‘Little House on the Prairie’: One ‘Bonanza’ Star Joined Michael Landon on Show as a Guest Star

by Jennifer Shea

“Mitch Vogel” may not ring a bell today. But he was a very successful young actor in the late 1960s and early 1970s. He played Jamie Hunter on “Bonanza” and Johnny Johnson on “Little House on the Prairie.” And Lucille Ball fans may recognize him as one of the actress’s children from the comedy “Yours, Mine and Ours.”

Producers brought Vogel onto “Bonanza” because they decided Michael Landon, who was 34 at that point, was getting a bit old to be parented by the character of Ben Cartwright. So they cast Vogel as Jamie, an orphan the Cartwrights take in and ultimately adopt, per IMDb.

“Bonanza” wound down in 1972. However, Vogel became friends with Landon. And he later joined Landon on “Little House on the Prairie.”

Vogel Played Johnny Johnson on ‘Little House on the Prairie’

Vogel first appeared on “Little House on the Prairie” in Season 1, Episode 5, “The Love of Johnny Johnson.” He becomes the object of a fight between the Ingalls sisters when Laura Ingalls (Melissa Gilbert) develops a crush on him. But Vogel’s character, Johnny Johnson, sees Laura as a little girl. He is only interested in Mary (Melissa Sue Anderson).

The young actor next appeared in Season 1, Episode 23, “To See the World.” In that episode, Johnny Johnson grows ambitious from tall tales of travel and adventure, so he heads out to see the world. Mr. Edwards accompanies him, hoping to protect him from dangerous characters and persuade him to go back home.

That was the extent of Vogel’s role on “Little House on the Prairie.” He went on to act in several Disney films. But when he hit his 20s, Vogel decided to abandon his acting career for a more private life. He still lives in Southern California and is married with two daughters, according to IMDb.

Landon Wore Many Hats on the Show

Landon was deeply involved in the creative decision-making for “Little House on the Prairie,” serving as executive producer, writer, director and actor, according to LittleHouseonthePrairie.com. So it was easy for Landon to cast Vogel as Johnny Johnson on the show.

Landon reportedly was a bit of a perfectionist. He often held up the production process to criticize writing or directing that was not up to his standards.

However, the show went on to win Primetime Emmy Awards for Outstanding Cinematography and the Spur Award from Western Writers of America for Best TV Script, among others. So it looks like Landon’s perfectionism paid off.