Most people remember late actor Michael Landon for portraying Charles Ingalls on Little House on the Prairie or Jonathan Smith in Highway to Heaven. But to his daughter Jennifer Landon, his best role was being a dad to his nine children. “He was always so present as a father,” Jennifer, 35, exclusively told Closer Weekly in the magazine’s latest issue, on newsstands now. “He’d watch me jump around the pool for an hour straight. I think he genuinely enjoyed it. I felt admired by him — which is an amazing feeling to have as a child.”
Though he had a successful acting career that spanned more than 30 years, Jennifer revealed Michael — who passed away at age 54 in 1991 after battling pancreatic cancer — always put his kids first. “He was just the best! That doesn’t mean we had free rein. There was a tremendous amount of respect and discipline that was implemented in our house — but my dad always made things so fun, too,” she recalled to Closer.
“He had this ability to make you feel like something magical could happen or that you were on the edge of a discovery,” Jennifer said. One of Jennifer’s fondest memories of her prankster father was one Easter when he turned the snow outside their holiday ski lodge in Vail, Colorado vivid pink. “He had taken Nestlé Quik — which was a favorite snack of mine — blanketed the entire backyard and sent us out there with spoons! To be in snow up to your waist and just eat it like it was one big slushy was pretty amazing!” she gushed.
Michael — who had nine children from three marriages — wanted to give his kids the stable upbringing he never experienced during his own childhood. “My dad didn’t believe in allowing past hardships to affect your present circumstances in a detrimental way,” Jennifer said. “None of the things he experienced was ever apparent in the way he parented. He was all about turning things around, that’s why he liked underdogs and identified with them.”
“I always had this feeling that even if I was afraid of something that I would do it because I wanted my father’s respect,” Jennifer, a longtime soap star who recently appeared on the big screen in Hugh Jackman’s 2018 movie The Front Runner, said. “I wanted to be brave.”
Michael’s third wife and widow, Cindy Landon, also remembered the actor as a loving father to all of his children. “People thought he was extremely serious, but that wasn’t Michael at all. 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,” she shared.
After Michael was sadly diagnosed with pancreatic cancer at age 54, he revealed his biggest regret in life was not getting to spend even more time with his kids. “He wished he’d spent more time traveling with the family,” Cindy told Closer. “We did some. He got to go to Africa — which was one of his dream places — but we thought there would be a lot more, too.”
For more on Michael Landon, pick up the latest issue of Closer Weekly, on newsstands now — and be sure to sign up for our newsletter for more exclusive news!