‘Little House on the Prairie’: How Did Michael Landon Die?

Michael Landon, star of Little House on the Prairie, died on July 1, 1991, at the age of 54. How did Landon die? Here’s what Showbiz Cheat Sheet knows.

Michael Landon’s rise to fame

Michael Landon | Frank Carroll/NBCU Photo Bank/NBCUniversal via Getty Images
Michael Landon | Frank Carroll/NBCU Photo Bank/NBCUniversal via Getty Images

One of Landon’s early acting roles was in a 1955 episode of Luke and the Tenderfoot titled “The Boston Kid.” He played the role of Clyde Meacham. The following year, Landon appeared in an episode of The Sheriff of Cochise titled “Human Bomb.” In 1956, he appeared in two episodes of The Adventures of Jim Bowie. He made his film debut in the 1957 movie I Was a Teenage Werewolf.

Landon got his big break after playing Joseph “Little Jo” Cartwright in Bonanza. He remained on the popular series until the show ended in 1973. He became a household name after playing Charles Ingalls on Little House on the Prairie from 1974 to 1983.

Landon starred in yet another successful television series when he began playing Jonathan Smith on Highway to Heaven. Landon’s final on-screen appearance was in the TV movie Us.

How did Michael Landon die?

Landon died shortly after being diagnosed with pancreatic and liver cancer. According to Associated Press, he told Life magazine he wasn’t afraid to die but he planned to “fight like hell” to live. One way he tried to lengthen his life was through experimental therapies.

“The father of nine has been undergoing an experimental therapy that pits drug-dispensing bubbles of fat against the tumor in his pancreas,” reports AP.

Associated Press included some memorable quotes from Landon’s Life interview. At one point, Landon said death was going to have to fight hard to get him. “I’m not the kind of person who gives up without a fight,” he told Life. “If I’m gonna die, death’s gonna have to do a lot of fighting to get me.”

Landon also told Life he wasn’t ready to leave his wife and children. “I want to see my kids grow up,” said Landon. “I want to play baseball with Sean (his 4- year-old son). I want to know if Jennifer (his 7-year-old daughter) turns out to be as good an actress as I think she will be. I want to watch Chris, my 16-year-old, become a man. I love my wife, Cindy, very much and I don’t want to leave her.”

Michael Landon tried to beat cancer with a healthy diet—and coffee enemas

Landon was determined to overcome cancer. He began a treatment that emphasized diet and vitamins instead of chemotherapy, reports Associated Press. One complaint Landon had was that the oranges were causing his skin to become discolored.

“Damn carrots are turning me orange,” said Landon. “And every time I eat or drink, I swallow digestive enzymes to replace what the pancreas has stopped producing. And then, once a day, I take a tried-and-true remedy for intestinal irritation–a coffee enema. Yup, I get filled to the rim. Organic coffee, I might add.”

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