The brother that he never had: Kent McCray remembers the multi-talented Michael Landon on his birthday

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Always keep smiling: Michael Landon’s hazel eyes, fit physique, Malibu tan, and burgeoning hair mark the waning days of “Bonanza.” An alternate black and white shot from this photo session was sent to newspapers to promote Landon’s residency as Mike Douglas’s co-host on the syndicated daytime “Mike Douglas Show” from KYW-TV studios at 5th and Market Streets in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Landon’s five 90-minute appearances with Douglas were taped in early February 1973, less than a month after Landon starred, wrote, and directed “Bonanza’s” final episode entitled “The Hunter.” Image Credit: NBCUniversal
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Production manager Kent McCray and longtime compadre Michael Landon met in 1962 while filming “Bonanza” and continued their business relationship through “Little House on the Prairie,” “Highway to Heaven,” and the “Us” CBS pilot in 1991. The dynamic duo are seen here in a “Highway to Heaven” publicity still circa 1986. Image Credit: The Melissa Gilbert Collection

The Kent McCray Interview

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Susan McCray, Michael Landon, Kent McCray, and Cindy Landon photographed during the hunky superstar’s 50th birthday party in Malibu, California. Makes this writer wish he had been a wallflower for Halloween 1986! Image courtesy of Facebook user Barbara Thomson
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Clad in glasses, boots, and a tailor-made black tuxedo, Michael Landon beams beside Kent and Susan [Sukman] McCray on the couple’s wedding day of January 28, 1984. Image courtesy of Susan McCray
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As Little Joe Cartwright, Michael Landon’s inner confidence knows no bounds during a location shoot for “Bonanza” circa 1965. Photography by Gary Null / Silver Screen Collection
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Michael Landon ably directs Dan Blocker [Hoss Cartwright] and David Canary [Ponderosa ranch foreman Candy Canaday] on location for “Dead Wrong,” a ‘Bonanza’ episode that aired on December 7, 1969. Although he does not appear in the episode, Landon’s impressive writing versatility is readily apparent in the hilarious dry wit-laden dialogue. Image Credit: NBCUniversal
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Michael Landon confidently inhabits his Charles “Pa” Ingalls character in a classic still from “Little House on the Prairie,” probably taken during the series’ first season in summer 1974. Image Credit: NBCU Photo Bank
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Michael Landon is lost in thought as he reads a script from his director’s chair on “Highway to Heaven” circa 1986. Photography by Gary Null / NBCU Photo Bank
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Charles “Pa” Ingalls [Michael Landon] experiences a sudsy bath in a mammoth water barrel from a “Little House on the Prairie” episode circa 1975. Image Credit: NBCU Photo Bank
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Quite dashing in yellow, Michael Landon portrays one-winged angel Jonathan Smith in a publicity still from “Highway to Heaven” circa 1987. Photography by Ron Tom / NBCU Photo Bank
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Best man Michael Landon slow dances cheek to cheek with trusted confidant Susan McCray at her wedding to Kent McCray in Los Angeles on January 28, 1984. Image courtesy of Susan McCray
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Michael Landon and Lorne Greene, the last two men still standing from the principal cast of “Bonanza,” express their deep admiration for one another on November 14, 1972, mere hours prior to learning that the venerable Western series had been unceremoniously cancelled by NBC. The duo are standing on the Warner Bros. soundstage in Burbank, as “Bonanza” creator David Dortort had decided at the start of season twelve in summer 1970 that it was cost prohibitive to pay Paramount’s increased lot rental fees. Photography by Larry Bessel / Los Angeles Times
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Watch if you dare! Former policeman Mark Gordon [Victor French] has a scary Halloween in store once partner Jonathan Smith [Michael Landon] appears unexpectedly with fangs, claws, and expanding facial hair in “I Was a Middle Aged Werewolf,” broadcast on October 28, 1987. Landon wrote, directed, and executive produced the ‘Highway to Heaven’ episode, a tongue in cheek homage on the television icon’s campy B-movie released 30 years earlier, ‘I Was a Teenage Werewolf.’ Image Credit: NBCUniversal / TV Guide

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Retro pop culture interviews & lovin’ someone fierce sustain this University of Georgia Master of Agricultural Leadership alum. Email: jeremylr@windstream.net

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