Michael Landon may have gone away over 30 years ago, but his legacy certainly lives on, thanks to his acting appearances in iconic TV shows like ‘Bonanza’, ‘Little House on the Prairie’, and ‘Highway to Heaven’.
While many of us will remember him as a recognizable face on our TVs, he was also a devoted husband and loving father whose ultimate desire was to ensure he had a strong link with his children.
Perhaps his ambition to be the best dad to his children arose from Landon’s own traumatic childhood, during which his mother struggled greatly with her mental health. Landon even saved her life after she attempted suicide multiple times.
While Landon was a gifted athlete, an accident during his college years prevented him from pursuing his interests. As a result, the youngster relocated to Los Angeles to pursue a career in show business. Throughout his long career in television, he has appeared on the cover of TV Guide 22 times, a feat he shares with Lucile Ball.
Landon was married three times and had nine children. With his first wife, Dodie Levy-Fraser, he had two boys, Mark and John, through adoption. Landon had four children with his second wife, Lynn Noe: Leslie, Michael Jr., Christopher, and Shawna. He also took in Noe’s daughter, Cheryl, from a prior relationship.
His second marriage ended in divorce, and he eventually married Cindy Clerico for the third and last time. This caused significant controversy at the time because she was 20 years his junior and because many people suspected Landon of being unfaithful to his second wife with Clerico.
Landon staunchly denied this, telling People in 1985: “You don’t dissolve a relationship to go to bed with someone 20 years younger. You have to have major differences and a deep-rooted need to stop a relationship after as many years as I was married.”
Landon acquired two additional children through his third marriage, Jennifer and Matthew, despite the fact that he was already a parent to seven. And, despite having numerous children to look after, his daughter Jennifer stated in 2019 that he was “a fantastic father who was curious about everything and loved to teach the children.”
Landon died in 1991, at the age of 54, barely three months after being diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. He was, nevertheless, adored till the end, with all of his children gathering around him in his final moments.
His son, director Christopher Landon, recalled his father’s dying days the following year. He lamented how his father had become like a “son,” while Christopher played the role of “the father.”
In recent years, the filmmaker of ‘Happy Death Day’ has frequently shared condolences to his late father on social media.
Christopher, on the other hand, has not always had it easy, having revealed to his fans on social media in 2021 that he had been diagnosed with kidney cancer. In the caption of an Instagram photo of himself in a hospital bed, he wrote:“Whelp….where to start. About a week ago I was diagnosed with kidney cancer. I was rushed into emergency surgery to have part of my kidney removed…”
Fortunately, his sickness was in its early stages, and physicians were able to undertake emergency surgery to remove sections of his kidneys.
Christopher, on the other hand, advised everyone to be checked and stay on top of their health before it was too late.
It’s wonderful to see Michael Landon’s family continuing on his legacy… It’s wonderful to see!
If you enjoyed reading this story, you may be interested in Melissa Gilbert’s emotional tribute to Michael Landon on the 31st anniversary of his death.