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Michael Landon's Wife of 19 Years Made Him Her 'God' — Their Divorce Was like Death to Her

Olawale Ogunjimi
Mar 10, 2022
01:00 P.M.
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Michael Landon cheated on his first wife with Lynn Noe, whom he remained married to for nineteen years. Noe's love for the actor was so overwhelming that she made him her "God." So, when they divorced, she found it challenging to cope.

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Michael Landon tasted fame once he graduated from acting in B-list movies. His first famous appearance was in "Bonanza." He also acted in "Little House on the Prairie."

In reality, Landon was a charmer, and he always had his way with the ladies. He married three times, and his longest marriage was to Lynn Noe.

[Left] Michael Landon role playing as Charles Philip Ingalls; [Right] American actor Michael Landon kissing his ex-wife's hand, Marjorie Lynn Noe, at the opening night of singer Susan Barrett's performances at the Cocoanut Grove, Hollywood, California. | Source: Getty Images

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The couple shared nineteen years of their lives until their marriage became threatened by Landon's affair with a teenager on the set of "Little House on the Prairie."

Noe found it difficult to accept the divorce, and the affair stirred a rift between Landon and his co-stars on the show. Here is the untold truth about Landon's failed marriages, second divorce, and affair with a teen that developed into wedlock.

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

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MICHAEL'S TOUGH RELATIONSHIP WITH MOM AND MARRIAGE TO A WIDOW

Landon was born Eugene Orowitz, into a home that should have been religious—his mother was a catholic, and his father, a Jew, did not have exemplary role models.

He was the youngest of his parents who were into showbiz. Landon revealed that his childhood was full of his parent's constant arguments and fights. 

Michael Landon (1936 - 1991), in Hollywood, California, circa 1990 | Source: Getty Images

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To make matters worse, Landon's mom attempted suicide multiple times and was said to be childish.

According to him: "I always wanted to get away from my family. Mother was a childish person [who] was always attempting suicide. She would stick her head in the oven, but she always had knee pads on the floor or one window open. [In a family like that] you get to thinking, 'Gee, if it's Tuesday, it must be suicide.'"

Life at home was not the only cruelty Landon dealt with. Sadly, he was taunted in the neighborhood after his family moved from Collingwood to New Jersey due to his mother's abusive behaviors.

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

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Consequently, it affected Landon's relationship with his mother and might have played a role in his perception of women. Landon also lost his scholarship in college, so he dropped out and secured a job at a warehouse.

Thankfully, he met a friend who introduced him to TV auditions and landed a few roles on screen. At age 20, the actor settled down with his family in a Los Angeles Spanish revival house after marrying Dodie-Levy Fraser, a widow who worked as a legal secretary.  

The "Bonanza" alum adopted Fraser's son, Mark, before welcoming his child, Josh, with his wife. The couple also adopted two kids but gave up one a few years later after they divorced.

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Michael Landon wearing a cowboy hat for his role in the TV series 'Bonanza' in 1960. | Source: Getty Images.

MICHAEL LANDON'S FIRST MARRIAGE BROKE UP, SECOND MARRIAGE BEGAN

Landon's first marriage lasted two years despite his rising career, a big home, and growing family. During his first marriage, he became romantically involved with a divorced model and actress, Marjorie Lynn Noe.

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A few weeks after his divorce from Fraser, the actor eloped with his mistress, and in 1963, they became married. The couple soon created a family with Noe's daughter from a former relationship and their four biological kids, Leslie Ann, Michael Jr., Shawna Leigh, and Christopher Beau.

Landon's image as a handsome, successful actor with a desirable family—the perfect wife and kids, was derived from his nearly two-decades-long marriage to the model. 

Michael Landon with his daughter, Jennifer, and son, Sean attend "The Wizard" Universal City Premiere on December 2, 1989 at Cineplex Odeon Universal City Cinemas in Universal City, California. | Source: Getty Images

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However, it came crashing once the actor found his co-star, a teenage Cindy Clerico, attractive. She worked on the set of "Little House on the Prairie," and rumors had it that he moved from his family home to her seaside residence.

The "Bonanza" star denied the claims, adding that his family was on vacation in Spain, and neither he nor Noe had divorce in their plans. He said:

"I have moved out. Lynn and the kids are taking a vacation in Spain. We are not talking divorce."

Michael Landon and son Christopher Landon sighted at Colony Market Food Store in Malibu, California | Source: Getty Images

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The actress confirmed that they had separated. She explained they needed to review their marriage. Ultimately, a source hinted that the pair tried to work things out and had planned to renew their vows in an intimate ceremony.

In 1981, the couple proceeded with an amicable divorce costing the actor about five million dollars. However, he did not seem to care about the cost; to Landon, his love tale with Clerico superseded his past.

