Michael Landon's Legacy: What We Know about His Nine Children

Odette Odendaal
Aug 30, 2019
10:03 A.M.
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Best known for his role in "Little House on the Prairie," actor Michael Landon often portrayed friendly men driven by family values. In real life, Michael had a big family of nine children from three marriages.


During Michael Landon's early years of stardom, two years before he got cast as Little Joe in "Bonanza," the actor married his first wife, Dodie Fraser on March 11, 1956.

Michael Landon poses with the People's Choice Award during a 1989 Beverly Hills, California, photo portrait session. | Source: Getty Images.


By then, Dodie's son from her previous marriage, Mark had turned 12 years old, and Michael adopted him along with another infant boy named Josh born on February 11, 1960, four years later.

The actor's marriage to the legal secretary six years his senior fell apart two years later, and they divorced on December 1, 1962.


Following in Michael's footsteps, Mark became an actor, known for his roles in "Double Edge" in 1986, the 1991 film "Us," and "Goodbye America" in 1997.

US actor, director and writer Michael Landon wearing a cowboy hat for his role in the TV series 'Bonanza' in 1960. | Source: Getty Images.


Sadly, at the age of 60, Mark died at his West Hollywood home in California on May 11, 2009, from unknown causes. Sgt. David Infante from the Los Angeles County sheriff's office confirmed no evidence of foul play.

“I hate it when someone calls [Josh and Jason] ‘adopted’…. They’re my sons—period. Not my ‘adopted sons.’ They’re my sons, and I’m their father until they die—or I die,” Michael said in 1962. With Josh still a baby, Dodie decided to adopt a third child, but it didn't save her marriage to Michael. After getting custody over all three children following the divorce, Dodie decided for unknown reasons not to follow through on the adoption of Jason.



US actor, director and writer Michael Landon, who plays a leading role in the TV series 'Bonanza', with his wife Lynn and their young daughter in August 1965. | Source: Getty Images.

The year following his divorce from Dodie, Michael married Lynn Noe on January 12, 1963. Shortly after, Lynn gave birth to their first child and daughter, Leslie Ann Landon on October 11, 1963. Two years later the couple welcomed their second child, Michael Graham Landon on June 20, 1965. 


Six years later Shawna Leigh Landon joined the family after being born on December 1971, followed by Christopher Beau Landon's birth on February 27, 1975.

Leslie Ann also became an actress known for her appearances in "Little House on the Prairie" alongside her father, "Father Murphy" in 1981, followed by "Little House: The Last Farewell" three years later. 

Leslie Landon in "Little House on the Prairie" in 1977. | Source: Wikipedia.


Having overcome her struggles with bulimia during her early 20s, Leslie graduated from the University of Southern California with a Ph.D. in psychology. She officially switched careers to become a family therapist, specializing in children dealing with loss since November 1999.

Michael Graham, or Michael Jr. as he is known, grew up to become a director and producer known for his work on "Jamaa" in 2011, the television movie "When Calls the Heart" two years later, and its television series counterpart in 2014.

During his earlier years, Michael Jr. also starred as an actor in "Little House on the Prairie," "Superboy," and "Bonanza: Under Attack."


With his wife since December 1987, actress Sharee Gregory, Michael Jr. has three children, Ashley, Brittany, and Austin.

Executive producer Michael Landon, Jr., attends Hallmark Channel & Hallmark Movie Channel's 2014 Winter TCA Party at The Huntington Library and Gardens on January 11, 2014, in San Marino, California. | Source: Getty Images.


Shawna Leigh and Christopher Beau both went into the entertainment industry as well. While Shawna became known for her starring in "Michael Landon: Memories with Laughter and Love" in 1991, and "Little House on the Prairie," Christopher became a writer and producer.

After graduating from Beverly Hills High and Loyola Marymount University, Christopher wrote Larry Clark's "Another Day in Paradise" at 19 years of age, followed by "Blood and Chocolate." However, Christopher's big break came after he moved from Los Angeles to Austin, Texas, when he wrote the script for "Disturbia."

Quickly snatched up by Montecito Pictures, DreamWorks brought it to the screen where it spent three weeks at No. 1. Following its release and earned almost $80 million domestically.


