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Spanning nearly two decades, Bonanza is one of the longest-running western TV shows. Not only is the story about a respected father and his three sons by three different wives heartwarming and successful, but its backstories are even more intriguing.
It may sound strange, but any women who were close to the Cartwright family ended up dying, extremely ill or leaving with another man. Pa had three wives who passed away and left him three sons. The cast members often joked that the Cartwright family was cursed.
Fans often wonder why the lovable and warm and middle son, Hoss, left the show so suddenly. The real reason was the actor Dan Blocker died at the age of 43 of a pulmonary embolism. The writer couldn’t find a suitable replacement for him, so they continued without the role.
The show surprised audiences with some famous guests. But you probably didn’t know that, in the first season, the guests were usually paid more than the regular cast. Here is Anjanette Comer and Pa.
When the show was first aired, it had its biggest competition from a CBS production “Perry Mason” that starred Raymond Burr. The strong point of the show however was that it was filmed in color, which gave it a chance to keep running.
The smart and feisty Little Joe was so impressive that it became one of Michael Landon’s most famous roles. However, despite his great talents, Landon himself was a little difficult to work with. It’s said that he wouldn’t allow new actors on the set, causing a lot of headaches for the writing staff.
Pernell Roberts portrayed the eldest son, Adam Cartwright, who actually built Ponderosa Ranch. However, Pernell Roberts was not the first choice for the role. The director intended to pick Guy Williams, who later joined the cast of “Zorro.”
Pernell Roberts once confessed that “I haven’t grown at all since the series began… I have an impotent role. Wherever I turn there’s the father image.” It seems the show didn’t bring as much fame as the actor expected. After 6 years working on the show, Pernell Roberts left with a little disappointment.
Lorne Greene is presented as a respected Pa in the show. His love and caring for the family is fully fleshed out in the character, which was a change from the typical “moron” images of American fathers before the show.
It’s no surprise Bonanza had a huge fan base since it spanned two decades. But did you know that Elvis Presley was one of them? After all, celebrities are like ordinary people, they have their own idols and favorite shows.
Recurring characters were commonly seen in the show, and Roy Coffee was one of them! You’d never guess, but he was on 98 episodes of the show!
Fans may notice that there is only one set of clothes throughout all ten seasons, that’s not a usual thing for a successful show. Well, we won’t rule out financial reasons, but the main purpose was to make it easier for editing work in the case of a reshoot.
The name ‘Bonanza’ was used by miners to refer to a large vein or deposit of silver ore. It means that you are lucky enough to discover precious metals. Interestingly, a real “bonanza” was found close to the Comstock Lode, which was also the fictional ranch in the show.
The Cartwright’s cook Victor Sen Yung was a Cantonese-style chef in real life. He had a book named “Great Wok Cookbook” published one year after the show. He was unfortunately found dead in his home one day under “mysterious circumstances.”
Another feature of the show is that 4 male stars were treated with equal importance. The producer tried to give each of them the same screen time so that one character wouldn’t be overshadowed by another.
The smart Pa Lorne Greene surely knew how to capitalize on his image in Bonanza. After the show, he started a musical career and released several country-western music albums.
When one of the most influential country musicians met one of the most famous western shows, what would happen? Magic of course! Johnny Cash was the first singer to record the theme song of Bonanza in its full version.
Dan Blocker was presented as a big, friendly and quite a gullible guy in the show. This character is not even a little close to his image in real life though. Dan Blocker was once an English and Drama teacher at a high school in Sonora; and he had been a coach at several elementary schools.
Michael Landon wasn’t the hunky actor’s birth name, as he was born Eugene Maurice Orowitz. Interestingly enough, he found his stage name in a phone book, and that turned out to be perfect for him!
After Pernell Roberts left the show, another role “Candy Cannady” was brought in to the story. Portrayed by David Canary, he was known as the fun-loving guy and intensified the plot.