Beyond Bonanza: Lorne Greene and Michael Landon reunited 12 years later

It was a long time coming.

CBS Television Distribution

On the Ponderosa in Bonanza, Lorne Greene was a great dad. His Ben Cartwright was a natural leader. Crucially, he wasn't blinded by his own masculine bravado. He learned, adapted, and grew. Greene grew too, embracing his patriarchal role on set as well. The role fed into the actor's life, which, in turn, enriched the character. All of that was clear onscreen. Greene was a very convincing family man.

Greene was so convincing that it may have lost him a few roles over the years, according to an Associated Press interview from 1985.

One of the Cartwright boys from Bonanza, Michael Landon, would go on to further television success with Little House on the Prairie, which followed a year later. Landon wanted to share that success with his former co-star and even had a part that was perfect for the actor who used to play his father. But according to Greene, casting him in the role would've confused audiences.

"Michael called and said if we worked together people would ask, 'Why doesn't he recognize his own father?'" Greene said. "He said he wanted me to know he was thinking of me."

At the time, Greene and Landon were still so associated with those roles. Bonanza was on the air for 14 years. While that Little House opportunity never happened for Greene, it paved the way for an even more emotional reunion later. 

"When Michael started Highway to Heaven, I knew that he would call me if the right thing came up," said Greene. "And he did, and he sent me this strange, different, and wonderful script. I read it and said, 'Yeah, I think it's the one.'"

So it came to be that 12 years after Bonanza, Greene, and Landon were together again on an episode of NBC's Highway to Heaven. The episode, titled "The Smile in the Third Row," was like a homecoming for the older actor. 

"It was marvelous working with Michael again," said Greene. "And a lot of the old crew from Bonanza was working with the show. It was like old home week."

It was particularly satisfying for Greene to see how much his younger co-star had come into his own.

"He [Landon] was just a kid when we started Bonanza," said Greene. "After the show had been on four or five years he came to me and said he'd written a show he wanted to direct. I told the producer I thought it was a wonderful idea.

"Michael has a wonderful imagination and he knows how to touch people."

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8 Comments

zorob150 1 month ago
It would have been nice to have seen Landon work with Pernell Roberts and David Canary on shows outside of Bonanza or his occasional TV movies. Michael Landon did bring Mitch Vogel back for a couple episodes of Little House on the prairie.
Coldnorth zorob150 26 days ago
David Canary was very talented. Didn’t he play twins in the Soap “All My Children?”
Tresix 1 month ago
If people couldn’t figure out that Landon and Greene were playing different roles after “Bonanza”, they weren’t particularly bright.
zorob150 Tresix 1 month ago
Sadly majority of television viewers are not very bright.
Bapa1 1 month ago
Would have liked to have seen Landon on Battlestar Galactica.
Runeshaper 1 month ago
It’s very cool 😎 of Landon to keep Greene in mind like that. They just have been good friends.
WordsmithWorks 1 month ago
A still from the show with Landon and Greene would have been nice. Of course, Michael Landon reteamed with his Little House co-star Victor French. They were a great pair on Highway to Heaven.
Victor French first worked with Michael Landon on Bonanza then Little House and Highway to Heaven.
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