Michael Landon was a legend of the small screen who eventually launched a successful filmmaking career after starring in hit shows like Bonanza, Little House on the Prairie, and Highway to Heaven. While he rose to fame very quickly, sadly he passed away at the age of 54 after succumbing to pancreatic cancer. But now, his son Michael Landon Jr. is following in his father’s footsteps by making a name for himself in Hollywood as well. What better legacy could a father leave behind than a child who both appreciates the craft that he held so dearly to his heart and also excels at it.
Most people don’t realize it, but Michael Landon Jr. actually scored his first acting role on Little House on the Prairie. Even though it a relatively minor role. It’s all he needed to get his foot in the industry at an early age. Nowadays, he’s the spitting image of his famous father. But growing up in Tinseltown with celebrity parents wasn’t always a walk in the park.
Join Facts Verse as we take a look at the life and career of Michael Landon Jr. while catching up with him to see what he’s been up to lately.
Michael Landon Jr’s Early Life And Rise To Fame
Michael Landon Jr. was born on June 20, 1964, in Encino, California to parents Michael Landon and his second wife Marjorie Lynn Noe. He has three full-blooded siblings; Christopher B. Landon, Leslie Landon, and Shawna Landon, and several half-siblings including Cheryl Lynn Landon. And whom his dad fathered during his first marriage, Jennifer Landon, from his father’s third marriage. And Sean Landon, who also conceived during his father’s third marriage.
His paternal grandfather was Jewish while his grandmother on the same side of the family was Catholic. Michael Landon, however, raised Jewish despite the fact that his mother and father didn’t agree on matters of religion.
As we already touched on briefly, Michael Landon Jr. as well as several of his siblings chose to pursue a career in the entertainment industry just like their father. While Landon Jr. has made several appearances in television shows and films. He’s been able to carve out his own path in the industry as a successful executive producer and director. So, while his father shined in front of the camera, he’s found a more comfortable position sitting confidentially behind it.
But just like anyone else, his childhood heavily shaped his later life. Landon Jr’s childhood filled with celebrities, wealth, and a bit of extravagance. But he and his father didn’t always see eye to eye on things.
When he made his entrance into the world, Landon Jr’s father was in the middle of his extremely successful run on Bonanza. But when he was just 18 years old, his father kicked him out of his home. Up until then, life had been fairly good. He was raised in his family’s opulent mansion in Los Angeles. And simply having the surname Landon made everything pretty easy for him. But when he had to set out into the world on his own, he had to find his own path to success.
But he wasn’t completely without a paddle. He already had a leg up on the competition seeing as how he experienced his first taste of the spotlight when he played the character ‘Jim’ on Little House on the Prairie in 1977 when he was just 13. He went on to star in several Bonanza sequels as the character Benjamin ‘Benji Cartwright.
These sequels included 1988s Bonanza: The Next Generation, 1993s Back To Bonanza, 1993s Bonanza: The Return, and 1995s Bonanza: Under Attack
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Michael Landon Was A Devoted Father As Well As Quite The Trickster
Landon Jr. certainly had a unique upbringing. Not only was he raised in a mansion with a world-famous father. But he also got to spend a lot of time with him on set.
Whenever he would have breaks off from school while his father was working. He and his sister would get to spend some time on set. And because of this, they became rather close with child stars like Melissa Gilbert and Melissa Sue Anderson. These young, privileged kids would get to spend their days on a 100-acre backlot in Simi Valley, California where they would play tag and hide and seek while occasionally hunting down snakes. What more could a kid ask for?
Landon Jr fondly remembers his father as being a playful prankster who loved getting a rise out of others. On several occasions, Michael Landon would put a small frog, lizard, or something of that nature in his mouth. And then go up to a guest on the set and open his mouth, thus freaking them out beyond all measure. According to Landon Jr, his father was constantly pulling tricks like that. And it’s something that made him so incredibly special.
But even though Landon was someone that everyone recognized and respected. He wasn’t someone who liked to show off too much. Instead, he preferred to spend the majority of his time with his family. And didn’t have many friends in show business that he spent a lot of time with when the cameras weren’t rolling. Rather, he would spend most of his time at home trying to give his children a fairly normal childhood.
