Michael Landon married thrice and had nine kids during his lifetime. He passed away in 1991 from cancer.
Actor Michael Landon was known for his charming looks and family man image. The Little House on the Prairie actor wooed many fans and women during his life, which ended in 1991 when he was only 54. Born as Eugene Maurice Orowitz to a Jewish dad and Roman Catholic mother, he was a lonely child growing up because of the stigma he faced as a half-Jewish person.
Both his parents were in the show business from before he was born. His father, Eli, was an actor, publicist, and movie theater manager, and his mom was Broadway actress/comedienne Peggy O’Neill. When he was young, his family moved from New York to Collingswood, a suburban south New Jersey town, where he was subjected to cruel taunts, according to INSP. He had a tough childhood owing to his mother's abusive nature.
He moved to California for college but couldn't keep his scholarships and eventually had to drop out. He started working in a warehouse, where he met someone who took him to his first audition. From there on, he got a few TV roles before landing I Was a Teenage Werewolf. He got married in 1956 at the age of 20 to a widowed legal secretary named Dodie Levy-Fraser. She had a child, Mark, whom he adopted, and they had a son, Josh, in 1960.
However, that's also when his marriage began to fall apart. He started seeing divorced model and actress, Marjorie Lynn Noe. Two years later, he and Levy-Fraser parted ways, and only a month after their divorce was finalized, Landon and Noe eloped. From this marriage, he gained a daughter, Cheryl, from Noe's previous marriage, and the couple had four kids, Leslie Ann, Michael, Jr., Shawna Leigh, and Christopher Beau.
Their marriage lasted for 19 years, and similar to his first marriage, he started having an affair while married. He met Cindy Clerico, who became his third wife, while she worked as a stand-in on Little House on the Prairie, as per CheatSheet. While his behavior alarmed his colleagues, he kept dating her openly even though she was 20 years younger than him.
Eventually, he divorced his second wife and only a year later, married Clerico. He defended his third marriage in 1985 to People Magazine saying, "You don’t dissolve a relationship to go to bed with someone 20 years younger. You have to have major differences and a deep-rooted need to stop a relationship after as many years as I was married. I would have done anything to make that relationship continue, but I could not. It’s not just difficult for the wife. It is painful for the husband too. But it is far better than letting it stay the way it was." He added that his ex is a "much happier person now than she was."
She also sort of agreed with her ex. "I was too busy being the kind of wife he wanted me to be. I lost myself little by little. I made Michael my god," she said. After the divorce, she started her own business, an L.A. boutique called Trio’s.
She also said that they were co-parenting back then. "We speak without talking. Our conversation consists of, ‘When will you pick up the children?'" She wasn't even angry with his third wife. "If it hadn’t been Cindy, it would have been somebody. He had reached that point in his life," she added.
Clerico and Landon had one child, Jennifer, together. Regardless of his reputation as a husband, he was appreciated as a father. When talking about her relationship with her husband, Clerico had said, "I give him his leeway and, in return, I get mine too." They remained married until his death from cancer in 1991.
The Bonanza actor made sure to never have a marriage like his parents, who fought every day. "I never wanted to have a family even close to what [my parents had], and I never have," he told People Magazine.
Cover image source: Getty Images | Photo by (L) NBC Television, (R) Jerod Harris