Bonanza was a very popular TV show from 1959 to 1973. You can still watch the show on reruns today. The show followed the lives of the Cartwright family and was led by Ben Cartwright, the father. Ben and his sons operated the Ponderosa Ranch near Virginia City, Nevada. While defending their ranch, the family also helped the people of the town. Bonanza was the longest-running Western series in history with 431 episodes over 14 years. If you were a fan of the show, you might think that you know everything about it. The secrets Dan Blocker kept while filming ‘Bonanza’ have left fans reeling.
Lorne Greene was a Canadian actor and musician, and he played the role of Ben Cartwright, the father on the show. In 2007, TV Guide listed his character as the second-favorite father in TV history. He died in 1987 when he was 72-years-old due to complications of pneumonia. When Bonanza ended, he appeared in many TV shows and movies.
David Dortort’s Vision
Bonanza’s producer, David Dortort, has a specific vision of what he wanted the show to look like. At the time, most TV shows had fathers that were dimwitted and were managed by their wives. David wanted something different. He wanted people to admire Ben as a father figure. Rather than a 30-minute episode, which was common during those days, he wanted the show to fun for a full hour. David believed that this would be the best way to really explore the character.
The Cast Never Changed Clothes
Observant fans of the show know that the characters on Bonanza always wore the same clothes. By using the same wardrobe all the time, it allowed the crew to use stock footage if they needed to. It also cut down on production costs. Despite this, it was one of the most expensive shows to make back then.
Michael Landon as Little Joe
Michael Landon is best known for his role on Little House on the Prairie. Before playing the patriarch of the Ingalls family, he played Little Joe on Bonanza. After a successful career as an actor, writer, director, and producer, Michael Landon died of cancer in 1991 at the age of 51.
Michael Landon’s Real Name
Michael Landon was born Eugene Maurice Orowitz. He wanted his stage name to be, Michael Lane, but another actor had already registered with the Screen Actors Guild with that name. He went through the phone book in search of a name, and he came across a listing for Alf Landon. This was when Michael Landon was born.
All of the actors are the show could do more than act. Most of them could also sing. The four Cartwrights contributed to a Christmas album called Christmas at the Ponderosa. Lorne Green recorded a single called Ringo, which was a massive hit in the United States and Canada.
Pernell Roberts Played Adam Cartwright
Pernell Roberts played the oldest son, Adam Cartwright. In addition to starring in Bonanza, he guest-starred on over 60 different television series. Pernell worked on Bonanza for just six years. After leaving the show, he did stage work and starred in other TV programs. He retired from acting in the ’90s. In 2010, he died after a battle with cancer when he was 81-years-old.
Pernell Roberts Hated the Show
Viewers were surprised when Pernell left the show after six years. Those who knew him well knew that Pernell hated the politics and the lack of regarding intelligence in the writing of the show. Although the show had very high ratings in 1965, Pernell left the show. He said that he understood that he threw away a million dollars, but his emotional well-being was more important. He says that the job was unpleasant, and he never regretted leaving.
The Show Inspired Restaurant Chains
The show inspired restaurant chains Ponderosa Steakhouse and Bonanza Steakhouse. Bonanza cast member, Dan Blocker created them. He opened the first Bonanza Steakhouse in 1965 in Kokoma, Indiana. The chain expanded across the US and then to Canada. Currently, the chain is owned by the Metromedia Restaurant Group.
Victor Seng Yung Played Hop Sing
Victor Seng played the Cartwright family’s chef. In real life, Victor was an accomplished chef. When the show ended, he made money by appearing on cooking shows. In 1974, he wrote the book, The Great Wok Cookbook.
The Western Version Of King Arthur
When David Dortort thought about what he wanted the show to look like, he pictured it as an Old West version of the legend of King Arthur. His vision for the show had Ben Cartwright as King Arthur and his sons as his knights. The show played out like that in many ways. Ben guided and led his sons through life, the way King Arthur did his knights.
Dan Blocker as Hoss Cartwright
Dan Blocker played the middle son, Hoss Cartwright. He was sweet, gullible, and a bit dimwitted. This is the exact opposite of Dan. Before getting into acting, he earned his master’s degree and worked as a teacher. Sadly, Dan passed away in 1972 at the age of 43. He passed just 19 days before they were scheduled to shoot the 1972-1973 season.