Christopher B. Landon arrives at Paramount Pictures' premiere of "Disturbia" at the Mann Chinese Theatre on April 4, 2007, in Hollywood, California. | Source: Getty Images.

Since then, spurred on by his career success, Christopher came out as gay at the age of 24, and also became known for his work on "Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones" in 2014, followed by "Scouts Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse" the following year, and "Happy Death Day 2U" in 2019.



The actor's affair with the former make-up artist, Cindy Clerico close to the end of "Little House on the Prairie" broke up his eighteen-year marriage to Lynn. Michael then married Cindy on February 14, 1983, a year after his divorce from Lynn.

Later that year, Michael and Cindy welcomed their first child together, Jennifer Rachel on August 29, 1983, followed by the birth of their son, Sean Matthew on June 1986. Michael also became stepfather to Cindy's daughter, Cheryl Ann Pontrelli.

Jennifer Landon attends the New York premiere of 'The Front Runner' at the Museum of Modern Art on October 30, 2018, in New York City. | Source: Getty Images.


Jennifer got her first acting role aged five on "Highway to Heaven" alongside her father, but her real break into acting only came while she studied drama at NYU. A friend of Jennifer, who worked at Lionsgate introduced her to a manager, and she got acting jobs straight away.

Soon Jennifer's breakthrough role as Gwen Norbeck in "As The World Turns" followed, while the actress also got known for her roles in "House M.D." and "Animal Kingdom" in 2016.

During an interview after snagging a role in "Animal Kingdom," Jennifer recalled her favorite memory of her father, Michael Landon while on a ski trip.

"Dad woke us up and said, 'Come on! Let’s go!' He put our ski stuff on; we went downstairs, he opened up the backyard door, and the snow went up to my waist. At three or four years old, I didn’t know how high that was, but I walked outside, and all the fresh snow was pink … completely pink," Jennifer said.


American actor Michael Landon, Hollywood, California, circa 1990. | Source: Getty Images.

Michael had taken Jennifer's favorite forbidden food by her mother, Nestle's Quik strawberry powder, and covered the backyard in it. "He walked both of us out there waist deep in pink snow with spoons, and we were eating it. That was one of the peak moments of my entire life. It was magic," Jennifer added.


Sean has similarly fond memories of time spent with their father and recalled how he used to treat him with sweets. “Dad would take me along on his errands occasionally, and he’d buy me marshmallows and candy, which was a huge treat because my mom was super healthy and made sure we ate only nutritious food. He’d say, ‘Now, don’t tell your mother!’ and of course the first thing I’d do when we got back home was to tell her,” Sean said.


Michael got diagnosed with pancreatic cancer early in 1991 with Sean four years old and Jennifer aged seven. Sadly Michael passed away a few months later on July 1, 1991.


Headshot of American actor Michael Landon smiling in costume from the television series, "The Little House On The Prairie." | Source: Getty Images.

While Sean became a real estate developer, he remembered his father's playful and fun side, being too young to understand his fame or the severity of the disease before he died. “When Dad was fighting the disease, Sean was too young to understand. I understood more; I knew if he was doing well or not well on any given day. When he passed away, I suddenly saw things differently and questioned everything," Jennifer elaborated.


Every year it is typical for the family to come together on the death of Michael's anniversary and reminisce about the unique things they remember about him. “We miss everything about Dad,” Leslie told PEOPLE. “There isn’t a day goes by when I don’t think of him.”

US actor, director and writer Michael Landon dressed for his role in the TV series "Bonanza" in 1960. | Source: Getty Images.


But Leslie also learned that grief comes unexpectedly as she added, “It comes in waves, and it will hit you when you don’t expect it, a picture, a song, a movie.” 

To cope with the loss of her husband Cindy got into a routine of getting things done while they all go to therapy as well. “I get up in the morning, and I take my kids to school. Sometimes I go to the gym. I go to therapy once a week. My kids go to therapy," Cindy told PEOPLE.

While the death of Michael Landon hit the family hard, it took almost a year before Chris could publically talk about the last day he spent with his father.