Many of Michael Landon’s Characters Before ‘Bonanza’ Had This in Common

by Megan Molseed
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Michael Landon found his career-making roles during his time portraying Little Joe Cartwright on Bonanza and later by portraying the Ingalls family patriarch, Charles Ingalls in Little House on the Prairie. But, before these roles that made Landon a household name, the actor guest-starred on a variety of popular television shows. Many of these land within the Western genre. And, it seems young Landon had a penchant for taking on characters with one commonality: being falsely accused of crimes.

One of Michael Landon’s Early Characters Found Himself Fighting An Angry Mob While Proving His Innocence

In 1956, Michael Landon guest-starred in the classic television series, The Adventures of Jim Bowie. In this series, Landon made two separate appearances, playing two separate characters. One of which was a man accused of murder. The episode, titled Deputy Sheriff, features Michael Landon’s character facing an angry mob after facing a murder charge.

Then, in 1957, Landon took on a role as Tad Cameron in Tales of Wells Fargo. This story arc found Landon’s character – yet again – defending himself as he’s charged with a crime he did not commit.

The following year, Landon guest-starred in an episode from the anthology series Alcoa Theatre titled The Texan. In this role, Michael Landon stars alongside Star Trek’s doctor DeForest Kelley. He also costars with Gilligan’s Island favorite – the Skipper himself – Alan Hale Jr.

This role found Landon portraying a man in a situation he would be coming to know well; as his character is an innocent man facing prosecution for a crime in which he had no part.

Michael Landon Takes On A Different Version Of His Regular Story-line While Guest-Starring In Trackdown

Shortly before he took on his famous role as Bonanza’s Little Joe Cartwright, Michael Landon added to his resume two guest-starring appearances in the television western series, Trackdown. However, this appearance in this series was somewhat new for the actor. Instead of portraying a character who is accused of a crime he didn’t commit, Landon’s Trackdown role found him playing a character hoping to take the credit for murders he is not responsible for.

In Tombstone Territory Landon Works With The Sheriff To Clear His Name

Continuing a theme that has been popular in Landon’s guest-starring roles, the Little House On the Prairie star portrays a young man who seeks to join the Tombstone Territory Sherrif in solving a crime. His goal in this effort is to clear his own name. Because – you guessed it – it’s a crime he did not commit.

Finally, Michael Landon stepped into the iconic western series, The Rifleman for two prolific guest-starring roles. In his first run on the series, Landon’s character is an outlaw who saves the life of one of the stars while staying at the McCain ranch. However, in his second guest-starring role in the series, plays – get ready for it – a man facing charges for a murder he did not commit.

This was the actor’s final guest appearance gig before he took up residence at the Cartwright ranch in Bonanza. This hit series premiered just months after Landon’s final guest-starring run on Rifleman.

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