Wednesday, April 15, 2015


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.

The western genre dominated '50s and '60s TV and no show offered more pant bulges than Bonanza. Most of it was supplied by Michael “Little Joe” Landon, especially several years in when he adopted a pair of stone-colored trousers that he wore in virtually every episode from then on and which generally left little or nothing to the imagination. The pants were not made of any appropriate natural material from that time like cotton or linen, but no one seemed to mind, then or now, when they were so revealing!

According to some of Landon's bigraphers he was a notorious womanizer in his younger days. He was in with a crowd of young 60's actors who were notorious for partying but doggedly kept that image from the public. In the end, Landon eventually became a "family guy" conservative who shunned the "libertine attitudes" of the 70's and 80's.

By the mid 1960s Michael had been working out and weighed around 160 pounds. There was a gym on the NBC lot where he worked out during the lunch hour. (Michael also enjoyed a naked daily sauna in the small sauna bath near the Bonanza set).

In May, 1967 Michael said, “I’m convinced health is a must for happiness. I don’t swim a specific number of laps in the pool at home because that would be boring. I’m active with the kids because I like to throw a ball and run and jump. At home we play volleyball as well as tennis now. I’m stiff today because yesterday I tried to put into practice what I’d learned from a tennis lesson. I was on court from 1:30 to 5:15 pm – first with four fellows who came over, and then Lynn and I teamed for doubles with one of the men and his wife. Every day I’m at the studio I work out in its gym. When using weights puts on too much up top, I realize I’ll outgrow my suits, so I punch a bag instead. I finish with a steam and massage.”

Landon's abiding concern was an undernourished physique. During Bonanza’s initial season, Landon weighed a puny 132 pounds. He wore a heavy sweatshirt beneath his costume of twill and corduroy so as to appear more formidable around the chest and shoulders. Workouts involving push-ups, chin-ups, punching bags and lifting weights built him up so he could discard the padding. Later his workouts paid off as "Little Joe" worked himself up to 148 pounds during the run of the TV Series.


Michael Landon at home in Stone Canyon with his wife Lynn, c. 1967

Younger years


In an article in 1983 when Michael was 47, he talked about his feelings on what it would be like to turn 50 and his diet and exercise plan. “Taking care of yourself is the most important thing you can spend time doing. I feel great. I sleep like a log and I haven’t been sick in years – not even a cold! And it’s all because I take care of myself with exercise and a diet that works for me. As I approach the big ‘50’, I welcome it. I’m not worried about nearing the half-century mark because I am happier, healthier and somewhat wiser now.”  Landon’s secret diet is one of Hollywood’s strangest. He himself admits, “There’s no one around who likes to eat more than I do.” Landon said before he starts each day he has a very small breakfast – cranberry juice with a powered whole grain supplement, along with a piece of dry toast. And he seldom eats lunch because he’s so busy. “Dinner is the one meal of the day I look forward to. My evening meal is more like something three people would eat! I’m pretty sure it adds up to around 3,500 calories. I start off with a couple of bowls of soup which are chock full of fresh vegetables and lots of little bits of pasta. Next comes a large mixing-bowl-size salad. Again, it has lots of vegetables like tomatoes, cucumbers, radishes, onions, green peppers covered with mounds of shrimp and creamy Italian dressing. Next comes the main course. My wife Cindy makes a great spicy shrimp and fabulous chicken cacciatore. She also makes broiled sea bass and halibut that is out of this world. I love chicken tetrazzini with lots of Italian bread and steamed vegetables. And my favourite is a heaping platter filled with different types of pasta prepared with different vegetables. For dessert, I have a honeydew or cantaloupe cut in half and filled with a large scoop of ice cream. And we also have a platter filled with cheeses, apples, oranges and grapes.” With a mammoth diet like that, you’d think Landon would have had trouble fitting into his ‘Little House’ long ago – but he says constant exercise helps him burn off whatever he eats. “I’ve always exercised. I work out in the morning every day.” Landon’s gruelling exercise program takes 1½  to 2 hours a day. At a gym, he lifts dumbbells and barbells, works out on Nautilus exercise machines, mans a rowing machine and does aerobic exercises. 
In the LIFE issue of June 1991, Michael talked about how he felt when he was told he had cancer. “Well, the news shocked the hell out of me. Nothing was further from my mind, since I’m only 54 and, with rare exceptions, I’d been healthy my whole life. Not that I don’t deserve to have a cancer. I’m a good athlete, and I work out hard – before this happened I could bench press 300, 350 pounds, no sweat – but I’ve abused my body over the years. I don’t want people to think that everybody is a likely candidate for cancer of this type. I think I have it because for most of my life, though I was never a drunk, I drank too much. I also smoked too many cigarettes and ate a lot of the wrong things. And if you do that, even if you think you’re too strong to get anything, somehow you’re going to pay.” And he talked about his diet. “I’m on a radical diet. Worked out with the help of my wife, who’s a health nut and knows a lot about nutrition. No animal fat or protein. I get everything I need from fruits and vegetables. My wife makes a wonderful hearty soup, and every day, 13 times a day, I chop up a few organic apples and a bunch of organic carrots along with maybe some beet tops and dump them in a blender. Makes a 12-ounce glass of juice, and I drink it right down. The pectin in the apples helps digestion, and the carotene in the carrots is thought to kill cancer cells. Damn carrots are turning me orange. And every time I eat or drink, I swallow digestive enzymes to replace what the pancreas has stopped producing. And then, once a day, I take a tried and true remedy for intestinal irritation – a coffee enema. Yep, I get filled to the rim. Organic coffee, I might add.” 

1 comment:

  1. I was sorry to hear of Michael Landon's passing. Pancreatic cancer is one of the least survivable forms of the disease. He was a favorite actor of mine, and was also one of my male idols for his attention to health and fitness in his later life... RobtheElder