Two years later, Landon wedded his much younger bride in Malibu. Initially, the couple hosted not more than thirty guests during their vows, but they threw a lavish party for hundred invitees at La Scala, a fancy restaurant.

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Michael Landon attends the Hollywood Radio and Television Society's 16th Annual International Broadcasting Awards on March 4, 1976 in California | Source: Getty Images

MICHAEL'S ROMANCE WITH A TEEN AFFECTED HIS RELATIONSHIP WITH HIS CO-STARS

The "Bonanza" star's third marriage was met with mixed reactions from his co-workers on "Little House on the Prairie."

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Melissa Gilbert admitted that she noticed Landon's attentiveness towards Clerico, a makeup artist on set. But she never envisaged that it would metamorphose into a romance, referring  to Clercio as "That makeup girl."

Actor Michael Landon and wife Cindy Landon attend the Malibu Committee for Incorporation's "The Tides of March" - The First and Last Annual Malibu Right to Vote Party. March 17, 1990 | Source: Getty Images

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Gilbert maintained a polite relationship while working with him. She had been very close to the family and even traveled with them. In her words:

"I have to work with Mike. I can't take sides, yet he's done something that's turned my world into angry, opposing sides. I was put in an uncomfortable position."

In reality, she was distant; she disliked his divorce and affair. As a result, she stopped being a family friend, and it was until Landon's daughter's wedding in 1990 that they reunited.

Michael Landon, wife Cindy Landon, daughter Jennifer Landon and son Sean Landon attend the Third Annual Moonlight Roundup Extravaganza to Benefit Free Arts for Abused Children on July 29, 1989 | Source: Getty Images

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Melissa Sue Anderson, who played his daughter on screen, felt disappointed in his affair. She confessed that their relationship became unstable after. According to Anderson:

"He went in and out of favor with me occasionally. When you hold someone in such high esteem, you can't believe it when they fall. And I don't think I was the only one."

Michael Landon, wife Cindy Landon and son Sean Landon at the Moscow Circus Opening Night Performance on March 14, 1990 at the Great Western Forum in Inglewood | Source: Getty Images

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Karen Grassle's account of the whole thing was that Landon was boastful about the supplements he was taking for his sex life. She explained that:

"Mike began to arrive jubilant at the makeup table, crowing about the benefits of bee pollen for the aging male."

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

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Grassle mentioned that the cast and crew found it unbelievable that their boss's mistress was Clerico, "a nice young woman" with a likeness for "cute, colorful tops" and "tight jeans that had been made popular by "Charlie's Angels.

While commenting on the affair in her publication, Grassle wrote: "I knew his wife, I had been in their home. She had been kind to me. And I thought about her children — there were three of them still at home … and younger than Cindy… It was awkward as hell for us in the company. Everyone saw. Everyone looked away."

Michael Landon wearing a brown shirt and grey trousers, chalking a pool cue, in a publicity portrait issued for the US television series, 'Bonanza', USA, circa 1970. | Source: Getty Images

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MICHAEL AND LYNN'S VIEW ON THEIR DIVORCE

Expectedly, Landon and Lynn Noe's side of the story is different from what the public painted. While the actor's first failed marriage can be blamed on his youthful exuberance, the reason for his fallout with Noe is peculiar.

Landon claimed his divorce with Noe was not the result of an affair with Clerico. Instead, it was due to the failed attempts at rectifying the issues in their marriage. The father of five explained that he wanted a perfect home, and the divorce was tough on him. According to him:

''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.''

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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 "Little House on the Prairie" star confirmed that his ex-wife was better off after the divorce. He said Lynn is a "much happier person now than she was." Landon continued:

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"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." 

Marjorie Lynn Noe and her ex-husband Michael Landon appearing on the ABC tv special 'The Barbara Walters Special'. | Source: Getty Images

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Noe agreed with her ex-husband's assertion of being a fulfilled woman. However, after the separation, the model established her clothing business and claimed that she lacked a personal identity in their marriage. In her words:

"I was too busy being the kind of wife he wanted me to be. I lost myself little by little. Finally, I made Michael my god."

Michael Landon and , Marjorie Lynn Noe with their children Michael Landon Jr, Leslie Landon, Sean Landon and Jennifer Landon appearing on the ABC tv special 'The Barbara Walters Special'. | Source: Getty Images

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Noe refused to keep an honest, cordial relationship with her ex-husband despite the freedom and self-realization. 

They maintained communication for their children's sake, and she explained that he would have left the marriage with another woman. After his death, Noe did not attend the funeral. Instead, she told their kids that the divorce felt like death to her. 

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

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