‘Bonanza’ Star Michael Landon Wanted to Write a Statement for Close Friend, Producer to Say at His Funeral

by Joe Rutland

“Bonanza” star Michael Landon wanted to have everything prepared before he died. That includes writing a piece for his friend, Kent McCray.

McCray, who worked as a producer with Landon on “Bonanza” and “Little House on the Prairie,” remembered Landon and what he wanted to do.

“They don’t make ’em like him anymore,” he said in an interview with the Television Academy Foundation. “He said, ‘I’m going to write something for Kent to say at my service.’ But then he said, ‘I don’t think I will do it because he’ll cry through it and I don’t want him to cry.'”

McCray also worked on “The Red Skelton Show” and “This Is Your Life.” In addition, McCray worked with comedian Bob Hope on many of his overseas USO roadshows. He died on June 3, 2018, at 89 years old.

The popular “Bonanza” actor died of pancreatic cancer in 1991.

‘Bonanza’ Producer Talks About His Friend Being a Rather Shy Person

Michael Landon did have a reputation of being quite outspoken when it came to things associated on the set of “Bonanza.”

But the man who played “Little Joe” Cartwright and Charles Ingalls happened to be opposite from his sometimes brazen attitude.

McCray said in a 2016 interview with Jeremy Roberts that Landon “was a very shy person.”

“When he was growing up in New Jersey, he had a very sad home life,” McCray said. “He would go out and play by himself in the surrounding, wooded areas.

“He’d make up stories that he was this person or that person,” he said. “He lived in a fantasy world of his own. Those experiences fast-forwarded to what he became.”

Somewhere, Landon was able to turn those harsh experiences into characters or stories for his TV series.

McCray Went Out To Find Places For ‘Little House on the Prairie’ Shoots

After “Bonanza” was canceled by NBC, McCray went on to help Landon with his next series. One of his jobs was to find the right location upon which to shoot “Little House on the Prairie” and that proved to be a difficult task.

McCray believed that he had found the perfect location. But there was one final stop to make.

The place, McCray said, was on Route 4 just outside Fairfield, Calif., in the Simi Valley. The “Little House on the Prairie” team drove out to Big Sky Ranch and spoke to the landowners. They were on board with the production team building sets on the land.

Also, the location was just an hour and a half away from Sonora, Calif. McCray said that area would be perfect for snowy scenes. That’s where the family drama was shot throughout its run on NBC.