Michael Landon was an American actor and filmmaker who was born Eugene Maurice Orowitz on October 31, 1936. He was born into a Jewish-Catholic family and raised in a predominantly Protestant neighborhood, dealing with personal concerns at home and school. He got accepted into the Warner Bros. acting school and made his screen debut in an episode of the comedy-western series “Luke and the Tenderfoot” in 1955. Little Joe Cartwright in “Bonanza” (1959–1973), Charles Ingalls in “Little House on the Prairie” (1974–1982), and Jonathan Smith in “Highway to Heaven” (1984–1989) are some of his most well-known roles. Let’s toast his special day.
Eugene Maurice Orowitz
October 31, 1936
July 1, 1991 (age 54)
Michael Landon was born Eugene Maurice Orowitz in New York City on October 31, 1936. Peggy (née O’Neill) and Eli Maurice Orowitz are his parents. His mother was emotionally disturbed; therefore, he had a difficult upbringing. She tried suicide once but he was able to save her, but the tragedy left a lasting impression on him. He attended Collingswood High School and his skill as a javelin thrower earned him a sports scholarship to the University of Southern California, but his athletic career was cut short due to a damaged ligament during his freshman year.
Orowitz chose the name ‘Michael Landon’ from a phone book as his stage name before beginning his acting career. He had a series of minor appearances after making his debut in the episode “The Boston Kid” of the T.V. series “Luke and the Tenderfoot.” In “The Adventures of Jim Bowie,” he had recurring parts (1956). He appeared in the horror film “I Was a Teenage Werewolf” in 1957. He then appeared in the films “Maracaibo” (1958), “High School Confidential” (1958), and “The Legend of Tom Dooley” (1959). At the age of 22, he was cast as “Little Joe Cartwright” on “Bonanza.” Although this was Orowitz’s first major television production, he held his own against industry veterans Lorne Greene and Dan Blocker. He was by far the cast’s most popular member. Later on, his fame helped him renegotiate his contract with the producers, allowing him to write and direct many episodes. In 1957, Candlelight Records released his first song, ‘Gimme a Little Kiss (Will “Ya” Huh)/’Be Patient With Me.’ He sang ‘Linda Is Lonesome/Without You’ for “Bonanza” in 1964. He appeared alongside John Wayne and Lucille Ball in the 1970 film “Swing Out, Sweet Land.” After that, he worked as a writer and director on the short-lived romantic anthology series “Love Story” (1973). Orowitz’s most recent production, “Us,” was a made-for-television drama in which he wrote, directed, and acted. On September 20, 1991, CBS aired a posthumous premiere of the picture.
Landon was married three times. He married Dodie Levy-Fraser (1956–1962), Marjorie Lynn Noe (1963–1982), and Cindy Clerico (1983–till death). He had nine children in total from the marriages including his adopted children. Orowitz died at his home in Malibu, California, on July 1, 1991, at the age of 54 after being diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.
Landon features in “These Wilder Years,” playing the role of a boy in Poolhall.
Landon gets a part in “Cheyenne” playing a U.S. Cavalry trooper.
Landon is honored with the International Emmy Founders Award.
The T.V. star is given his rightful place in the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
Landon directs the movie “Where Pigeons Go to Die.”
The T.V. star is posthumously inducted into the Television Hall of Fame.
Why We Love Michael Landon
He is an NBC star
Landon began his career as a guest star on Westerns in 1956 and continued to appear on NBC more than any other network throughout his career. His most well-known roles include "Bonanza," "Little House on the Prairie," and "Highway to Heaven."
His sense of humor
Landon exhibited a unique sense of humor. Todds sprung from his mouth, and he dressed up as a superhero to visit a pizza parlor.
He was a man of many talents
Landon excelled in a variety of unexpected areas during his brief but exceptional life. He did, however, build a music career while creating television history. He had progressed from a young boy concerned about his mother to a good athlete, achieving high school records in javelin throwing.
5 Surprising Facts
He wrote a film on his experience
He wrote and directed the 1976 telefilm "The Loneliest Runner," which was based on his childhood experience.
He was skilled in karate}Chuck Norris taught him karate.
His hair was naturally gray
When the actor was still in his 20s, his hair began to gray, so he used over-the-counter colors to cover it up.
He was friends with Johnny Carson
Landon felt comfortable sharing his cancer battle on Carson's show just two months before his death because the lifelong friends had relied on each other as confidantes throughout their careers.
Athletics affected his education
Even with his remarkable 159 IQ, athletics hurt his education; he went from being a straight-A student in elementary school to finishing third from the bottom of his class.
Michael Landon FAQs
Was Michael Landon a good horseman?
He was a skilled horseman and stuntman.
How long did Michael Landon live after his diagnosis?
He died three months later.
Is Michael Landon left-handed?
Yes, he was left-handed.
Michael Landon’s birthday dates