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Michael Landon Stayed at Dying Daughter's Bedside — He Prayed & Willed Her Back to Life after Car Crash

Junie Sihlangu
Apr 27, 2022
03:40 A.M.
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Michael Landon's step-daughter got into a horrific car accident that caused him to rush to her bedside. He stayed with her and did something he usually didn't do, and people only partake in it when desperate.

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Michael Landon was born Eugene Orowitz, and he grew up in Collingswood, New Jersey. The actor was the youngest son of a Jewish father and a Catholic mother and was exposed to his parents' bitter fights.

He once confessed that he'd always wanted to escape his family. Sadly, the actor also struggled with bedwetting from a young age until his preteenage years of age 12.

Michael Landon as Joseph "Little Joe" Cartwright on episode 6 of "Bonanza" on July 25, 1960. | Source: NBC/NBCU Photo Bank/Getty Images

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Michael was one of the sufferers of the condition who thought he was the only one. He explained how growing up in the 1940s left him with no information about bedwetting like we now have.

The actor had to endure alleged remedies like eating saltines and pickled herring. However, Michael recalled waking up in the morning with a dry mouth and a wet bed, and his mother desperately wanted a solution.

Michael Landon posing in a promotional portrait in circa 1965. | Source: Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

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She decided to use an unusual method where she hung his sheets out of the window every day when Michael was at school. The young boy would run home around a mile during lunchtime and take the sheets down.

He went through this process to avoid being embarrassed in front of his school friends. His childhood experience became the premise of the movie "The Loneliest Runner."

Michael Landon posing for a photo, circa 1965. | Source: Silver Screen Collection/Getty Images

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Michael also described his mother as a childish person and mentally unstable, always attempting suicide in front of him. His upbringing left him with a lot of scars that made him confess this about his family:

“I never wanted to have a family even close to what [my parents had], and I never have."

FINDING FAME, MARRYING HIS FIRST WIFE, AND HIS KIDS

Dodie Levy-Fraser posing at home with Michael Landon and their cats, circa 1960. | Source: Archive Photos/Getty Images

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Michael failed to finish his studies and had to drop out of the University of Southern California. Still known by his birth name, the star worked at a gas station near the Warner Bros. studio.

He was discovered while pumping gas and changed his name to "Michael Landon" after picking it from a phone book. That was the beginning of his new career and how he first became successful. 

Michael Landon as Joseph "Little Joe" Cartwright on the set of "Bonanza," circa 1960. | Source: Silver Screen Collection/Getty Images

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In 1956, Michael tied the knot with a legal secretary, Dodie Levy-Fraser, who became his first wife. She had a child, Mark, then-12, from her previous relationship, and the "Bonanza" star took him as his own.

While married, the couple also adopted another son, Josh, when he was a baby. Michael and Levy-Fraser adopted a third son, Jason, when he was a week old, shortly before their divorce in 1962.

However, Jason was given up to a Texas couple after the divorce when Levy-Fraser struggled to care for the three boys on her own. The boy only found out about his famous father at ten years old.

MICHAEL'S SECOND WIFE, CHILDREN, AND DIVORCE

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Michael Landon and his wife, Marjorie Lynn Noe, at the opening night of singer Susan Barrett's performances in Hollywood, California, in November 1966: | Source: Max B. Miller/Fotos International/Getty Images

In 1963, Michael married his second wife and fellow actor, Marjorie Lynn Noe, with whom he'd had an affair while with Levy-Fraser. The actor met Noe while performing together in "Bonanza."

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During their union, Michael adopted Cheryl, Noe's daughter, from her previous marriage. The couple also welcomed four more children: Leslie, Michael Jr., Shawna, and Christopher.

Michael Jr., Leslie, Michael Sr., Sean, Marjorie Lynn Noe, and Jennifer Landon appear on "The Barbara Walters Special" on May 30, 1978. | Source: American Broadcasting Companies/Getty Images

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After 19 years of marriage, Michael and Noe's marriage ended in divorce in 1982. Some people assumed he left her because he wanted a younger woman, Cindy Clerico, whom he married after Noe and welcomed two children with her. 

The "Highway to Heaven" star said he wouldn't have dissolved a relationship to sleep with someone 20 years younger. He explained that he and Noe had "major differences and a deep-rooted need to stop a relationship" after being married for so long.

Lynn Noe and Michael Landon at the Hollywood Radio and Television Society's 16th Annual International Broadcasting Awards on March 4, 1976, in Los Angeles, California. | Source: Ron Galella/Ron Galella Collection/Getty Images

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The star confessed that he would've done all he could to make his marriage continue but couldn't. He shared how the divorce was difficult and painful for his wife and himself, but it was a better option than allowing the marriage to remain as it was. 

In 1985, Michael also insisted Noe was a "much happier person now than she was." For her part, Noe explained how she had contributed to the demise of her marriage, stating

"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.”

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After their relationship ended, she opened a Los Angeles boutique called Trio's. The actress revealed how she and Michael spoke "without talking" and was centered around conversations about who was picking up the children.

Noe shared that she wasn't bitter about Michael marrying Clerico because it would've been someone else if it hadn't been her. She said her ex-husband had just reached "that point in his life."

