Iconic Actor, Screenwriter, Director and Producer, Michael Landon is an unforgettable name in Hollywood. He is best remembered for his roles in “I Was a Teenage Werewolf,” “Bonanza,” and “Little House on the Prairie.”
Known for portraying friendly men driven by family values, the actor passed away from pancreatic cancer in 1991 at 54. He was survived by his wife, Cindy Landon, and nine children.
After his death, Cindy, a producer, makeup artist, and philanthropist, never remarried. To remain close to her husband, she decided to stay in the hacienda where he died.
Michael Landon and Cindy Landon at the La Scala Restaurant Grand Opening Celebration on June 2, 1989, in Malibu | Photo: Getty Images
Michael Landon, whose birth name was Eugene Maurice Orowitz, was born on October 31, 1936. He was the son of a Jewish father and a Catholic mother.
He faced difficult times during his childhood and adolescence, mainly due to his mother’s suicidal tendencies. His mother once tried to drown herself during a family vacation by the beach, but he saved her.
After saving her, his mother acted as if nothing had happened, and a few minutes later, Michael threw up. He said it was the worst experience of his life.
Michael Landon poses with the People’s Choice Award in 1989 in Beverly Hills | Photo: Getty Images
The stress overload of his mother’s suicide attempts caused him to have bedwetting problems. As a teenager, he strengthened his character by drawing strength from the difficulties he suffered.
After his dreams of being an athlete were shattered by torn shoulder ligaments, he decided to build a career in show business. He became an attendant at a service gas station opposite Warner Bros. Studios to start this career path.
He was then noticed by local Agent Bob Raison, who advised him to change his name. This decision birthed Michael Landon, a name he took out of the phone book.
Portrait of Michael Landon circa 1965 | Photo: Getty Images
By the mid-1950s, he made his first television and film appearances. In 1959 he was called by NBC to be a part of the cast of a new western series, “Bonanza,” the first show produced in color in the USA.
As an actor who showed great professionalism, he began writing the scripts for some episodes by 1962. By 1968, he made his directorial debut on the show.
“Bonanza” ran for 14 seasons, and a year after its cancellation, Michael starred as Charles Ingalls in the NBC series “Little House on the Prairie.” The series achieved extraordinary success all over the world.
Portrait of Michael Landon circa 1985 | Photo: Getty Images
Michael had been married three times. His first marriage was with a woman eight years older than him, Dodie Levy-Fraser. They were married in 1956 and were divorced in 1962. The couple had two adopted children.
A year after his divorce, he married Marjorie Lynn Noe, who had a nine-year-old daughter he adopted. The couple was divorced in 1982 after four children.
The following year, he married Cindy, an Italian-American makeup artist known for her work on the set of “Little House on the Prairie.” She was his wife until his death on July 1, 1991, and they had two children.
Michael Landon and Cindy Landon at the National Down Syndrome Congress’ Third Annual Michael Landon Celebrity Gala on October 20, 1989, in Beverly Hills | Photo: Getty Images
On April 2, 1991, Michael suffered from a severe headache while on vacation. He was diagnosed with an aggressive form of pancreatic cancer, known as exocrine adenocarcinoma, three days later.
The doctors informed him that they could not operate on his cancer and that it was terminal. A month later, he revealed his condition on “The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson.”
The tumor became very aggressive and took over in a few months. Despite a successful surgery to remove a near-fatal blood clot in Michael’s left leg, he died on July 1, 1991, at his villa in Malibu at 54.
Michael Landon at the Third Annual Moonlight Roundup Extravaganza to Benefit Free Arts for Abused Children on July 29, 1989, in Malibu | Photo: Getty Images
Losing a husband was never easy on Cindy. Seven months after his death, she and his children were still struggling to get on with their lives.
The first few days after his death, Cindy revealed that painful memories haunted her. She even had a dream that he was ok but had two weeks to live.
Michael Landon and wife Cindy Landon at the 35th Annual American Cinema Editors (ACE) Eddie Awards on March 23, 1985, in Beverly Hills | Photo: Getty Images
Despite the pain they were going through, the family decided to keep his legacy and memories alive. On the 30th anniversary of Michael’s death, his family revealed that they celebrate his best qualities and incorporate them into their lives.
From making movies that honor Michael, spending time with family, being compassionate and loving, and working hard, Cindy and his children do everything they can to keep his memory alive.
Michael Landon, wife Cindy Landon, daughter Jennifer Landon, and son Sean Landon at the “Gorillas in the Mist: The Story of Dian Fossey” on September 19, 1988, in California | Photo: Getty Images
MICHAEL AND CINDY’S HOUSES
He planned to make the place his home and raise his family. After a year and a half, Michael sold the 4,795-square-foot house, moving into a splendid hacienda to raise his children instead.
In late 2015, Cindy bought a beachside home on Seafield Drive in the star-studded city of Malibu for a whopping $7.5 million. She called on renowned Architect Doug Burdge and invested more than $4 million in upgrades to completely renovate the property.
Michael Landon and wife Cindy Landon at the Jewish National Fund Annual Tree of Life Awards on December 11, 1986, in California | Photo: Getty Images
The house, which had five bedrooms and six bathrooms, was outdated, but she supervised the complete redesign and renovation. She had thought she would be able to move from the family hacienda into the beach home.
However, she could not as she felt closer to Michael in the hacienda and the children had grown up there. She wasn’t ready to pack up the family memories.
Despite the time and money she had spent on renovations, Cindy decided to sell the new house. Her son had the listing, and they sold the house for $15.7 million against the $18 million she had initially wanted to sell it.
After selling the house, Cindy remained on the ranch house that Michael had always dreamt of having. The initial plan they had for the ten-acre property was not to live in it.
However, when they were looking for getaway properties and couldn’t find any close to Michael’s work, they decided the ranch would do.
They invited Architect Robert L. Earl and Interior Designer Ron Wilson, who created a Southern Californian ranch house that featured Spanish colonial and contemporary decor.
If you or someone you know is considering suicide, please contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255), text “help” to the Crisis Text Line at 741-741, or go to suicidepreventionlifeline.org.