Michael Landon was thrust into the spotlight after roles like Charles Ingalls on “Little House on the Prairie.”
Landon had also been in several other roles as well. He was Little Joe Cartwright on “Bonanza” and was Jonathan Smith in “Highway to Heaven.” He had become such a familiar face on television for starring in some of the most popular shows of his time.
In fact, he was on the cover of TV Guide 22 times, which is second only to Lucille Ball.
Did Landon enjoy all the fame from his acting career?
Michael Landon Difficult Home Life
Landon had a difficult time growing up prior to beginning his career as an actor. His mother was a popular Broadway showgirl and comedian. His father was a publicist in New York.
Michael Landon’s mother had suffered from suicidal tendencies. In a May 1985 interview with People, he called his mother a “childish person.” She was depressed and had often tried to take her own life in front of Landon. He had wanted to get away from home quickly, which is why he headed to California to pursue his acting.
Before he passed away his daughter, Cheryl Landon Wilson, promised that she would tell his story in a book. So, she wrote, “I Promised My Dad.”
A part of the book talks about Landon’s troubled childhood.
In an interview with the Chicago Tribune, Wilson said, “He had one of the most abused childhoods I`ve ever heard of. His mother was mentally unstable and often tried to commit suicide in front of him. He was a bed-wetter, and she would hang his urine-soaked sheets for everyone to see. But he problems and turned them into challenges. His childhood could have made him a terribly depressed person. Instead, he chose to live his life through the power of love. I always think of my dad as a little boy who was never quite loved enough, so he went around creating love for others.”
Anxiety and Depression
Michael Landon suffered from depression. When he was 20, he was also diagnosed with anxiety.
In an interview with the Washington Post in 1983, Landon opened up about having anxiety.
“The drugs–often as many as 50 or 60 pills every three days–were prescribed for anxiety, a condition Landon says was brought on by sudden fame at the age of 20. ‘I thought I was prepared for it, but I guess I wasn’t,'” Landon said in the interview.
He had been on “Bonzana” at a young age for 14 years and then was on “Little House on the Prairie” immediately after for 9 years.
His daughter struggled with similar issues, as well. He was working with Nancy Reagan at this time to help create “The Chemical People,” which explored teen drug and alcohol use. He opened up by saying that his daughter Cheryl had been hooked on Miltown’s like he once was.
“I suspected it during her last two years of high school. Then she went to the University of Arizona. And I used all the excuses; no matter what she told me I would believe because I wanted to believe. While she was at the university, she became more involved in drugs. Grass, alcohol, cocaine, amyl nitrate. Poppers, downers. She was in an automobile accident there and everyone was killed except her and that just gave her an excuse to do more drugs because of what she had gone through,” he said to the Washington Post.
She then overdosed and nearly died. It was a difficult time for the Landon family as they worked to help Cheryl put drug use in her past.
Landon would eventually pass away from pancreatic cancer in 1991.
H/T: Showbiz CheatSheet