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 TV Character Bios

SMITH, Jonathan 
(Highway to Heaven)
Somewhere in the USA

Jonathan is an angel. He once lived on earth as Arthur Gordon who was born in 1917, lived his life as an "honest" lawyer then died in 1948. Arthur left behind a wife named Jane and a daughter, Mandy.

Michael Landon as Jonathan Smith the Angel - HIGHWAY TO HEAVEN

In heaven, God decided to make Arthur an angel named Jonathan Smith His mission: to return to earth and help those in trouble and in need. If he performed his task, Jonathan would pass his probationary period, earn his wings and become a full fledged angel. To get the job done, Jonathan elected to used acts of kindness and compassion in lieu of his angelic powers which he used sparingly.

Jonathan's first assignment was the Havencrest Retirement Home where he took a job as a handyman and saved the place from being sold. Soon after, he met Mark Gordon, a cynical ex-cop who needed purpose in his life. A graduate of Lathrop High School, Mark (a.k.a. "Stick") served as a cop on the Oakland Police force for 15 years. But his years of dealing with dishonest people had made him bitter.

With a little persuasion, Jonathan restored Mark's faith in humanity and then revealed to Mark that he was an angel. A grateful Mark offered to help with his assignments and soon he became Jonathan's loyal sidekick.

Together they took to the road in Mark's aging grey Ford LTD sedan (license plate: IDT0458). On occasion, the car broke down, but through the power of God (a.k.a. "The Boss") and some good old fashioned elbow grease Mark always found a way to get the car going again.

Over the five years they drove across America, Jonathan and Mark (in the guise of common laborers) interceded in the lives of people who were lonely, desperate or dying, including

  • Cancer patients
  • Elderly in retirement homes
  • Physically challenged (amputees, blind, disfigured, mentally ill)
  • Football players addicted to pills
  • Disillusioned movie stars
  • Corrupt politicians
  • Grieving veterans (of both WWII & Vietnam Wars)
  • Bickering divorced parents fighting over custody of the children
  • Young boxers pressured into throwing fights
  • Nazi death camp survivors
  • Heartless businessmen, and basically those who needed a second chance to get their lives together. On Christmas Eve, Jonathan and Mark like the three ghosts in Charles Dicken's "A Christmas Carol" gave several men a look at their future. And Jonathan even transformed in to a werewolf one Halloween night to help a boy overcome his fear of monsters.

Victor French as Mark Gordon
Mark Gordon

Occasionally, both Jonathan and Mark lost faith in God but they always found a way back to their mission. Once, the Devil himself interfered with Mark when he accidentally ran over a girl. In his frenzy, Mark mistakenly sells his soul to Satan in exchange for the girl's life. But through a little slight of hand, Jonathan manages to retrieve the "contract" and resume their mission on earth.

Jonathan, too, made mistakes. Once he used his angelic powers to lash out at some bullies and lost his job for a time, until Mark's good deeds helped Jonathan get reinstated. And when Jonathan learns his wife, Jane Gordon is dying, he hates God after He fails to reunite him with his wife in death. But God had a plan and Jonathan soon dealt with his disappointment and like a good, obedient angel, he continued to travel down that "Highway to Heaven."


TRIVIA NOTE: Born Eugene Maurice Orowitz on October 31, 1936 in Forest Hills, Queens, New York, actor Michael Landon grew up in Southern New Jersey (Collingswood), and graduated from Collingswood High School in 1954. He won a javelin throwing scholarship to USC but when a torn ligament injury forced him to lose the scholarship, he turned his eyes towards acting.

One of his early roles was a werewolf in the now cult classic film I Was A Teenage Werewolf (1957). He soon gained major success as the rebellious, Little Joe Cartwright on the western adventure BONANZA/NBC/1959-73 and followed that success with the western drama LITTLE HOUSE ON THE PRAIRIE/NBC/1974-82 and the fantasy drama HIGHWAY TO HEAVEN/NBC/1984-89.

When Landon realized he had cancer, he made a visit to THE TONIGHT SHOW starring Johnny Carson (a life long friend) and very graciously summed up his condition.

Surrounded by family and friends, Landon died of pancreatic cancer on July 1, 1991 in Malibu, California. He is buried at Hillside Memorial Park, Culver City, California. Landon's Irish Catholic mother, Peggy Landon had committed suicide in 1974.

Victor French was born December 4, 1934 in Santa Barbara, California. Known for his "bad guy" persona in the western films, French began to play more sensitive roles in his later TV career.

In 1977, French played Roy Mobey, a loveable redneck police chief from Clinton Corners, Georgia in his own sitcom CARTER COUNTRY/ABC/1977-79.

French died of lung cancer on June 15, 1989 after filming the last episode of HIGHWAY TO HEAVEN. Both he and Landon had been friends from their days on the "Prairie" when he played the character Mr. Isaiah Edwards.

French was inducted into the Hall of Great Western Performers of the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum in 1998.


HIGHWAY TO HEAVEN/NBC/1984-1989

Michael Landon as Jonathan Smith
Victor French as Mark Gordon
God as God ("a.k.a. The Boss")
Dorothy McGuire as Jane Gordon
Joan Welles as Mandy Gordon
Bob Hope as Syncompop, the Assignment Angel


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