This show released in the year 1959 is the longest running show broadcasted by NBC and the second longest running western series on the U.S. network television. This show surely lived up to its title ‘Bonanza’ and was a treat for everyone who watched it. Let’s see some of the most interesting facts of this show, which very few people know about.
Lorne Greene (Ben Cartwright)
It was the veteran actor of Canadian origin Lorin Greene who portrayed the character of Ben Cartwright. During his career as an actor, he made various appearances on TV shows and movies. It was in the year 2007 that he was voted second on the list of the most favorite father, in a TV Guide survey. He was suffering from pneumonia which turned out to be the cause of his death at the age of 72.
Not Another Idiot Father
At the time when everybody followed the conventional way of depicting a father’s character which was a man with no sense of humor who needed their wife to manage them, producer David Dortort decided to try a different approach and portrayed Ben as someone who was liked and respected.
They Never Changed Clothes
There was one very ironical aspect attached to this show. It was the fact that the characters didn’t change their clothes during the course of the show, which was done in order to lessen the burden of production cost, but despite this, it was still one of the most expensive show at that time.
Michael Landon (Joseph “Little Joe” Cartwright)
Michael Landon had appeared in a number of films and TV shows prior to playing the character of Little Joe in the show. His character was the youngest son of Ben Cartwright and his mother hailed from France. It was in the year 1991 that he passed away due to cancer.
Michael Landon’s Real Name
The man who played the character of Little Joe was Michael Landon, right? Actually, his real name was Eugene Maurice Orowitz and wanted to go by the name of Michael Lane, but couldn’t as another actor had taken that name before him.
A Multi-Talent Cast
Apart from portraying their roles perfectly in front of the camera, there were a lot of other things that the cast of the show was good at. It was a coincidence that most of them were decent singers and four of the Cartwrights had even given their contributions in the album Christmas at the Ponderosa which was released in the year 1964. Amazingly, Lorne Greene had even sung a very popular song of that time named Ringo.
Pernell Roberts (Adam Cartwright)
The role of Adam Cartwright was played by American actor and singer Pernell Roberts Jr. Apart He had appeared in around 60 tv shows apart from Bonanza. He died in the year 2010 aged 81 due to cancer and had worked for six years on the show Bonanza before deciding to leave it.
Pernell Roberts Hated the Show
Many people say that the reason for Roberts leaving the show was, that he thought of script as not intelligent enough and didn’t like it, which was the reason of him playing politics during his stay in the show.
Inspired a Restaurant Chain
It is a very interesting fact that Dan Blocker, a cast member was the founder of the first American Bonanza Steakhouse in Kokomo, Indiana in 1965. Seeing the good response it received, it’s chain was also extended to Canada in the year 1971. It is presently owned by the Metromedia Restaurant Group.
Victor Sen Yung (Hop Sing)
Victor Sen Yung played the role of Hop Sing, the chef of the Cartwright family. Interestingly, he was a chef in real life too and after the show went on to author a book named The Great Wok Cookbook in 1974 and appeared on various cooking shows.
The Western Version of King Arthur
Dortort actually took inspiration from the way legend of King Arthur was presented in the west and similarly tried to portray Ben Cartwright as King Arthur and his sons as his knights. This inspiration of his came in handy, as people were able to relate to the Cartwright family as he intended to.
Dan Blocker (Hoss Cartwright)
Dan Blocker played the role Eric “Hoss” Cartwright, the middle son of Ben Cartwright in the show. Interestingly, Dan’s character was a very credulous, cute and dumb man which was totally the opposite of what he was in real life. As he was very intelligent who worked as a teacher and even had a master’s degree. Unfortunately, he died when he was 43 years old in the year 1972.
Dan Blocker – The Largest Baby
Dan Blocker had gained popularity from the moment he was born. As, he was the biggest baby born in Bowie County, Texas at that time. He weighed 14 pounds when he was born and a staggering 105 pounds when he reached first grade.
From Barely Surviving to Thriving
The fact that the show was broadcasted in color saved it from being removed by the NBC despite it performing poorly on television initially. As they wanted to make use of this fact for increasing the sale of color televisions. Eventually, the show became so popular that NBC had other reason than this to continue broadcasting the show.