When Michael died, Noe refused to attend his funeral. She told her children that it had been a hard blow that made her feel like she'd already experienced death when they divorced. 

MICHAEL'S EFFORTS TO BE A GOOD DAD AND HIS CHALLENGING DAUGHTER

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Marjorie Lynn Noe, Cheryl, and Michael Landon posing for a photo on August 24, 1965. | Source: Keystone/Getty Images

Even though Michael had three adopted and six biological children, he tried to be a good parent to all of them. In 1962, he showed how much he'd loved all his children, stating:

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“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.”

Leslie Landon, Marjorie Lynn Noe, Michael Landon Sr. and Michael Landon Jr. at the 4th Annual People's Choice Awards on February 20, 1978, in Los Angeles, California. | Source: Ron Galella/Ron Galella Collection/Getty Images

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However, Noe's daughter, Cheryl, proved to be a challenge for Michael. In 1983, he confessed that he'd suspected she was using drugs from her teenage years, saying:

“I suspected it during her last two years of high school. Then she went to the University of Arizona. And I used all the excuses; no matter what she told me I would believe because I wanted to believe.”

MICHAEL ALMOST LOST CHERYL

Cheryl Landon Wilson posing for a photo in Calabasas, California on April 28, 1998. | Source: John Chapple/Online USA Inc./Getty Images

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During Cheryl's university years, she got more heavily involved in drugs. At 19, she overdosed on a combination of pills and Miltown's and nearly died before being taken to rehabilitation. 

Cheryl got into a car accident at 20 where everyone involved, except her, died, leaving her in a coma for four days. Michael believed she used the car accident as an excuse to use more drugs.

Cheryl Landon giving a lecture at CBS Studios on November 6, 1999, in Studio City, California. | Source: Andrew Shawaf/Getty Images

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She seemed to be struggling with her inner demons throughout her younger years. In 1992, Cheryl recalled how her step-father supported her while at a hospital after the car accident, recalling:

”My father willed me back to life. He sat with me for a month. After the doctors had given up on me, I remember him saying to me, 'Fight, Baby!'”

Cheryl Landon pictured in Studio City, California, where she was giving a lecture at CBS studios on November 6, 1999. | Source: Andrew Shawaf/Getty Images

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The star's step-daughter managed to pull through, but she struggled with sadness and grief. Michael once couldn't help but confess his true feelings about the struggles he had with Cheryl, stating:

“You get very guilty about some of the feelings you have about your own child, one of which is, ‘I wish she did not exist. If she didn’t exist, I wouldn’t feel all this pain.’”

Cheryl Landon giving a lecture at CBS Studios on November 6, 1999, in Studio City, California. | Source: Andrew Shawaf/Getty Images

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In July 1982, Michael told CBN how doctors had told him there was no chance of Cheryl surviving the accident. The "Little House on the Prairie" actor revealed he prayed harder than he ever did in his whole life.

With teary eyes, he shared how he made many promises in return for his daughter's life after the Tucson, Arizona, accident. The star also admitted that he wished to be able to keep the promises he made. 

In 2021, Cheryl was 69, living a quiet life away from the spotlight. She cherished Micheal until his death and honored him by writing a book, "I Promised My Dad: An Intimate Portrait of Michael Landon," that discussed their bond.

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LANDON'S THIRD WIFE, KIDS, AND BATTLE WITH CANCER

Michael, Cindy, Sean, Jennifer, and Christopher Landon at the National Down Syndrome Congress' Second Annual Celebrity Gala on October 15, 1988, in Culver City, California. | Source: Ron Galella/Ron Galella Collection/Getty Images

Michael's third wife, Clerico, was a make-up artist on "Little House on the Prairie," where he met and fell in love with her. Soon enough, it was reported the actor had moved out of his family home and into her seaside apartment.

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Sean [Landon] generally asked him [Michael Landon] what the worst thing was that he'd done as a child.

They married on Valentine's Day in 1983 at the beachfront in Malibu, with around 30 friends and family members in attendance. The reception was held for 300 people at a restaurant called La Scala.

Michael, Cindy, Jennifer, and Sean Landon at the "Gorillas in the Mist: The Story of Dian Fossey" Universal City Premiere on September 19, 1988, in California. | Source: Ron Galella/Ron Galella Collection/Getty Images

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The couple welcomed two children during their marriage; Jennifer Rachel and Sean Matthew Landon, now a successful realtor. In 2019, Jennifer, who acted on "Yellowstone," fondly recalled growing up with Michael sharing how present he had been as a father. 

She shared how the star had once watched her jump around the swimming pool nonstop for an hour. Jennifer thought he'd enjoyed the moment, admired him, and recalled how he had been "the best!"

Michael Landon photographed for "American Jr. Miss" on March 26, 1974, in Los Angeles. | Source: CBS/Getty Images

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In Michael's final interview with Life magazine, he opened up about the routine he developed with Jennifer and Sean before bed each night while battling cancer. While tucking them in, the actor allowed each one a question.

Sean generally asked him what the worst thing he'd done as a child. Jennifer asked more profound questions like if her father would die, and the star honestly confessed that he didn't know.

However, Michael comforted them by saying they would be fine without him and would miss each other, but nothing would change. He sadly died at 54 on July 1, 1991, of pancreatic cancer.

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

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