LITTLE HOUSE ON THE PRAIRIE’s Michael Landon: ‘God Sees to It’
By Movieguide® Staff
Note: This story is part of our Faith in Hollywood series. For similar stories, click here.
Famed actor and director Michael Landon, known for LITTLE HOUSE ON THE PRAIRIE and BONANZA, said that God blesses everyone with talent. However, Landon confessed that it could take a lifetime to find.
For Landon, his road to recognize what God had gifted him in was bumpy.
“If there’s one thing I can’t stand people saying, it’s, ‘I’m no good at anything … I don’t have any talent.’ I just don’t buy that at all. To me, everyone has at least one talent, and while it sometimes takes you a lifetime to find, it does exist,” Landon wrote in an article in 1976.
At that time, Landon was a well-known actor and director in Hollywood and had just begun his long tenure as Charles Ingalls in LITTLE HOUSE ON THE PRAIRIE. But Landon revealed that his path was not as sure until an event took place in 1953.
“There was a time, of course, when I didn’t believe that. What changed my mind was a seemingly small event that took place back in 1953,” Landon said. “At that time I was a skinny little high-school sophomore in Collingswood, New Jersey, a town just across the Delaware River from Philadelphia. At Collingswood High I was a good student, but as far as I was concerned, in just about every other department I was a loser.”
However, Landon thought he had found his talent after a teacher introduced him to a 100-pound teenager to track and field.
“One sunny afternoon during the spring of that year, our gym class went out to the school’s running track. The teacher was going to acquaint us all with various track and field events. We were shown hurdles, the broad jump, the pole vault. I stumbled weakly through them all,” Landon recalled. “‘Now we’ll try the javelin,’ the teacher said. I watched as he picked up a gleaming metal spear about six feet long and gave it a short toss. Suddenly I was captivated and didn’t know why. Something inside me began saying, ‘Try it! Try it!'”
Despite taunting from his classmates, Landon remembers newfound confidence had overtaken him.
“As I grasped the javelin in my hand, I was seized with a strange feeling–a newfound excitement. Seeing myself as a Roman warrior about to do battle, my fears vanished. For some crazy reason, I was relaxed over what I was about to do, even though I’d never done it before,” Landon said.
“I raised the javelin over my head, took six quick steps and let the thing go. The same voice that had urged me into throwing it, now told me it was a good throw,” he continued. “I watched as the spear took off. While other students’ throws had wobbled or turned cockeyed in the air, to my surprise, my throw was traveling straight and true. My heart quickened as I saw it continue to sail, 30 yards out, then 40. As it went past the 50-yard mark, it was still going when it went crashing down beyond some empty bleachers.”
The teacher’s demonstration throw had gone 30 feet.
“The joy of finding something I could do made me determined to do as well in it as I could,” Landon said.
Landon’s passion for track and field, especially javelin throw, led him to aspire to compete in the Olympics.
“By the time I was a senior and a member of the track team, all my practice paid off. I threw the javelin 211 feet that year, the best throw by any high-school boy in the country,” Landon said. “That record gave me a track scholarship to the University of Southern California. With my eye on the Olympics, I continued to work out until one day in college, after not warming up properly, I tore some ligaments in my left shoulder.”
Post his “career-ending” injury, Landon revealed that his outlook on life changed.
“Though that was a terrible disappointment, I’ve learned since then that as we are developing one talent, others seem to spring from it without our realizing it. While the javelin gave me a chance to go to college, it also provided me with a newfound confidence and the ability to shed my inferiority complex,” he explained. “I was able to see the importance of that when later, after I dropped out of U.S.C., I took a job in a Los Angeles warehouse. There, a coworker, an aspiring actor, asked my help in learning his part in a small playhouse production of Home of the Brave.”
Landon said that the process of reading the script captivated him, just as the javelin had in High School.
After joining an acting school, his passion for the entertainment business eventually helped him land the part of Little Joe Cartwright in BONANZA.
“That TV series lasted 14 years and while it’s no longer running, it led me to still another area–directing–which I’m now using in my own series, LITTLE HOUSE ON THE PRAIRIE,” Landon said. “I’m convinced that everyone has some kind of hidden talent. God sees to it–it’s that simple. The difficult part for some of us is in finding the talent.”
“That’s why I feel strongly that we must keep our minds open; we can’t let ourselves be discouraged or depressed when the talent doesn’t readily appear. Yet when it does, we must be prepared to grab hold of it right away,” Landon continued. “Whenever I think about what made that scrawny kid pick up that javelin, I know there was a reason. God was on that high-school field whispering to me, ‘Here’s an opportunity. Take it.’ And am I glad I listened to Him–glad I trusted my enthusiasm–for I not only found my talent, but I truly found myself.”