Thanks to his performance as Cartwright in Bonanza and Charles Ingalls in Little House on the Prairie, Michael Landon became a certified on-screen legend.
When he passed away from cancer in 1991, his funeral had over 500 guests in attendance, including a former U.S President.
However, not everyone attended Landon’s funeral; his second wife, Lynn Noe, chose not to, to the obvious surprise of many.
So why did she opt to stay at home? …
Few actors have ever reached the lofty heights that Michael Landon was able to. Born October 31, 1936, he went to Hollywood in search of an acting career in his teenage years. As fate would have it, a chance meeting at a gas station he worked at would change his life forever.
Michael Landon’s portrayal of Charles Ingalls on Little House on the Praire is one of the most legendary in American TV history. Based on the children’s novels written by Laura Ingalls Wilder, the series became a huge success. Michael, like his character, became extremely popular with the American public.
In 1984, Landon was honored with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. He also won the Bronze Wrangler Award, also known as the Western Heritage Award, which honors artistic contributions in television, music, film, and literature.
Landon was married three times, fathering a total of nine children. He wed first wife Dodie Levy Fraser in 1956, and the couple welcomed two children together. He then married his second wife, Lynn Noe, in 1963 and had four more children; Leslie Ann, Michael, Jr., Shawna Leigh, and Christopher Beau.
However, their marriage of 19 years ended in unfavorable circumstances. While still married, Landon began an affair with Cindy Clerico, who would later become his third wife. She was 20 years younger than Michael.
For many of Landon’s co-stars on Little House, the end of the marriage between he and Lynn Noe was a sad thing. It was tough, especially for the child actors – including Mellisa Sue Anderson.
“For us, as kids, it was a real blow,” Melissa, who played Mary Ingalls, said. “Although we knew he could be difficult at times and had his flaws, we never dreamed he was capable of inflicting that kind of pain on his real family. For me personally, I had held him up to a higher moral standard. He had really let me down.”
Cindy and Michael’s subsequent union became the talk of the town. In a 1985 People Magazine interview, he was forced to defend his third marriage.
“You don’t dissolve a relationship to go to bed with someone 20 years younger. You have to have major differences and a deep-rooted need to stop a relationship after as many years as I was married,” he said.
“I would have done anything to make that relationship continue, but I could not. It’s not just difficult for the wife. It is painful for the husband too. But it is far better than letting it stay the way it was.”
Landon added that his ex was a “much happier person now than she was.” And in fact, Noe agreed.
“I was too busy being the kind of wife he wanted me to be. I lost myself little by little, I made Michael my god,” she said.
“We speak without talking. Our conversation consists of, ‘When will you pick up the children?” Noe added, saying that she wasn’t angry with Cindy. “If it hadn’t been Cindy, it would have been somebody. He had reached that point in his life.”
Michael Landon and Cindy tied the knot just a year after his divorce with Lynn.
“I looked at this man, and I just thought he was the most extraordinary man I had ever seen,” Cindy recalled in a 1998 interview.
“It was not just his look, but there was something about his personality, about how he carried himself. There was a charisma about him and a strength that was just incredible.”
She worked on the Little House series for three years before becoming Landon’s wife. The couple walked down the aisle on February 4, 1983.
Michael and Cindy would go on to have two children. She gave birth to Jennifer Rachel Landon in 1983, while son Matthew was born three years later.
“People thought he was extremely serious, but that wasn’t Michael at all,” Cindy told Closer Weekly in 2019.
“He was excited about his work, but he always came home happy. He was a fantastic father who was curious about everything and loved to teach the children.”
Sadly, Michael Landon was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in 1991. He passed away just three months later, aged 54.
In an interview with People, his family spoke about his last days. After Michael Landon shared the news about his cancer, his wife Cindy revealed how people were devastated.
“I could feel every nerve in my body,” Chris, one of his sons with Cheryl Lynn, said. “Like it was all lit up.”
Landon underwent chemotherapy and adopted an organic lifestyle that involved a vegetarian diet and acupuncture.