Michael Landon (born Eugene Maurice Orowitz; October 31, 1936 – July 1, 1991) was an American actor, writer, director, and producer. He is known for his roles as Little Joe Cartwright in Bonanza (1959–73), Charles Ingalls in Little House on the Prairie (1974–83), and Jonathan Smith in Highway to Heaven (1984–89).
Landon appeared on the cover of TV Guide 22 times, second only to Lucille Ball. Landon produced, wrote, and directed many of his series' episodes, including his shortest-lived production, Father Murphy, which starred his friend and "Little House" co-star Merlin Olsen. In 1981, Landon won recognition for his screenwriting with a Spur Award from the Western Writers of America. Although his youngest daughter Jennifer Landon and Bonanza co-star David Canary have both won multiple Emmys, Michael Landon was never nominated for an Emmy. In 1976, Landon wrote and directed an auto-biographical movie, The Loneliest Runner, which was nominated for two Emmys.
Illness and death
Landon began to suffer from severe abdominal pain in February 1991 while on a skiing vacation in Utah. On April 5, 1991, pancreatic cancer was diagnosed; it had metastasized into his liver and lymph nodes. The cancer was inoperable and the doctors' prognosis was terminal. On May 9, 1991, he appeared on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson to speak about the cancer and to condemn the tabloid press for their sensational headlines and inaccurate stories, including the claim that he and his wife were trying to have another child. During his appearance, Landon pledged to fight the cancer and asked fans to pray for him. On May 21, 1991, Landon underwent successful surgery for an almost fatal blood clot in his left leg. In June 1991, Landon appeared on the cover of Life Magazine, after granting the periodical an exclusive private interview about his life, his family, and his struggle to live. On July 1, 1991, at age 54, Landon died in Malibu, California.
Landon is interred in a private family mausoleum at Hillside Memorial Park Cemetery, in Culver City, California, along with his son Mark (who died in May 2009). Michael's headstone reads,"He seized life with joy. He gave to life generously. He leaves a legacy of love and laughter."