David Canary (“Candy” Canaday)
When Pernell Roberts made the decision of leaving the show, it was David Canary who joined the show and played the character of “Candy” Canaday and filled the void that was created after Pernell left. He died in the year 2015 due to natural causes.
The Ponderosa Ranch
The show had become so popular that people even started to go to Incline Village, Nevada the place on which the show was based in hope of meeting the cast. Obviously, they would return disappointed as there was nothing there. Realizing this fact, land developers Bill and Joyce Anderson decided to make a big theme park in Incline Village in partnership with the producers of the show. They had actually recreated the whole ranch house which appeared in the show.
Saved A Ton Of Money
We have already stated the fact that Bonanza was one of the most expensive shows of that time. So the producers had to come up with unique tricks in order to cut short the cost without affecting the quality of the show. It was because of this reason they decided to use stock footage in order to cut a number of big shots, an idea which proved very fruitful for them.
One of the Most Expensive Shows On TV
Despite, all the ideas and techniques the producers used to cut short the production cost, one cannot deny that making the show was still a very costly affair. The producers spend $100,000 to $150,000 for shooting one episode. Luckily, it all paid back as the show was a huge success.
Zorro Could Be Adam Cartwright
It seems that the cast managers were aware of the fact that Pernell could leave the show way before he actually left the show. It was because of this reason they had created the character of cousin Will Cartwright as a replacement for Roberts. The character which was refused to be played by Guy Williams, the man who decided play the role of Zorro instead.
Hoss Had A Real First Name
Hoss Cartwright was one of the most adorable characters in the show, no one can deny that fact. But, very few people know the fact that apart from being called by his nickname “Hoss” in the show, he had an actual name which was Eric Hass Cartwright.
The Cartwright Curse
It was very amusing and hilarious for people who watched the show to witness each woman who played the love interest of Cartwright ending up dead or leaving town. I guess the producers took the admirable and respected figure of a father too seriously and decided that the children would be raised only by him.
It’s a surprising fact that Blocker, Roberts, and Green wore toupees in the show. Although, Landon’s had real hair. The success which the show got proves that it worked well for them.
Equal Screen Time
It was a very smart and wise decision made by the producers of providing equal screen time to the four men of the Bonanza household. They deliberately made the script in such a way that all four characters appeared in each episode. This gave all of them equal opportunity to showcase their acting talent.
The Show’s Title Is Slang
The storyline of Bonanza was directly linked to the title of the show. As, the title Bonanza is synonymous with the word “jackpot”, which the Cartwright family had discovered at their ranch in Comstock Lode.
The Show Stayed On TV To Sell Color TVs
Selling color televisions was the main reason NBC and its parent company RCA decided to continue broadcasting the show Bonanza because it was shot in color. But, later they didn’t have any need as the show gained immense popularity.
Michael Landon Was Obsessed
Michael Landon’s character was one of the most popular. It was because of his amazing acting and dedication towards the show. Apart from 14, he appeared in all the episodes of the show. This means that precisely he appeared in 402 episodes. Apart from this he also directed and wrote many of the famous episodes of Bonanza.
Hard To Work With
But, Landon’s dedication had become a problem for the producers during the final 5 seasons. As in order to create the series in his own way he used to delay production shoots and was totally against the introduction of new characters in the show.
Role In “M*A*S*H*”
Interestingly, Dan Blocker had an opportunity to work in the movie M*A*S*H*, but he couldn’t as the producers didn’t give Robert Altman the director of the movie the permission to cast him. Wonder, what character Dan would have played in the movie.
A Character’s Death
It was announced before that the character Hoss would die due to an accident because Dan Blocker died unexpectedly. Interestingly, it was the first time that a show had to deal with the situation of the death of one of its character.
Guest Stars Were Paid More
Since the main cast was not very popular at the time when the first season of Bonanza was made, the producers had to pay a hefty amount of money (even more than the main cast) to famous actors of that time for them to make guest appearances in the show. This was purely done to increase the popularity of Bonanza.