Flowsome: 8 Swell Facts About Bonanza
BONANZA, TELEVISION, SHOW, WESTERN, FAMILY
This is an article I was asked to write for Flowsome.
The Cartwright family found its way to TV screens across the nation from the late 1950s through to the early 1970s and quickly proved to be a hit with viewers nationwide. Soon becoming a cultural phenomenon, the gritty escapades of father Ben, and his three sons Adam, “Hoss” and “Little Joe” were eagerly followed by millions of Americans from 1959 to 1973. America’s favorite gun slinging, horse riding, ranch owning family won over audiences with their old-fashioned western attitude to life. Sooner than the latest damsel in distress could say "howdy", the show had already become a pop culture icon that’s celebrated to this very day.
1. There Wasn’t “One” Star On The Show
Unlike many shows, the four leads Lorne Greene (Ben), Pernell Roberts (Adam), Dan Blocker (Hoss), and Michael Landon (Little Joe) received equal billing throughout their time on the show. Even the opening credits alternated the order of names in order to signify the importance of each character. Furthermore, each of the main characters received equivalent screen time which in turn allowed the stars to showcase each of their characters personalities without outshining their counterparts. The Cartwrights were indeed Ponderosa’s awesome foursome.
2. The Cartwrights Wore The Same Outfits On Every Episode
From the fourth season onward, the producers of the show decided that each of the leads should wear the same outfit on every episode. There was an underlying reason for this as it made it easier to use stock footage of the cast, for scene re-shoots, as well as for the wardrobe department to outfit stuntmen. The little trick certainly made the editing crew’s job much easier and allowed the money saved here to be spent elsewhere on the show’s production.
3. Most Of The Characters Wore Wigs!
This might come as a surprise to even the most ardent fan, but in the twilight years of the show with many of the main actors hairlines receding, Lorne Greene (Ben), Pernell Roberts (Adam) and Dan Blocker (Hoss) were required to wear hairpieces due to thinning hairlines. In fact, both Greene and Roberts started wearing hairpieces from the very beginning of the show, while Blocker began wearing one from 1968. We’re thinking those cowboy hats held more than one juicy secret.
4. The Actor Who Wasn’t Acting
Victor Sen Yung, the actor who played the Cartwrights' cook, Hop Sing, was in actuality an accomplished chef in real life. Appearing in over a hundred of the show's episodes, Sing’s warm character still remains one of the show’s most enduring elements. Although Yung didn't reportedly make much income from the show, he made the most of his fame by appearing on cooking shows and selling cookbooks following the show’s end. Yung also appeared in other films and television shows before, during and after the series' run.
5. I Quit!
It is well known that Pernell Roberts left the series after just six seasons, however, the reasons why are less publicized. Roberts is quoted as saying he felt his character hadn't grown at all in the series and came to butting heads with the series creators over the direction of the show. Roberts main qualms were that the scripts were too basic, demeaning to women and out of touch with reality as he felt the show was glorifying wealth in an era of economic poverty.
6. The Off-Screen Death Acknowledged Onscreen
The death of Hoss was the first time a major male character's death was acknowledged in a television show. Blocker, who played Hoss, died from complications after undergoing gallbladder surgery. Unable to find a suitable replacement, the writers decided to continue the show by adding Hoss’ death into the script. Not until the television movie Bonanza: The Next Generation was it evident Hoss died drowning while trying to save a woman's life. Blocker was described by the crew as the “least actor-ish as well as the most likable” of all the cast members.
7. TV Saved The TV Show?
As one of the first television shows and the first western to be filmed in color, the show garnered plenty of interest. However, the first season of the show was low on ratings, and is rumored to have stayed on as the production company of the show, NBC, were owned by RCA who wanted to sell more color televisions. This was at a time where there was only one other television series being aired in color. From the second season onward it became clear the show continued on its own merits.
8. Tall, Dark And Difficult
The heartthrob of the series, Little Joe, played by Michael Landon is said to have been one of the most difficult actors to work with on set. Often the actor had creative differences with the network as he had his own vision of what the show should be about. Due to his role as an irreplaceable character, and despite his changes coming with or without approval, the network gave in to his demands. Landon was even given writing credit in the show’s last seasons.
We just sent you an email. Please click the link in the email to confirm your subscription!
OKSubscriptions powered by Strikingly