Why ‘Bonanza’ Icon Michael Landon ‘Always Wanted to Get Away’ from His Family

by Madison Miller
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Michael Landon was known for being the wholesome dad on “Little House on the Prairie” and as family man Little Joe Cartwright on “Bonanza.”

Despite his acting career leading him to several roles gravitating around picture-perfect family life, Landon didn’t necessarily have the healthiest relationship with his family as a young boy.

Michael Landon Drug Dependency

Over the course of his life, Landon got married three times and was the father of nine children. At the height of his fame, news outlets would share images of the husband and dad out spending time with his family on his 10-acre ranch in Malibu. He created a huge family and always sought out relationships, which may partially be due to his troubled childhood.

The “Bonanza” star was born in Collingswood, New Jersey as Eugene Orowitz. He was the youngest son in the family and his mother was Catholic and his father was Jewish. According to a 1985 article from People, his mother and father made it a habit to fight in front of their kids.

So much so that Landon made it his mission to get away and start a new life when he was old enough.

“I always wanted to get away from my family,” Landon said at the time. He called his mother a “childish person [who] was always attempting suicide. She would stick her head in the oven but she always had kneepads on the floor, or one window open. [In a family like that] you get to thinking, ‘Gee, if it’s Tuesday it must be suicide.'”

Not to mention, Landon was also teased in school for being skinny and shy. He would then eventually attempt a singing career, but that was short-lived. He also attended USC for one year before dropping out.

His life would drastically change after his many small parts in movies led to his role in “Bonanza.”

In fact, the stress of it all was so much that he developed a drug dependency for tranquilizers.

The ‘Bonanza’ Actor’s Costars Speak Out About His ‘Anxiety’

Some of his fellow co-stars would often speak on Michael Landon’s tendency to get upset on the set. Melissa Sue Anderson, who starred as Mary Ingalls on “Little House on the Prairie,” once wrote about Landon’s story. It’s in her memoir called “The Way I See It: A Look Back at My Life on Little House.”

She explained that he would often be controlling and mean at work. He also had the tendency to tease people “publicly and relentlessly.”

“I’ve said that Mike was insecure. Perhaps The Loneliest Runner explains why. … He grew up in an environment fraught with anxiety and cruelty. … I directly attribute this behavior to the way he grew up. I certainly don’t think anyone comes out of a childhood like that unscathed and without serious trauma to the psyche,” she wrote.

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