'Bonanza': 5 Facts About Michael Landon's Time As "Little Joe"

Bonanza: "Little Joe" actor Michael Landon
November 23, 2020 - 15:30 / Lucas Anderson

Michael Landon did it all on Bonanza. Literally. In addition to starring as "Little Joe Cartwright" for all 14 seasons, the actor also wrote and directed episodes of the show, and even met his second wife on the set of the Western. Let's look back at Landon's time as "Little Joe" and facts you probably didn't know about his life during Bonanza.

Bonanza was truly a life-changing experience for actor Michael Landon.

At age 22, he landed the role of "Little Joe Cartwright," beginning a 14-season run that carried him to stardom. While on Bonanza (1959-1973), Landon established himself as a multitalented TV actor, writer, and director, and he even met his second wife, Lynn Noe, on the set. Here's a closer look back at Landon's time on the TV Western.

Bonanza: "Little Joe" actor Michael Landon

On Bonanza, Landon portrayed fiery "Little Joe," the youngest of three sons born to "Ben Cartwright" (Lorne Greene). Along with his on-screen father and "Hop Sing" actor Victor Sen Yung, Landon was one of only three stars to last all 14 seasons of the show.

Bonanza: "Little Joe" actor Michael Landon

Across those years, Landon diversified his talents, convincing show creator David Dortort to allow him to write and direct episodes. By the end of Bonanza's run, the "Little Joe" actor had written 20 episodes—second most of any writer—and directed another 14. He'd continue this triple-threat approach on Little House on the Prairie soon after, too.

Bonanza behind the scenes: 5 facts about Michael Landon

Here are five lesser-known facts about Landon's time on Bonanza:

  • He originally won the "Little Joe" part over Robert Blake
  • At 5-foot-7, Landon wore lifts in his shoes beside 6-foot-plus stars Dan Blocker and Lorne Greene
  • His nickname was "Socks," a joke that even his footwear smelled of cigarettes
  • He wrote season 14 episode "Forever" as a tribute to the late Dan Blocker, as "Hoss" was to be the best man of "Little Joe" at his wedding
  • Landon met his second wife Lynn Noe on the set and married her in 1963

Noe had appeared as an uncredited saloon girl in a 1960 Bonanza episode. She and Landon ended up marrying in 1963 and remained together until a divorce in 1982. Five of Landon's nine children were born to Noe, including actors Michael Jr. and Leslie.

Bonanza: "Little Joe" actor Michael Landon and Lynn Noe

This Bonanza-originated marriage gave life to a new generation of Bonanza in the 1980s and '90s, when Michael Landon Jr. also acted as "Benj Cartwright," son of "Little Joe" in the TV movies

For more, see Michael Landon's amazing career or revisit his personal life here.