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November 09, 2021

Michael Landon Ran a Mile from School Daily to Hide the Sheets He Wet at Night

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"Bonanza" star Michael Landon endured hardships growing up, having been born into a dysfunctional family. However, he refused for his past to define him and grew up to become one of Hollywood's memorable stars.

At age 12, actor Michael Landon was a bedwetter. In February 1990, he revealed that he believed that he was the only teenager going through it, saying:

“When I was growing up in the ‘40s, we didn’t have the information available we have today.”

Pictured: Michael Landon as Charles Philip Ingalls on "Little House on the Prairie" episode 21 aired on March 6, 1978 | Photo: Getty Images

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ROUGH CHILDHOOD

As a result, he opted for countless remedies, including consuming pickled herring and saltines. Landon shared he also woke up many mornings with a dry mouth and a wet bed.

Moreover, his mother did not make the situation easier because every day he was at school in his hometown of Collingswood, New Jersey, she hung his sheets out the window.

To save himself the embarrassment from his friends, young Landon had to run a mile during his lunch break from school to go and remove a bedsheet his mom had put up.

Director and writer Michael Landon wearing a cowboy hat for his role in the TV series "Bonanza," in 1960 | Photo: Getty Images

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The filmmaker was born Eugene Maurice Orowitz in 1936 to Jewish and Catholic parents. His parents fought bitterly, creating a hostile environment.

His father's career as a movie publicist failed dismally, whereas his mother, a former actress, was suicidal. Landon was described as a thin angry child because of his upbringing.  

As a youngster, he also suffered bullying from his peers for being half-Jewish and half-Catholic. His daughter Cheryl Ann Pontrelli, 68, wrote about his traumatic childhood in her book "I Promised My Dad."

A close-up shot of American television star Michael Landon in 1990, Hollywood, California | Photo: Getty Images

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MOM'S SUICIDAL ATTEMPTS

She recalled how one of Landon's mom's suicidal attempts stood out of his memory. The family was at a beach outing once, and following an argument, his mother left and walked towards the sea.

As Landon tried to contain the situation, he looked out the window and saw his mother. He realized that she was going deeper and deeper into the ocean and rushed after her and pulled her back to safety. Landon did not even know how to swim at that point.

As his daughter mentioned, he was determined to succeed and always wanted to escape his painful experiences. While his promising sporting career took a standstill, he found love for acting.

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Cheryl Landon, daughter of the late actor Michael Landon, pictured in Studio City, California, where she was giving a lecture at CBS studios on November 6, 1999 | Photo: Getty Images

Additionally, the aspiring young athlete experienced bullying at the hands of his mom, who also bullied his dad at home. Pontrelli wrote:

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“She bullied everyone, including her husband. Dad felt his father shouldn’t have allowed such things to happen.”

According to Pontrelli, Landon believed it was way too much for his father, who eventually grew tired of it all. She further wrote that her dad spent time alone from that point onwards.

An undated headshot of filmmaker Michael Landon smiling in costume from the television series, "The Little House On The Prairie,'" | Photo: Getty Images

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FINDING HIS WAY

Pontrelli explained that he retreated more and more into isolation. He often fantasized about building his own identity away from his current reality.

Landon ensured he could escape despite experiencing difficulties in his early life, so he took part in sports and became a javelin thrower.

The sport saved him from his depressing neighborhood, and in no time, he was out to the West Coast following high school graduation. He got an athletic scholarship at the University of Southern California.

Pictured: Michael Landon starring as Charles Philip Ingalls on the TV show "Little House on the Prairie" during Season 1 | Photo: Getty Images

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Landon was at the institution for a year, during which he honed his skills and kept himself afloat by having odd jobs, per The Washington Post.

As his daughter mentioned, he was determined to succeed and always wanted to escape his painful experiences. While his promising sporting career took a standstill, he found love for acting.

Landon's first big break came when he starred as Tony in the 1957 classic horror film "I Was a Teenage Werewolf," a role which made people take notice of him.

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

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HIS CAREER

Pontrelli noted that her father did not have high expectations from the movie, even though it was a starring role that paid. After that, things started looking up for Landon, according to his firstborn.

The TV star bagged roles in films such as "High School Confidential," "God's Little Acre" (1958), and "The Legend Of Tom Dooley" (1959).

But it was his appearance on the Western TV series "Bonanza" in September 1959 that made Landon a household name. He was 22 years old at the time playing Little Joe.

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The show ran for 14 seasons, and the New York native was part of it right until his death. The TV show made Landon a force to be reckoned with in showbusiness, marking his own identity in the cutthroat entertainment industry.

He also starred as Charles Ingalls on "Little House on the Prairie" for eight years and played Jonathan Smith on "Highway to Heaven" for five years. His fans adored him for being a handsome television personality who sold the American dream. Talking about "Highway to Heaven," he said:

"There are very few shows that can, on a regular basis, give the audience a good cry. I know I can do that, and if I do it well, they will be back."

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CANCER DIAGNOSIS

Even though he managed to escape his difficult upbringing and achieved what he wanted, Landon's world was turned upside down when he was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in April 1991.

Doctors told him that the disease had already spread to his liver, but he refused to be discouraged because of it and was determined to fight. He said:

"We each have our miracles. I'm still hoping to beat it."

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HIS FINAL DAYS

Three weeks following the diagnosis, Landon spent much of his time on the 10-acre Malibu estate where he resided with his third wife, Cindy Landon, 64, whom he married in 1983, and two of his nine children, Jennifer and Sean.

There, he and his spouse researched possible cancer treatments, and on April 14, he met with oncologist Dr. Charles Simone of Lawrenceville in NJ.

Simone recommended a combination of traditional and nontraditional treatments to attack the malignancy. Then on April 18, he received his first dose of chemotherapy.

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In addition, Landon was advised to follow a plan that included healthy foods, vitamins, and exercise. As a result, he managed to pick up the weight he lost and gained more energy.

All while also spending some quality time with his extended family, including Mark, who died in May 2009, and Josh, both of whom he adopted during his first marriage with Dodie-Levy Fraser.

(L-R) Christopher Landon and date, Sean Landon, Jennifer Landon, Cindy Clerico, actor Michael Landon, Michael Landon Jr. and date, Mark Landon, Leslie Landon and Shawna Landon attend Third Annual Moonlight Roundup Benefiting Free Arts for Abused Children on July 29, 1989 at Calamigos Ranch in Malibu, California | Photo: Getty Images

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HIS PASSING

He shares Lynne Noe, Michael Jr., Leslie, Shawna, and Christopher with his second wife  – Pontrelli is Landon's daughter from a previous marriage.

Sadly, Landon died at age 54 on July 1, 1991. He showed no fear for death and chose to fight in good spirits as he stated he would not lose hope. He also said he had faith in God and family and was not scared because of his strong faith.

The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 1-800-273-8255. Other international suicide helplines can be found at befrienders.org.

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