On October 31, 1936, Michael Landon (Eugene Maurice Orowitz) was born in the town of Forest Hills, New York. He was the second child of Eli Orowitz and Peggy O'Neill. When Michael was a child his family moved to Collingswood, New Jersey and this was where he lived until after graduating high school. In high school he excelled in track and field, his specialty being javelin, and this earned him a scholarship to college at the University of California. After an injury to his arm he wasn't able to continue throwing the javelin, so he lost his scholarship and left school.
Michael Landon made his way into show business kind of by accident. While working at a warehouse, he accompanied a friend for an audition at Warner Brothers Studios. Instead of his friend getting signed, Warner Brothers signed Michael and sent him to acting school. And so began Michael Landon's career in the entertainment industry. First he acted in movies such as "I Was a Teenage Werewolf", "The Legend of Tom Dooley" and "Fight for the Title". However, he didn't become a household name until he played the part of Little Joe Cartwright in the popular western television series Bonanza, which ran from 1959 to 1973. As the character of Little Joe,
Michael Landon stole the hearts of viewers young and old alike. Who didn't love Little Joe! The youngest of the Cartwright boys, he was fun-loving, humorous, friendly, caring and handsome to boot! During the run of this series Michael tried his hand at writing and directing and did so successfully. The titles of some of the Bonanza shows he wrote or co-wrote are "Ballad of the Ponderosa", "Joe Cartwright, Detective", "A Dream to Dream", "To Die in Darkness", "Kingdom of Fear" and "Forever". After the 14th and final season of Bonanza, Michael moved on to produce, write, direct and star in his second longest running television series,
Little House on the Prairie which was based on the books written by the beloved author Laura Ingalls Wilder. In this series he played Charles "Pa" Ingalls, a farmer and dedicated family man living as a pioneer during the 1800's. The character of Charles Ingalls was strong, hard working, friendly, sensitive, compassionate and had a wonderful sense of humor. For many children who grew up watching Little House on the Prairie, "Pa" Ingalls was the ideal father. Some of the many episodes Michael wrote for Little House were "The Richest Man in Walnut Grove", "Be My Friend", "I'll Be Waving As You Drive Away", "The Silent Cry" and "To See the Light". After a successful nine year run of Little House, Michael went to work creating yet another hit television series, Highway to Heaven, which
aired from 1984 to 1989. Again he produced, wrote, directed and starred in this series alongside his long-time friend and fellow actor, Victor French. Michael played the character of Jonathan Smith, an angel sent down to Earth from heaven to help those in need. Victor French played the part of Mark Gordon, an ex-cop who had been down on his luck but turned his life around after meeting Jonathan. And so the two made a perfect team, traveling around the country in Mark's beat up heap of a car, helping people and becoming best friends along the way.
A few of Michael's other credits include the television movies "The Loneliest Runner", "Love is Forever" co-starring Priscilla Presley, "Where Pigeons Go to Die", the movie "Sam's Son" and the television series "Father Murphy" starring Merlin Olsen.
Michael Landon was dedicated to producing family television with good morals and a positive message. For those who don't know the story, in 1973 Michael's daughter Cheryl was in a tragic car accident in which three of her college friends were killed. While Cheryl lay in a coma in critical condition, her father, Michael, stayed by her bedside. During this time he prayed and made kind of a deal with God. If his daughter lived he would try his best to make the world a better place during his lifetime. After being in a coma for three days Cheryl finally woke up and began her long recovery. She had rough days ahead, not only dealing with the recovery from her injuries but also the loss of her three friends. But with the help of her family she made it through. And so Michael spent the remainder of his career fulfilling the sacred promise that he had made in that hospital room by his daughter's bedside. First with the long-running series Little House on the Prairie and then the series Highway to Heaven. In both of
these shows there were many messages interwoven into the storylines, messages of hope, courage, forgiveness, friendship and love. Still enjoyed by many viewers around the world today, not only do these shows entertain but they make you think and feel. Michael's shows can pull at your heartstrings but make you laugh as well!
Early in 1991 Michael began work on what would be his last television show which was called "Us". Before the series could go into full production to complete its first season of shows, Michael learned that he was ill with pancreatic cancer and lost his battle months later on July 1, 1991. The world lost not only a brilliant actor, writer, director, but also a true humanitarian!
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