Michael Landon (October 31, 1936 - July 1, 1991), born Eugene Maurice Horowitz, was an American actor and director. Landon's father was Jewish, his mother was not. Landon considered himself Jewish.
Landon was best known for his starring roles in three TV series spanning three decades. In the 1960s he starred as "Little Joe" on Bonanza. In the 1970s and into the 1980s he starred as Charles Ingalls in Little House On The Prairie and starred in Highway to Heaven as an angel, also in the 1980s. Landon also directed the last two series.
In high school, Landon excelled at track, especially with the javelin. He earned a scholarship to UCLA, but could no longer attend after tearing a ligament in his arm. At this point he started taking small roles and bit parts, but decided his birth name was not appropriate for an aspiring actor and changed his name to Michael Landon. He decided on the name by picking it out of a Los Angeles phone book.
Landon's first big part was as Tony Rivers in I Was a Teenage Werewolf (1957). He also gained exposure as Tom Dooley in the western The Legend of Tom Dooley (1959).
That same year he started starring in the then-new TV series Bonanza as "Little Joe." The youngest brother in the Cartwright family and always a ladies man, he quickly became one of the show's most beloved characters. Late in the series, Landon asked for the direct and got permission to direct a few episodes of the series. The show ran for 14 years, from 1959 to 1973, and spanned 461 episodes.
Soon after the cancellation of Bonanza, Landon started a new project in 1974, a television film called Little House on the Prairie based on the popular book by Laura Ingalls Wilder. Little House would later develop into a television series. He not only starred in the show as the patriarch Charles Ingalls, but served as the producer, writer, director and executive producer. He served mostly in these capacities for the series' eight years, which ended in 1982.
In 1984 he began his role in Highway to Heaven as Jonathan Smith, an angel who tried to save people by helping them turn their lives around. When his friend and co-star, Victor French, died of lung cancer in 1989, Landon cancelled the series.
Landon had produced all three of his series for NBC, but after ending Highway he was let go. He then went to CBS and in 1991 starred in a two hour pilot called Us. This was meant to be another winning series for Landon, but he was soon diagnosed with pancreatic cancer that had spread to the liver. His last public appereance was on the "Johnny Carson Show" in June. A few weeks later, Landon passed away in Malibu, California with his family, children and colleagues by his side. He is buried in a Jewish cemetery.
Landon was married three times. His first wife was Dodie Frasier, a legal secretary who was six years his senior. He adopted her son mark and together they adopted another boy. A few years later he divorced Dodie to marry (Marjorie) Lynn Noe, a model in 1962 who had a little daughter from a previous marriage. Landon treated her like his own child and had four more children with Lynn. This marriage was believed to be very happy and different from typical "Hollywood marriages", so the tabloids jumped at the affair Landon started with a make-up artist and stand-in for one of the stars he had met at the set of "Little House on the Prairie", Cindy Clerico, who was 21 years younger than he. They married in 1983 and had Jennifer (born in 1983) and Sean (born in 1986). His co-star on Little House, Melissa Gilbert, named her son, Michael Garrett Boxleitner (1995), after Landon.