Sunday, October 31, 2010

Gratuitous Brunette: Michael Landon

For an amazing thirty years, Michael Landon was a fixture on American television, starring on three hugely popular series back to back to back; first he played Little Joe Cartwright in Bonanza from 1959 to 1973, then Charles Ingalls in Little House on the Prairie from 1973 to 1984, and finally Jonathan Smith in Highway To Heaven from 1984 to 1989 - representing more than 700 hours of television, all of it on NBC.

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at PhotobucketLandon (born this day in 1936) was universally revered in Hollywood; that good-guy image he portrayed was no act. Warm and caring, with an ever-ready smile and a heart as big as the outdoors he loved, his early death in July 1991 was greeted with genuine remorse.

He also had a wicked sense of humour, and loved to play practical jokes, especially on Johnny Carson; having heard that Carson ran over a cat with his car, Landon invited him to dinner at a restaurant where he'd had many of the menu items changed to include the word 'cat'.

Former Little House co-star Melissa Gilbert has said that Landon was like a second father to her, especially after her own father died when she was just 11; Landon had nine children of his own, so opening his home and heart to a tenth must have been the easiest thing in the world for him to do. Gilbert and her husband Bruce Boxleitner named their son after him in 1995.

Despite a fit physique and a positive attitude, though, Landon was a heavy smoker and ate a poor diet, all of which caught up with him at the age of 54. He was diagnosed with adenocarcinoma, an aggressive form of pancreatic cancer which quickly spread to his lymph nodes, and in what seemed like no time at all he was gone...
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