Landon Jr. recalls that his father loved to pull jokes on his kids and had an exceptionally ‘salty’, as he put it, sense of humor. Landon loved to scare his kids. Often, he would do things like go outside just to rattle the screens or jump out of places to get a rise out of anyone who was around. On one occasion, he donned a bear consume just to scare the heck out of Landon Jr and his sister.
But beyond all of these antics, Landon Jr also recalls how his father was a masterful storyteller. Whenever he had people around that were willing to lend him their ear. He would chat their ears off with tall tales, potentially exaggerated stories from his life, and things of that nature. And he was apparently really good at it. Whenever he would have an audience, he would successfully hold their attention for as long as he intended to. And people couldn’t help but adore him and everything he stood for.
Michael Landon Jr’s Childhood Had It’s Ups and Downs
Even though Landon Jr had a fairly decent childhood. It also had it’s high and low points and for a while, he didn’t even talk to his father at all.
When he was 16, Landon Jr’s parents decided to get divorced and that turned his entire world upside down. Around this time, he started acting out.
He turned to drugs and alcohol to numb his feelings and started behaving fairly erratically. For a while, it seemed as if he was perfectly content with throwing his life away.
Landon Jr’s mother, Lynn Noe, was very distraught by the trajectory of his life and did her best to help him get his life back on track. That’s when Landon Jr decided to go to church where he met a pastor who took him under his wing to try and help him out through this difficult phase of his life.
Landon admits that he received a few hard knocks when he was a teen. At one point, his mom kicked him out of the family home and cut him off financially. He was the furthest thing from happy at this time. But he’s now thankful that his parent’s chose to go the ‘tough love’ route instead of making excuses for and putting up with his behavior.
Once he regained a bit of stability, Landon Jr realized that he wanted to be in the entertainment industry just like his father. But he didn’t necessarily want to become just another Hollywood actor. He desired to walk his own path. So after high school, he attended the University of Southern California and later studied at the American Film Institute.
After graduating, he worked in just about every position in Hollywood that you can think of including stints as an assistant cameraman, production assistant, apprentice film editor. And even as an actor despite the fact that he didn’t want to make that his primary focus.
Landon Jr Became An Award-Winning Film Director And Producer
From an early age, Landon Jr knew that he would rather devote his time and energy into developing a career behind the camera instead of in front of it. It didn’t take him long to start writing screenplays for major studios like NBC, Disney, CBS, Hallmark, and Fox.
Nowadays, he’s been working in the film industry for more than two decades. And along his Hollywood journey, he’s produced and directed several films and has won various prestigious awards. He also got the privilege to work with his father on several projects as well. One of his most treasured memories of his career was getting the chance to work with his father on a pilot of a television show called US.
On that project, he served as an assistant cameraman. And one of the most memorable moments from that production was when his father looked at him after giving a particular performance seeking affirmation that he nailed the shot. Even though, he got to work with him for five years on Highway to Heaven and other projects. And just having that first moment where his father entrusted him with the creative process was particularly powerful for him.
In 2003, Landon Jr won three awards for his film Love Comes Softly, which he directed. He has also been honored with awards for his 2004 film Love’s Enduring Promise and 2005s Love’s Long Journey.
Landon Jr. Values His Family Life Just Like His Father
In 1987, Landon Jr married the love of his life Sharee Gregory. The couple has since welcomed three children into the world; Ashley, Brittany, and Austin.
Since 2013, Landon Jr has served as producer on the Hallmark drama series When Calls the Heart. And in 2019, he produced a Canadian television series called When Hope Calls. With the help of his business partner, Brian Bird, Landon Jr founded the production company Believe Pictures. And he has since gone on to release three feature-length films. He has also authored four novels including his latest work, Finding Mercy, which hit bookshelves in 2014.
Also in 2014, the surviving cast members of Little House on the Prairie reunited on the Today Show. Michael Landon Jr was there to represent and honor his late father.
Do you think that Michael Landon Jr has done a good job upholding his father’s legacy in the years since his death? And, have you seen any of his award-winning film productions? If so, which ones are your favorites? Let us know in the comments section below.
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