‘Bonanza’ Star Michael Landon Played Two Different Outlaws in ‘Trackdown’

by Megan Molseed

A few years before the iconic classic television western series Bonanza hit the airwaves, another western series was taking the genre by storm. This series, called Trackdown follows Robert Culp’s Hoby Gilman as a Texas Ranger tracking down criminals in the old west. From killers to bank robbers or horse thieves, Ranger Gilman and his Trackdown team hunted them all. Including two criminals portrayed by the same man – the soon-to-be Bonanza star, Michael Landon.

Bonanza’s Michael Landon Takes On Dual Roles In Western Series Trackdown

Michael Landon’s western legacy no doubt lies in his portrayal of Bonanza’s Little Joe Cartwright. However, by the time Landon took on this iconic role, he already had plenty of experience with the genre. Just a year before the start of his turn as Little Joe Cartwright, Landon portrays two villainous characters on Trackdown.

In the 1958 episode titled Pueblo Kid, Landon portrays the episode’s title character. This episode sees Landon’s “Pueblo Kid” seeking to take credit for several crimes he didn’t commit, even murders.

Later that same year, Michael Landon portrays Jack Summers, a convicted killer who has recently been released. Summers is intent on seeking revenge for his brother’s death. And it’s up to Hoby to stop the convict in his tracks.

Landon Discusses His Unprecedented Success With Regis and Kathie Lee

Prior to taking up residency on the Cartwright ranch, Michael Landon landed roles in 11 westerns. However, Landon’s career spanned well beyond these gigs. After his 14-year gig on Bonanza, Landon landed several other roles. In total, the successful star is featured in 57 projects.

During a 1989 interview with Regis and Kathie Lee Landon discusses this success, noting that his choice of projects had a lot to do with his success. And, the actor notes, luck likely had something to do with it as well.

“I think a lot of it has to do with, probably, picking the right material, first of all,” Michael Landon tells the daytime talk-show hosts, before adding “a great deal of it has to do with luck.”

However, the television hosts note that Landon’s talent plays a big part in this success. Along with the actor’s ability to understand what it is that his audiences want to see.

“I think that has a lot to do with it,” Landon responds in the interview, noting that his roles depicting characters outside of a hustling and bustling metropolis have certainly found plenty of success.

“People tend to think that it’s just New York and Los Angeles,” Landon adds. “And there’s a lot more to this country than that.”