Michael Landon was born Eugene Maurice Orowitz on October 31, 1936 in Forest Hills, NY. It is believed that his role of "Little Joe" on televisions Bonanza shaped his career and endeared fans to him for a lifetime.
His home life was not always smooth. His mother was often a volatile person who was prone to suicide attempts. She also shamed her son because he suffered from nocturnal enuresis (bed wetting). At an early age he would spend hours acting out his fantasies in an effort to escape the stress and tension. In school Oogie (as his family called him) realized he would rather be popular than smart, so putting aside his higher than average IQ, he spent his time entertaining his classmates.
In high school Oogie found he possessed a talent for javelin throwing. This talent led to many offers of athletic scholarships, including one to the University of California. Shortly after moving to California he injured his arm and lost the scholarship. When a friend asked him to assist him with an audition for Warner Brothers, Oogie went along. Warner Brothers was not impressed with the friend, but felt Oogie had potential and sent him to acting school. In that four months Michael Landon was born! It is thought he choose this name from a telephone book.
Michael started out small, but from I Was a Teenage Werewolf he began to build an almost cult-like fan following. After seeing Michaels performance in Restless Gun, producer David Dortort felt Michael would be right for a role in his newly created television show, Bonanza. Upon seeing a photo of Michael, David's wife commented, "This one has a face touched by heaven." (quoted from the Bonanza website) and Michael was cast as Joe Cartwright.
During his years on the show Michael formed lasting friendships with fellow cast members Dan Blocker and Lorne Greene. His career blossomed in many directions as he was allowed to first write and later direct many episodes of the show. It was through these experiences that Michael began to produce and write Little House on the Prairie and Highway to Heaven.
Because of the positive experiences Michael had enjoyed while on Bonanza he brought a friendship and warmth with him to his own shows. Among his fans it is well known that he was also a personal friend and mentor to many of the actors he worked with, including Melissa Gilbert and Victor French.
Michaels private life was always tumultous. He was married three times and was the father of nine children. Even though divorced from their mothers, he spent as much time as he could with his kids, and was as active as possible in raising them.
On July 1, 1991, just three short months after being diagnosed with Pancreatic Cancer, Michael Landon died. He will be remembered forever in the hearts of his fans and the actors he worked with.
In addition to acting, directing, and producing Michael also released 2 records. Gimme a little Kiss and Be Patient with Me were released on the Candlelight label in 1957. In 1961 he released Linda is Lonesome and Without U on the RCA label.
- Telephone Time: The Mystery of Caspar Hauser
- Frontier Doctor
- These Wilder Years
- Wire Service: High Adventure"
- The Adventures of Jim Bowie
- I Was a Teen-age Werewolf
- Du Pont Theatre: The Man From St. Paul
- Telephone Time: Fight for the Title
- G. E. Theatre: Too Good With a Gun
- Schlitz Playhouse of Stars: The Restless Gun
- Tales of Wells Fargo: Gunshot Messenger
- Court of Last Resort: The Forbes-Carroll Case
- Tales of Wells Fargo: The Kid
- Vacation Playhouse: Luke and the Tenderfoot
- Cheyenne: White Warrior
- Schlitz Playhouse of Stars: Hands of the Enemy
- High School Confidential!
- God's Little Acre
- The Adventures of Jim Bowie
- Goodyear Theatre: The Giant Step
- Schlitz Playhouse of Stars: Way of the West
- Tales of Wells Fargo: Sam Bass
- Studio One: Man Under Glass
- The Rifleman (episode: "End of a Young Gun")
- Wanted Dead or Alive: The Martin Poster
- The Texan (episode: "The Hemp Tree")
- Dick Powell's Zane Grey Theatre: Living is a Lonesome Thing
- Wanted Dead or Alive: The Legend
- Tombstone Territory (episode: "The Man From Brewster")
- Playhouse 90: Project Immortality
- The Naked Truth
- The Legend of Tom Dooley
- Bonanza (from 1959 until 1972, acted and directed)
- Goodyear Playhouse: Giant Step
- It's Good to Be Alive (directed)
- The Loneliest Runner (directed)
- Where Pigeons Go to Die (acted, directed and produced)
- Us (acted, directed, and produced)
The above information was gathered in part at the following websites: