Michael Landon is a bona fide television icon. He starred in some of the biggest shows in TV history. He was Little Joe Cartwright in Bonanza. That show ran for fourteen seasons and is the second-longest-running western ever aired. Landon was there for the whole show. Then, he went on to produce and star in Little House on the Prairie. Landon served as a writer as well as the director for many episodes of the classic show. So, it’s no surprise that his name is now synonymous with both of those classic series.
However, the star of Bonanza and Little House on the Prairie was not born Michael Landon. When he was a boy, growing up in Forest Hills, Queens, New York, peopled called him Eugene. Landon’s real name was Eugene Maurice Orowitz. However, he knew that if he wanted to break into acting, he had to have a catchier name. So, he picked one and submitted it to the Screen Actors Guild. They rejected it because it was already taken.
Michael Landon’s First Choice For A Stage Name
The young Eugene Orowitz wanted to be known as Michael Lane. However, that name was already taken. A wrestler-turned-actor was already working in film and television under the name Mike Lane. But, the two would never be confused for one another.
Landon stood at 5’11” and weighed in at about 175 pounds. Mike Lane, however, was 6’8” and tipped the scale at 275, according to MeTV. He was a big muscular guy known for playing heavy characters. For instance, he played Frank N Stein on the Saturday morning series Monster Squad. His build made him a perfect fit for the role. Michael Landon, on the other hand, couldn’t have pulled off a Frankenstein’s monster role if his life depended on it. However, what he lacked in size he more than made up for in charm and talent.
Michael Landon and Mike Lane never appeared on screen together. Nor did they appear on the same shows. However, there is some genre overlap. For instance, Lane made an appearance on Gunsmoke. That show was the only western to run longer than Bonanza.
Landon and Lane also made their big-screen debut in the same year. Michael Landon’s first film role was an uncredited one in a 1956 film called These Wilder Years, according to his IMDb. Lane’s debut was in The Harder They Fall in the same year. He played Toro Moreno, per IMDb.
In the end, it seems like Michael Landon did just fine for himself even without the name he wanted. He will forever be remembered as Little Joe and Pa Ingalls. He passed away in 1991 at the age of 54.
Mike Lane, best known for his roles in The Harder They Fall and Demon Keeper (1994) passed away in 2015. He was 82.