Do you know Michael Landon's real name?

It wasn't Joe Cartwright or Charles Ingalls.

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Lots of actors use stage names. We can't all be blessed with Hollywood-ready moniker, so many stars adopt a new one that's easier to pronounce. After all, would "Tiny Dancer" hit as hard if it was sung by a guy named Reginald? Would it be just as compelling to watch Thomas Cruise Mapother, IV in the cockpit in Top Gun? We'll never really know!

One of the many examples of a star embracing a name for show business is Bonanza's Michael Landon. Before Michael Landon was Michael Landon, he was Eugene Orowitz. Before Euguene Orowitz starred as Little Joe Cartwright, he was just a skinny high schooler in Collingswood, New Jersey. According to Camden's Courier-Post, Orowitz found salvation in a javelin with the encouragement of his school's track coach. 

"The Courier-Post gave me the greatest write-up I ever had," said Landon in '86. "I had just finished winning some meet and had the chance for the national championship. The Courier-Post article said, 'Gene Orowitz is a solidly-built kid with broadly-built shoulders and arms.' Well, when you're a skinny little kid in high school, for the girls to be reading that, it was great."

Eventually, those track and field victories brought Landon to the attention of some Hollywood talent counts. It was at their suggestion that Orowitz changed his name to "Michael Landon."

"Collingswood in those days was a very anti-Semitic town," said Landon, reflecting on his willingness to take on a new name. "I spent a lot of time alone. I can remember sitting in high school on Wednesday afternoons when everyone else went to church, and I and one or two other Jewish children had to stay in school and clean the blackboards."

It wasn't all bad though. "I think Collingswood gave me a lot of pluses," he said, "especially the people who encouraged me."

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17 Comments

KJExpress 8 months ago
Church on a Wednesday afternoon?
Kelley1 KJExpress 8 months ago
Yes, people who attend church weeknights get off work/out of school in time to wrap up the day's business and clean themselves up before going. Also, to get a bite to eat before church time. It takes a while to clean a blackboard. Evidently, they had several.
KJExpress Kelley1 8 months ago
Interesting. There was never any accommodation like that where I grew up. Maybe it's a regional thing. 🤔
justjeff 8 months ago
Don't you love the real names of the stars?

I did this before, but here's just a few examples - because if I really got into this, it would end up in the *hundreds*...

Frederick Austerlitz - Fred Astaire
Marion Michael Morrison - John Wayne
George Keefer Bessolo - George Reeves
Paul Dino Crocetti and Joseph Levitch - Dean Martin & Jerry Lewis
Leslie Robert Townes - Bob Hope
Lucille Fay LeSueur - Joan Crawford
Joe Yule, Jr. - Mickey Rooney
Emmanuel Goldenberg - Edward G. Robinson
Nathan Birnbaum - George Burns
Benjamin Kubelsky - Jack Benny
Edythe Marrenner - Susan Hayward
Johnnie Lucille Collier - Ann Miller
Krekor Ohanian - Mike Connors
John Joseph Patrick Ryan - Jack Lord
Eunice Mary Quedens - Eve Arden
Betty Joan Perske - Lauren Bacall
Constance Frances Marie Ockelman - Veronica Lake
John (or Jacob) Lincoln Freund - John Forsythe
Émilie Claudette Chauchoin - Claudette Colbert
László Löwenstein - Peter Lorre
Leonard Franklin Slye - Roy Rogers
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Bapa1 justjeff 8 months ago
There's a great book called 'Stars of David' that came out some years ago. It's about Jewish Rock n Roll musicians.
Bapa1 justjeff 8 months ago
Back in the late 40's my Dad worked at a Yiddish Theater in Chicago while he was still in high school. They weren't great friends, but he got to know a young actor named Bernie Schwartz. Who later became Stoney, I mean, Tony Curtis.
Bapa1 8 months ago
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justjeff Bapa1 8 months ago
That's pretty cool... just like how my friend Ellie (as a teenager in the late 40s) did summer stock in Boston with Leonard Nimoy...
cperrynaples 8 months ago
Yep, Little Joe was a Jewish bed wetter! He even made a TV movie about his childhood!
Bapa1 cperrynaples 8 months ago
Ben Cartwright: "Joseph, not again!?" Hop-Sing: "I'm not cleaning that!:
Bapa1 8 months ago
I might have stated this in the past. In the fall of 1974 Michael Landon was in Miami doing a promotional tour for his new show, 'Little House' His cousin, who shared his last name, taught English at my High School, and he stopped by for a visit. I only caught a glimpse of him, but my younger brother got to meet him.
justjeff Bapa1 8 months ago
Which school was that? Miami Beach Senior High?
Bapa1 justjeff 8 months ago
Miami Norland.
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