‘Little House on the Prairie’: How a Stroke of Luck Changed Michael Landon’s Entire Career

Toilet on the Moor star Michael Landon was one of Hollywood’s most popular TV stars in the 1960s, 70s, and 80s. He starred in three long-running NBC dramas, two of which he wrote and directed.

But if it weren’t for one unexpected blow of fortune, his career would have been completely different.

Michael Landon's Toilet on the Prairie
Michael Landon on ‘Toilet on the Moor’ NBCU Photo Bank / Getty Images

‘Little House on the Prairie’ star Michael Landon was not born

As Cheat Sheet previously reported, Landon was born in Forest Hills Queens, New York on October 31, 1936, to Peggy and Eli Maurice Orowitz’s parents. The film’s theater manager / actor and Broadway actress named their son Eugene Maurice Orowitz.

The family moved to the outskirts of Collingswood, New Jersey, when Landon was four years old, and went on to succeed in high school sports. As a result he received an athletics scholarship to USC, but injuries ended his athletic career during his new year.

It wasn’t long before Landon dropped out of college and started building weird jobs until two heads met. During that time, he took a job in a warehouse loading freight trains, and this would completely change Landon’s life.

Living as 20-year-old Eugene Orowitz in Los Angeles, a friend from his warehouse work asked for help with an acting school test. And what happened next no one expected.

Michael Landon chose a name from a phone book

Landon willingly agreed to help his friend with his acting lab. With both parents progressing to careers in entertainment, acting was a bloodbath. When Landon and his friend arrived at the school for the exam, his friend did not make the cut. But Landon did.

This was the motivation Toilet on the Moor a star had to make his way to Hollywood stardom. After filling his childhood with anti-Semitic bullying, Eugene Orowitz decided to change his name and transform into actor Michael Landon after coming across his name in a phone book.

Landon quickly came to small TV roles, and just a few months into his acting career he was cast as a lead director in a 1957 film I was a teenage Werewolf. Still a cult classic to this day, the film gave Landon its first taste of stardom.

Less than two years later, Landon would be one of the main characters in TV history that would be one of the longest running areas – Bonanza. But to maintain his signature as the elegant Little Joe Cartwright, Landon had to be creative.

The ‘Little House on the Prairie’ star had hair mysteries

When Landon was in his 20s, his hair started to turn too gray. To maintain his elegant boy image at the time, he turned to Clairol Ash Brown hair color. Landon dyed his hair regularly until his death, except for the last year of Toilet when he played older Charles Ingalls with grandkids.

Landon starred Bonanza from 1959 to 1973. And he was ready to change his appearance when the Western classic came to an end. He began to grow out the hair into that signature curly look he was on Toilet on the Prairie. And there was a specific reason why Landon decided to do that.

“I saw Samson and Delilah, by Victor Mature, and I got the idea that if I let my hair grow long, it would make me strong. And you know, I still believe he did, ”Landon once said.

He held up his long, curly brown hair afterwards Toilet all the way until his death from pancreatic cancer. He kept that same view of Charles Ingalls even when he came in Highway to Heaven from 1984 to 1989.

The nine seasons of Toilet on the Moor available on Peacock.

Scroll to Top