Synopsis by Hal Erickson
Although actor-director-producer Michael Landon died of pancreatic cancer in 1991, his life and career remained indelibly etched on the collective consciousness of America for many years afterward, as witness this warts-and-all TV biopic written and directed by Michael Landon Jr. Although it is clear throughout that the younger Landon loved and adored his father, the film is unstinting in its depiction of the emotional damage wrought upon the boy when, at age 15, his parents were divorced. In fact, it is the elder Landon's infidelities (and his almost casual selfishness) that galvanize the storyline, creating a schism between father and son that would not be repaired until the two Landons came to terms during Michael Sr.'s long and painful terminal illness. To be fair, the film allows Michael Sr. to score points vis-à-vis his tireless dedication to his work and his sincere efforts to be a loving and protective father to his enormous family. John Schneider is cast as the elder Landon, with Joel Berti as the adult Michael Jr., Cheryl Ladd as his mother (and his dad's second wife) Lynn, and Julie Condra as Michael Sr's third wife Cindy, a makeup artist whom the actor had met on the set of Little House on the Prairie (is it any surprise that Lynn comes off far more sympathetically than Cindy in the context of the film?) Michael Landon, the Father I Knew premiered May 23, 1999 on CBS.