Michael Landon was well liked by his huge family and cherished both his biological and adopted boys. Jason, one of his sons, regrettably never got to feel a father’s love, and he was never told why he had been rejected.
As the frontier father-knows-best on “Little House on the Prairie” and Little Joe Cartwright on the classic western television series “Bonanza,” Michael Landon rose to fame.
Landon received a Golden Globe for the drama series, while the program itself received numerous honors, including four Emmy wins and 16 nominations. Nevertheless, he managed to lead a rather low-key personal life despite his prominence.
Nine kids were born to Landon’s three marriages. He adopted Fraser’s 12-year-old son Mark from her previous marriage when he wed Dodie Levy Fraser, a legal secretary who was six years his senior.
Josh was soon adopted by the couple as a baby. Unfortunately, Fraser’s marriage was in trouble, so in an effort to save it, she adopted Jason, a third son, in May 1961. The couple eventually separated ten months later because their marriage had deteriorated too far.
Following their divorce in 1962, actress Marjorie Lynn Noe became Landon’s second wife. She also had a child from a previous marriage named Cheryl, who Landon was happy to adopt.
With Landon, Christopher, Shawna, Michael Jr., and Leslie, Noe later had four more children. They were married for almost 20 years before divorcing in 1982.
Landon wed Cindy Clerico, his third wife, in the same year. Melissa Gilbert and other cast members of “Little House on the Prairie” used Cindy as their makeup artist. Landon had two more kids, Sean and Jennifer, with Clerico.
He set some of the Landon kids on the right path. Mark, for example, starred in “Goodbye America.” Sadly, he passed away in West Hollywood in 2009.
Christopher is a screenwriter who much loves writing over performing, despite having appeared in movie scenes since he was a little child. Michael Jr., Landon’s son, is both a producer and a director.
While the majority of Landon’s children did well in life, Landon had trouble raising Cheryl since she had a brief drug addiction incident in her late teens. Landon frequently remembered wanting Cheryl did not exist, as Newsner writes:
“I wouldn’t be in this much anguish if she didn’t exist.”
Landon would carry the shame of his thoughts for years to come, even though Cheryl did finally enter rehab and come out clean. But they had a terrific relationship, and Cheryl loved her father until he passed away.
Fraser was granted custody of their three children after Landon and Fraser got divorced, but she found it difficult to raise them all by herself. Fraser ultimately discovered a Texas couple named Bill and Alma Smith who were empty nesters through her hairdresser, Mary Ethel Sharknock.
They drove to Los Angeles to meet Jason because they wanted to giggle like children in their golden years. Soon after they got there, Fraser drove over to Sharknock’s house, strutted over the lawn, gave Alma Jason, who was three years old, and then he drove off.
Smith’s daughter, Dorothy, claimed that “Dodie just gave Jason away.” He had trouble speaking during his first few days of living with her parents, she recalled. She revealed: “He couldn’t even form complete phrases when he first arrived. When pointing at Mother, he would say, “Dress. Pretty.” I recall that he never addressed his parents and that he never sobbed for them.”
Dorothy described Jason’s fascination with the lights as though he had lived all his life in the dark. Jason had only hazy recollections of his early years. He remembered that they had a dog and that as a youngster, he cherished time spent in a sandbox.
Jason also remembered “a man…someone throwing me up in the air and catching me…tall, dark hair” from his distant past. Up until Bill’s passing cut short his boyhood delight, Jason’s time with the Smiths was a generally joyful time in his life.
A few weeks later, Jason was completely shocked to realize that Landon had adopted him. Jason gradually started piecing together the reality of the Landons’ rejection of him throughout the years. He stated to People in a trembling voice:
“The truth is that I was essentially handed over, to put it simply. However, I genuinely don’t understand the catalyst.”
When Jason was younger, the family doctor made a remark about Landon “getting females pregnant,” which led everyone to believe for a long time that Jason was Landon’s real kid.
When Jason’s classmates learned about this, they started dubbing him “Little Joe” as a form of teasing. Jason was therefore taken aback when his, if half-hearted, attempts to contact Landon and Fraser went unanswered.
When he discovered that Landon had cancer, he made one final attempt to get in touch. Through a friend, he wrote the Landons a letter, but neither of them responded. Jason thought:
“I had no desire for his cash. I only wanted to meet him and speak with him.”
Fraser, who remarried in 1976, declined to offer any insight into Jason’s predicament. According to a statement made by her son Josh, Jason had only recently joined the family at the time of his parents’ divorce.
Finding him a more long-term family situation had seemed more considerate. Landon was definitely fond of Jason, despite his silence on his situation.
He apparently knew a great deal about Jason, almost as if his son’s information had been sent to him directly. Landon never spoke to Jason before he passed away. And the young man longingly considered how things might have turned out differently. He stated:
I frequently consider what it might have been like to live my entire life as Jason Landon.
One of the most beloved actors in history passed away in 1991. However, his family was hardest hit. Landon had disclosed his pancreatic cancer diagnosis three months before to his tragic death.
Leslie, his daughter, who Landon had only married a few months previously, would recall that dad had displayed early signals. In the months before to the diagnosis, he frequently ignored his severe stomach symptoms in the hopes that they would go away.
Sadly, his condition rapidly declined, and a month after the diagnosis, the pancreatic tumor doubled in size and migrated to his liver, rendering it deadly and inoperable. He passed away in July 1991, and his wife Clerico was by his side.
In the Culver City, California cemetery Hillside Memorial Park, his family interred him in a private family mausoleum. The most important lesson learned from Leslie’s dad’s passing, in her opinion, is to always put one’s health first. She revealed: “We kids act in the other way because we are aware of how my dad’s health has been. Something doesn’t seem right, let’s investigate, we say.”
All of his children were eligible to earn 8–10 million dollars after his passing. In spite of this, Jason had no intention of asking the family for money during their time of grief.
Reading the letters Landon had left behind and attending counseling once a week helped Clerico and her children adjust and help them stay “strong and solid.”
With plans to repair it and subsequently move in, Clerico paid $7.5 million for a stunning seaside house in Malibu in 2015. Even yet, once the repairs were finished, she found it difficult to part with all the memories she had shared with Landon. She said to Forbes:
When it came time to move, I realized I wasn’t ready to sell and leave the house Michael and I built together—where children were raised—because I had every intention of doing so.
With the assistance of her son Sean, a Coldwell Banker listing agent, she ultimately listed her recently remodeled property for sale in 2018 for $18 million. It was a beachfront home with five bedrooms, six bathrooms, and a breathtaking ocean view.