Remembering Michael Landon ....
Mamie Van Doren
Photo courtesy of John Gilmore
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I’d seen Michael around town a number of times before we worked together on Bonanza. The brief sightings were like "How’s it going, man?" "Yeah, cool…" He knew Audrey Dalton, who I knew from Paramount, and once or twice we talked about what she was doing. Michael had an interest in other actors, like he’d find something in that person that seemed significant to him. When he starred in I Was A Teenage Werewolf, he worked with a couple I knew, including director Gene Fowler, Jr. (I’d been involved on a crackpot project with Fowler), and Yvonne Lime, also in Teenage Werewolf, then in High School Hellcats the year after Werewolf. I’m offering this because Michael had an intense interest in those motorcycle gang and high school hotrod flicks that were being cranked out in the late 50s. It is my belief that Michael felt he would rather have been doing those B-flicks, the ones like actor John Ashley was starring, rather than getting buckled down in television. That was the feeling many actors had at that time, though TV work was, same as for a writer, pot-boiling. In Michael’s case, the work evolved into something more than he had anticipated and he did not hesitate to take advantage. When I was in the Bonanza segment, "The Gunmen," I saw a changed Michael. He was now a professional and I was impressed with the control he displayed. I remember he fell on the set, some mishap, and rather than bravo it off, he took great care to make sure he had not hurt himself in any way. At the same time, Dan Blocker, who in the story I had the muzzle of my rifle at his forehead, asked me to press the rifle harder against his head so he could "feel it…Mean it," Dan said, "make it hurt." Another actor we worked with on this episode was King Donovan, also a director and producer. I knew King from before via Kevin McCarthy of Invasion of the Body Snatchers. Michael, King and I talked about Body Snatchers in which King played a significant role, and again I observed a kind of guardedness in Michael. He said, "What an accomplishment. That’s a picture that’ll be remembered for all time…a serious contribution." He did not, however, believe a film directed by King Donovan sometime later, Promises! Promises! offered "contributing qualities" whatsoever. In late ’62, I had met Marie McDonald through King and Michael and I talked about her as he had been up for some show years before for which Marie was also being considered. Neither got the show, but Michael said Marie was "a lost person…" He wanted to "give her something," but didn’t know what. He said, "There wasn’t anything I could do for her…She was one of the saddest people I’d encountered…" Then he said to me, "It can get scary when you step outside of yourself…"
From the Bonanza episode "The Gunmen"
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