Jonathan the Angel – Highways of America

Jonathan the Angel is a heavenly messenger of God seen on the NBC fantasy drama HIGHWAY TO HEAVEN (1984-89).

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Jonathan the Angel (Michael Landon) was an “honest” lawyer named Arthur Gordon who was born in 1917 and died in 1948. Arthur left behind a wife named Jane and a daughter, Mandy.

In heaven, God decides to make Arthur an angel named Jonathan Smith. His mission: to help and counsel the troubled and the needy. 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 (Victor French), a cynical bearded ex-Oakland 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.

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With a little persuasion, Jonathan restored Mark’s faith in humanity and then revealed to Mark that he was an angel. A grateful Mark (who likes to wear an A’s baseball cap) offers to help with his assignments and soon he becomes Jonathan’s loyal sidekick.

Jonathan drives from assignment-to-assignment in Mark’s aging grey Ford LTD sedan (license plate: IDTD458) which on many occasions breaks down, but through the power of God (a.k.a. “The Boss”) and some good old-fashioned elbow grease Mark away finds a way to get the car going again.

Jonathan gets his heavenly assignments from Syncompop, the Assignment Angel (played by Bob Hope).

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 into a werewolf one Halloween night to help a boy overcome his fear of monsters (A nod to Michael Landon’s early role as a werewolf in the now cult classic film “I Was A Teenage Werewolf” (1957).

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Occasionally, along the way, 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 of the girl’s life. But through a little sleight of hand, Jonathan manages to retrieve the contract and resume their mission on earth.

Jonathan, too, made mistakes. 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 (Dorothy McGuire) was dying, he hates God when 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.”

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Jonathan the Angel
c/o The Highways and Byways of America

Highway to Heaven (IMDB)
Highway to Heaven – Intro (Video)

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About

Born in Philadelphia, Jerome Alphonse Holst worked 30 years as a librarian. He has since retired and lives in Greensboro, North Carolina. Mr. Holst is also the author of the children’s books “Norman the Troll,” "Norman the Troll and the Haunted House," and "Gretchen and the Gremlins." In addition, he penned the fantasy novel “The Adventures of Glinda Gale,” a retelling of “The Wizard of Oz" and the reference text “The Encyclopedia of Movie and TV Insults.” .

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