When you can get Michael Landon of “Bonanza” and Tina Louise of “Gilligan’s Island” in a movie together, then it must be a great backstory.
Landon and Louise costarred in the 1958 film “God’s Little Acre.” In it, both actors play roles very divergent from their TV personas. Louise portrays Griselda, who cheats on her husband Buck by having an affair with Ty Ty Walden’s son-in-law Will, played by Aldo Ray.
Landon portrays Dave Dawson, an albino man who has white hair and pink eyes. He’s imprisoned wrongfully Ty Ty Walden, played by Robert Ryan. Ty Ty believed that having an albino with him would bring him good luck in his never-ending search for gold on his plot of land in Georgia.
‘Bonanza’ Awaited Landon, While ‘Gilligan’s Island’ Awaited Louise
“God’s Little Acre” focuses on Ty Ty and his sons Jim, Shaw, and Buck always looking for gold that was allegedly buried on their land by Ty Ty’s grandfather. But there are a lot of forces, including poverty and alcohol, pulling the family apart.
Where does the movie’s name come from, you ask? In the movie, Ty Ty uses a divining rod and makes a claim that the gold he’s been trying to find forever is in a next-door church’s plot. Thereby, that space is termed “God’s Little Acre.”
One year after this movie was released, in 1959, Landon would find himself on the Ponderosa playing “Little Joe” Cartwright on “Bonanza.” Louise, in 1964, started a three-season run as movie star Ginger Grant on “Gilligan’s Island.”
Movie Also Provided Platform For Three Additional Actors
It’s interesting to note three other actors who had roles in “God’s Little Acre” would go on to future success. Actor-comedian Buddy Hackett played Pluto Swint. Hackett was a regular in nightclubs from Los Angeles to Las Vegas to New York. He also had another memorable film role in the movie version of “The Music Man.”
Jack Lord played Buck Walden. Now if that name isn’t familiar to you, then think of Steve McGarrett and “Hawaii Five-O” for a minute. Yep, Lord played the lead role on the CBS drama throughout its entire original run.
Vic Morrow played Shaw Walden. Now Morrow gained recognition for his role in the ABC series “Combat!”, where he played Sergeant “Chip” Saunders. Sadly, Morrow died in 1982 as he and two child actors were killed in a helicopter crash on the set of “Twilight Zone: The Movie.”
Michael Landon Wrote, Directed ‘Bonanza’ Series Finale
Landon, along with costar Lorne Greene, was on “Bonanza” all the way from its start in 1959 to its final show in 1973. He took the reins as writer and director of that last episode called “The Hunter.”
In that show, Landon, as “Little Joe” Cartwright, meets up with Corporal Bill Tanner. Now Tanner, played by Tom Skerritt, is all messed up in the head due to the war. He is a man who enjoys stalking victims before killing them.
The popular NBC Western show found itself floundering after the death of actor Dan Blocker in 1972. Sadly, “Bonanza” attempted to fill the hole left by Blocker’s passing. It didn’t work and “Bonanza” soon found itself off the air.