From Little Joe to Little House: How Michael Landon redefined fatherhood on television

Landon took lessons from Lorne Greene in breaking TV Dad stereotypes

CBS Television Distribution

Michael Landon was in some of TV's most famous families, so he's an authority on the subject. On Bonanza, Landon was one of the Cartwright sons. As Little Joe, Landon had a front-row seat to one of television's greatest fathers, Ben Cartwright, as played by Lorne Greene. When Bonanza ended after 14 years, Landon joined the cast of Little House on the Prairie, where he was now the patriarch of his own TV family.

Landon understood what it took to make a great dad. Crucially, he understood the way the father must push past the stereotypical image of what it is to be a dad.

In a 1971 interview with The Memphis Press-Scimitar, Landon offered his opinion about Lorne Greene and what he represented as the father of the Cartwright clan on Bonanza

"It's easy to think that Lorne, who looks like the great father of us all, is all knowledgeable. But in fact, he is one of the most trusting, most loveable, most naive guys I know. I love him."

Landon understood deeply how best to embody a father in his later series, Little House on the Prairie. He spoke on the importance of portraying an emotionally open dad.

"It's important for little boys — and little girls, too — to see that Dad isn't all marble rock and strength. It's a great release for people to cry sometimes and to care about somebody other than yourself."

To see such clear emotion from a man, especially in a prairie setting, was super meaningful in the 1970s. The strong, silent Western hero had long pervaded pop culture. Landon knew it was time for a homesteader with some emotional maturity. 

Watch Bonanza on MeTV!

Monday - Saturday at 2 PM

*available in most MeTV markets
Are you sure you want to delete this comment?
Close

5 Comments

JHP 1 month ago
from what I read on the internet...I need more salt...but Landon had a bit of Otis Campbell in him
327053 1 month ago
Growing up I always said Michael Landon and my dad were the same person. Both hard working and always putting family first. Yesterday morning my father passed in his sleep and I will always treasure our moments and memories together. No matter what job we have and how many hours a day we work, we will never work as hard as our fathers did. Until we meet in Paradise 🙏🏻❤️
MrsPhilHarris 327053 1 month ago
Sorry for your loss.
327053 MrsPhilHarris 1 month ago
Thank you 🙏🏻
Runeshaper 1 month ago
Papa Cartwright was a solid role model for a good father. Seems like Landon knew that too.

On a different note, I believe that it's important for parents to show emotion and encourage their kids to come to them when they're sad, happy, etc. That's the kind of dad I'm striving to be (-:
Are you sure you want to delete this comment?