The first TV starring role for Michael Landon was in “Bonanza”. He played the youngest son and hot head, Little Joe Cartwright. Michael Landon was just 22. “Bonanza ran for 14 seasons and Michael Landon stayed with the series throughout its run.
During the years of “Bonanza” little Joe Cartwright with his good looks turned into a bit of a ladies man. He would sometimes appear in the show shirtless. He received more fan mail than any of the other players in “Bonanza“.
The Cartwrights lived on a large ranch named the Ponderosa in Lake Tahoe in Nevada. The show was a western, but dealt mostly with the relationship between Ben Cartwright and his very different sons, their care for each other and for their friends and neighbors.
Other actors starring in “Bonanza” were Lorne Greene as the father Ben Cartwright. Pernell Roberts was Adam Cartwright the eldest son and an architect. He designed the Cartwright’s ranch house. Dan Blocker portrayed the easy going second son Eric “Hoss“ Cartwright.
Michael Landon started writing and directing scripts on “Bonanza” in the early 60s. This was his first foray into directing.
After “Bonanza” was cancelled Michael Landon starred as Charles Ingalls father of the family and a farmer in a new TV series “Little
House On The Prairie”. Charles was married to Caroline. The story lines for Little House were based on family values and integrity. This, too, became a successful series and ran for eight seasons. Michael Landon acted as the executive producer, director and writer for the show. His son (Michael, Jr.) and daughter (Leslie) in real life appeared in an episode “The Election”. His daughter appeared in a few other episodes also. The show was nominated for several Emmy and Golden Globe Awards.
The final year the program was changed to “Little House, A New Beginning”. The parents Charles and Caroline were not featured in this show. It focused more on the Walnut Grove community. However, Michael Landon did stay as writer, director and executive producer.
“Highway to Heaven” was the only show during his career which Michael Landon owned outright. He directed, wrote and acted as executive producer for the series. Michael played a new angel named Jonathan Smith. In order to earn his wings this new angel had to help people here on earth. Jonathan runs into an ex-policeman, Mark Gordon, who has become jaded. Jonathan helps Mark get back on track and Mark agrees to help Jonathan with his mission to help people. The shows dealt with problems people encounter everyday such
as envy and greed and also illness and racism. Solutions to these problems were based on Christian values and morals.
Michael Landon was diagnosed with inoperable pancreatic cancer which had metastasized to his liver and lymph nodes on April 5, 1991. Sadly Mr. Landon died in California on July 1, 1991 at the age of 54.