Destiny Of Jennifer Landon: the Daughter Of Iconic Michael Landon
Beloved departed actor Michael Landon, known for his roles in "Little House in the Prairie" and "Highway to Heaven", was married 3 times and had 9 children in total throughout his life. His youngest daughter is now honoring his memory by becoming a well-respected actress herself, especially in one particular TV genre.
Michael Landon: a difficult upbringing
On October 31st, 1936, Eugene Maurice Orowitz, later known as Michael Landon, was born. His early years weren't the easiest ones, as he spent part of his childhood worried about the possibility of his mother taking his own life. Michael actually saved her once during a family vacation.
While in high school, he got a scholarship for his sports skills, which allowed him to attend the University of Southern California. His sports days would soon be over, though, after a shoulder ligament injury that forced him to stop, but he would soon develop an interest in the career that would end up defining him.
Becoming a beloved actor
While working at a gas station located next to the Warner Bros Studios, he started thinking about going into the TV business. He ended up getting the attention of Bob Raison, a talent agent, who got him his first appearance in the TV show "Telephone Time" in 1956, starring John Nesbit, Frank Baxter, and Maurice Marsac.
Two years later, in 1959, he was landing his first recurrent role on the classic TV show "Bonanza" as Little Joe Cartwright. When the show got canceled in 1973, Landon went on to star as Charles Ingalls in the show "Little House in the Prairie". Besides acting, Landon also worked as an executive producer, writer, and director for the show.
The show won several Emmys and Golden Globes throughout the years, airing for 9 seasons before being canceled in 1983. It wasn't long before Landon was starring, producing, writing and directing yet another hit show called "Highway to Heaven", which aired until 1989.
Trying new talents
In 1957, during the height of his popularity after appearing in the movie "I Was a Teenage Werewolf", Michael released a single through Candlelight Records called "Gimme a Little Kiss (Will "Ya" Huh)" / "Be Patient With Me". Some of the copies actually credited him as "Teenage Werewolf" instead of his real name.
A few years later, in 1964, Landon released another single, this time through RCA Victor Records called "Linda is Lonesome" / "Without You". All of the actor's singles have been included in a Bonanza various artists compilation by Bear Family Records.
Building the Landon clan
Although successful in his career, his love life had its ups and downs. In 1956, at 22, he married his first wife, Dodie Fraser. During the 6 year marriage, the couple would adopt 2 children: Mark and Josh. In 1963, the actor married his second wife, Marjorie Lynn Noe with whom he had 4 children.
In 1982, Michael and Lynn got divorced after his extra-marital affair with the much younger makeup artist Cindy Clerico, whom he had met on the set of "Little House on the Prairie". According to Landon, his marriage to his wife was already dissolving at the time. This situation actually led to a fall-out between Landon and actress Melissa Gilbert.
A year later, in February 4, 1983, he and Cindy were getting married. From this marriage came his 2 youngest children: Jennifer and Sean Landon. Jennifer, Landon's youngest daughter, would end up following her father's footsteps into showbiz and becoming an award-winning actress.
Growing up as a Landon
Born in 1983, Jennifer Landon is Michael Landon's second youngest child. Her mother is Cindy Clerico, the actor's third wife, and her direct and younger sibling is Sean Landon. According to her, the best role Landon ever played was as a loving father, known for always putting his kids first.
“He was just the best! That doesn’t mean we had free rein. There was a tremendous amount of respect and discipline that was implemented in our house," Jennifer told Closer Weekly. "But my dad always made things so fun, too,”
Jennifer recalled the way her father always made his kids feel like something magical was about to happen. One of her favorite childhood memories was during Easter when Landon surprised his kids by turning the snow outside their ski lodge in Colorado, bright pink.
“He had taken Nestlé Quik — which was a favorite snack of mine — blanketed the entire backyard and sent us out there with spoons! To be in snow up to your waist and just eat it like it was one big slushy was pretty amazing!” she said.
A big blow
Jennifer was only 7 years old when she took the biggest blow in her life. Out of the blue, Michael Landon was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. The disease didn't leave him any time to put his affairs in order and to prepare his family for what was about to happen. In only 3 months, Landon passed away.
The whole family grieved his loss deeply. To this day, every year, on the anniversary of his death, Jennifer and Sean get together to reminisce about the wonderful times they spent with their father. They have admitted that it was hard for them to understand how much the sudden loss of their father shaped them.
“When Dad was fighting the disease, Sean was too young to understand," Jennifer said. "I understood more. When he passed away, I suddenly saw things differently and questioned everything. I can’t say how much his death has affected me, but I know it’s a significant part of the fabric of who I am.”
Jennifer and her little brother Sean have since become advocates for the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network. They are dedicated to raising awareness and appealing for national funding for pancreatic cancer research. For them, it's a way to still feel connected to their father.
Getting into acting
Jennifer first got into acting at the early age of 5, when her father cast her on a few episodes of "Highway to Heaven". Three years later, in 1991, she would go back to working with Landon when she was cast in the pilot for the show "Us", which was meanwhile discontinued after Landon's death that same year.
After studying and graduating from Brentwood School, in Los Angeles, she moved to New York where she went on to attend New York University and get a BFA in Drama in 2005. Having grown up with such a talented and renowned actor as a father, it only seemed natural that she decided to follow his footsteps.
In 2004, while still in college, Jennifer landed her first role in an independent movie called "L.A. DJ" about two brothers from a trailer park who shared a dream of becoming famous DJs. Although initially rejected, the movie ended up being sponsored by a couple of companies for a private screening at the Sundance Film Festival.
The following year, she went back to TV to play troubled teen Gwen Norbeck Munson in the soap opera "As The World Turns", a role she would maintain for 5 years and 500 episodes, and that would earn her three Daytime Emmy Awards for Outstanding Younger Actress in 2006, 2007 and 2008.
Expanding her talents
In late 2006, while still playing Gwen in "As The World Turns", Jennifer decided to try to expand her talents, piggybacking on her character's own storyline. She recorded two singles "Slide" and "I Saw Love", which were featured in the show. Although her singing skills were appreciated, the songs didn't live up to the hype.
A blossoming career
In addition to some stage work, after leaving the show in 2010, Landon went on to land yet another recurrent role on the show "The Young and The Restless", as Heather Stevens, previously played by actresses Vail Bloom and Eden Riegel. About 5 months later, her character got written off the show, and Jennifer moved on to other roles.
She went on to appear on a couple of shorts, such as "Rabid Weight Loss" and "Every Audition You've Ever Been To Ever", and the 2015 thriller film "I Spit on Your Grave: Vengeance is Mine", before appearing as Lilith Bode, the wife of a serial killer, in the 4th season of the show "Banshee" in 2016.
The experienced soap opera actress then got another recurrent role as police officer Hillary Nelson on the show "Days of Our Lives". That same year she also appeared as Amy on the TNT series "Animal Kingdom". Most recently, you can see her in the movie "The Front Runner" and as Teeter on the show "Yellowstone".
Michael Landon was definitely one of the most beloved actors in Hollywood and his early death was deeply felt by everyone around him and his fans, but his daughter Jennifer is promising to honor her father's memory by becoming a respected actress. What are your thoughts about this? Let us know all about it in the comments section!
Sources: Closer Weekly