10 Surprising Behind-The-Scenes Facts From The Classic Western ‘Bonanza’



The 1960s were a very exciting time for television and the folks who loved to gather around their sets with family members. Shows were just starting to be filmed in color, and as technology advanced, so did the story lines.

There were two competing westerns that aired at just about the same time: Bonanza and Gunsmoke. Gunsmoke holds the record for the longest running television Western in TV history. It also eventually led to the demise of Gilligan’s Island, with an impressive run from 1955 to 1975. However, Bonanza clocks in at a close second, running from 1959 to 1973 for an impressive 14 seasons.

You could debate which one is the best based on ratings and fan base, but for those who side with Michael Landon and Bonanza, these facts were especially researched for you.

I bet that even some of the biggest fans out there don’t know all these 10 things about this classic that aired for so many years. Do you have good memories of watching the characters with your family and friends back in the day?

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[H/T: IMDbWikipedia]

Thumbnail Sources: Wikimedia Commons 1, 2

1. Ben Cartwright Was Voted TV's #2 Favorite Dad

1. Ben Cartwright Was Voted TV's #2 Favorite Dad

In 2007, TV Guide listed Ben as one of their favorite TV dads of all time, although Lorne Greene was only 13 years older than the two actors playing his sons.

2. Michael Landon Was A Bit Too Particular At Times

2. Michael Landon Was A Bit Too Particular At Times

Michael, who played youngest son Joseph, also wrote and directed many of the episodes during the 14-season run. During the last five seasons, Michael would stop filming in nearly every scene to discuss the story or the characters, according to producer David Dortort. It grew very tiresome for the crew to stop and start so often.

3. A Saturday Night Time Slot Almost Killed The Show Early On


3. A Saturday Night Time Slot Almost Killed The Show Early On

Apparently, no one’s idea of a good Saturday night was to watch a new Western on television. However, when the show was moved to Sundays at 9 p.m., the ratings rose and made the show number one in 1964. So, if you ever plan on green-lighting a new network series, make sure you get yourself the perfect time slot!

4. The Characters Wore The Same Clothes All The Time For A Reason

4. The Characters Wore The Same Clothes All The Time For A Reason

Of course, that reason was money. It would have cost an extravagant amount to shoot B roll of the characters riding on their horses in different clothing. If they all wore the same costumes for just about every episode, the same B-roll footage could be used to cut between scenes, as well as for action scenes. Ah, the magic of Hollywood.

5. Michael Landon Wore Heels

5. Michael Landon Wore Heels

Well, kind of. He wore 4-inch lifts in his shoes to make him appear much taller than he actually was.

6. The Show Was Partially A Ploy To Sell Color TVs

6. The Show Was Partially A Ploy To Sell Color TVs

Bonanza was the first network television show to be filmed fully in color. Producers knew that this could drive profits for the newfangled color TV sets, and this was another reason that the network worked so hard to save the show in its early days.

7. The Crew Loved Dan Blocker

7. The Crew Loved Dan Blocker

According to the crew, Dan, who played Hoss, was the most agreeable actor on set. In fact, some went so far as to say that he was the least actor-like of the whole bunch, which really says something about the dynamic between the cast and the crew on just about any film or movie, don’t you think?

8. Hoss Was The First Young Male Lead To Be Killed Off A Network Show

8. Hoss Was The First Young Male Lead To Be Killed Off A Network Show

When Dan unexpectedly passed away after gallbladder surgery, the producers knew that no one could take his place and play Hoss the way that he had. So, they did what no show had ever done before, and they killed off one of their young male leads, explaining that he’d drowned trying to save a woman.

9. Pernell Roberts Left The Show For The Stage

9. Pernell Roberts Left The Show For The Stage

Pernell, who played older brother Adam, was unhappy with the simplicity with which his character was written. He thought that the writers needed to break free from the tried and true archetypes of serial television and give Adam more independence, instead of making him so dependent on his father. When he felt unfulfilled, he left the show to return to the stage, despite Bonanza‘s success.

10. The Show Was A Wild West Version Of The Legend Of King Arthur

10. The Show Was A Wild West Version Of The Legend Of King Arthur

Producer Dortort envisioned Ben Cartwright as a representation of King Arthur, and his three sons as his knights, except set in America’s Wild West rather than 5th- and 6th-century Europe.

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