Mary Ingalls, the oldest daughter in the Ingalls family, and Karen Grassle as Charles' wife, Caroline. Landon served as executive producer, writer, and director of Little House. The show, a success in its first season, emphasized family values and relationships. Little House became Landon's second-longest running series.

The show was nominated for several Emmy and Golden Globe awards. After eight seasons, Little House was retooled by NBC in 1982 as Little House: A New Beginning, which focused on the Wilder family and the Walnut Grove community. Though Landon remained the show's executive producer, director and writer, A New Beginning did not feature Charles and Caroline Ingalls. A New Beginning was actually the final chapter of Little House, as the series ended in 1983. The following year, three made-for-television movies aired.

Melissa Gilbert said of her on-and off-screen chemistry with Landon, "He was very much like a 'second father' to me. My own father passed away when I was 11, so, without really officially announcing it, Michael really stepped in." When not working on the Little House set, Gilbert spent most of the weekends visiting Landon's real-life family. She once said, "The house was huge. We ran like banshees through that house, and Mike would hide behind doorways and jump out and scare us."

"Highway to Heaven" seriesEdit

Highway to Heaven[edit | edit source] After producing both Little House and later the Father Murphy TV series, Landon starred in another successful NBC-TV program. In Wikipedia:Highway to Heaven|Highway to Heaven]], he played a probationary angel (who named himself Jonathan Smith) whose job was to help people in order to earn his wings. His co-star on the show was Victor French (who had previously co-starred on Landon's Little House on the Prairie) as ex-cop Mark Gordon. On Highway, Landon served as executive producer, writer, and director. Highway to Heaven was the only show throughout his long career in television that he owned outright.

By 1985, prior to hiring his son, Michael Landon, Jr., as a member of his camera crew, he also brought real-life cancer patients and disabled people to the set. His decision to work with disabled people led him to hire a couple of adults with disabilities to write episodes for Highway to Heaven. By season 4 of the series, Highway to Heaven had dropped out of the Nielsen top 30, and in June 1988, NBC announced that the series would return for an abbreviated fifth season, which would be its last. Its final episodes were filmed in the fall of 1988.

One aired in September, two in December, one in March 1989, and the remainder aired on Fridays from June to August. Co-star French would not live to see Highway's series finale make it to air; he died of advanced lung cancer on June 15, 1989, the disease which was only diagnosed two months before. Landon invited his youngest daughter, Jennifer Landon, to take part in the final episode.

Illness and deathEdit

In February 1991, Michael began to suffer severe abdominal pain while on a skiing vacation in Utah.[1] On April 5, 1991, he was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, which had metastasized to his liver and lymph nodes. The cancer was inoperable and terminal. On May 9, 1991, he appeared on The Tonight Show to speak about the cancer and to condemn the tabloid press for their sensational headlines and inaccurate stories, including the claim that he and his wife were trying to have another child. During his appearance, Landon pledged to fight the disease and asked fans to pray for him. On May 21, 1991, Landon underwent successful surgery for a near-fatal blood clot in his left leg.[2] In June 1991, Landon appeared on the cover of Life Magazine after granting the periodical an exclusive private interview about his life, his family, and his struggle to live. On July 1, 1991, at age 54, Landon died in Malibu, California. [3]

Landon was interred in a private family mausoleum at Hillside Memorial Park Cemetery in Culver City, California. Michael's headstone reads, "He seized life with joy. He gave to life generously. He leaves a legacy of love and laughter." His son Mark's remains were also interred there upon his death in May 2009.[4]


  1. Michael Landon, American Actor, Bonanza – When Westerns Ruled. Retrieved on November 3, 2014.
  2. Bonanza Cast Biographies: Michael Landon. Retrieved on 2012-08-02.
  3. Flint, Peter B.. "Michael Landon, 54, Little Joe On 'Bonanza' for 14 Years, Dies", July 2, 1991. Retrieved on January 22, 2018. 
  4. Celebrities in Los Angeles Cemeteries: A Directory pp. 108. McFarland & Company, Inc. (May 1, 2001). Retrieved on April 2, 2016. ISBN 0786409835.

External linksEdit