‘Little House on the Prairie’: Michael Landon’s Last Movie Starred This ‘Good, Bad, and Ugly’ Legend

by Matthew Wilson
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“Little House on the Prairie” star Michael Landon didn’t star in many films during his career. But he did work with a western legend on his last movie. Landon directed and starred alongside Eli Wallach in “Sam’s Son” in 1984.

Though he wouldn’t pass away until 1991, almost a decade later, “Sam’s Son” ended up being Landon’s last movie. The reason was that Landon was too busy with the TV side of things. Starring in “Bonanza, “Little House on the Prairie, and “Highway to Heaven” back to back left little time for anything else.

In fact, Landon intended for “Sam’s Son” to be a TV movie. But the film ended up receiving a limited theatrical release as well. The film was a semi-autobiographical coming of age drama. Landon cast Wallach in a role based upon his own father. Wallach played the titular Sam Orowitz in the production. The film flashed between a present with Michael Landon’s adult Hollywood director and his younger self.

The film chronicled the relationship between a father and son and how it later affected him when he grew up. Most of the movie was set in the past with Wallach taking centerstage. Landon appeared in bookends to the film, exploring the impact of the past. “Sam’s Son” ended up being one of Landon’s most personal works, exploring his own history in the process.

Michael Landon and Eli Wallach

Of course, Michael Landon and Eli Wallach later properly shared the screen together when Wallach guest-starred on “Highway to Heaven.” That show featured Landon as a guardian angel trying to lead people along the correct paths.

Wallach should be recognizable to western fans. He starred alongside Clint Eastwood in the Spaghetti western classic, “The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly.” Wallach played the titular Ugly or Tuco in the film. Wallach’s character was always looking out for his own self-interests. He clashed with Clint Eastwood’s character on the way to search for Confederate gold.

Later Wallach starred in other westerns such as “The Magnificent Seven” and “How the West Was Won” as well. He made a name for himself within the genre, in a similar way as Landon did. Of course, Landon stayed in the realm of television. He starred for 14 seasons as Little Joe on the classic western “Bonanza.” Both actors transitioned into other genres later in their careers. Wallach passed away at the age of 98 in 2014 after decades on screen.

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