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Bonanza (TV Series 1959–1973) Poster

(1959–1973)

Trivia

Jump to: Spoilers (7)
Michael Landon wore four-inch lifts in the series.
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Dan Blocker owned a chain of restaurants called "Bonanza". They were steakhouses similar to the "Golden Corral" chain. When the ownership later changed, all of the restaurants were later renamed "Ponderosa".
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During the filming of one episode, Lorne Greene was required to jump off of a small ledge into a lake five feet below. Michael Landon recalled that when Greene did the stunt, he jumped into the water feet first and went completely under, but his hair piece came off and floated on the surface of the lake. Landon and the rest of the crew watched to see what would happen. After a short while, Greene's hand shot up out of the water, grabbed the hairpiece, and pulled it down. Greene emerged from the lake, wearing his hairpiece slightly askew. He walked nonchalantly past the snickering crew, and went into his trailer without saying a word.
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Saturday night's ratings were dismal, and the show was soon targeted for cancellation. Given one last chance, it was moved to Sunday nights at 9 p.m. The new time slot caused the series to soar, and it eventually reached number one by the mid 1960s.
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According to David Dortort, Michael Landon grew difficult during the last five seasons of the show: "Nearly every line, every scene, every set up, everything would halt for endless story conferences on the set, it got increasingly bitter toward the end."
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According to the 1973 book "Marilyn Beck's Hollywood", when Pernell Roberts told Lorne Greene he was leaving the series because he wanted to challenge himself as an actor, Greene told him to stick to it, because he would be so rich by the end of the run he could hire Tennessee Williams himself to write a play for him. Co-star Michael Landon later said that they took a leaf out of the dining room table and split the money three rather than four ways. Roberts played many parts on stage and later starred in a television series called Trapper John, M.D. (1979). Greene, Landon, and Dan Blocker became very wealthy with their income from the show.
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Lorne Greene was only 13 years older than his on-screen sons, Pernell Roberts and Dan Blocker.
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Pernell Roberts was not popular with his co-stars or the crew. He continually complained about the show, feeling it was poor quality and beneath him as an actor. According to Michael Landon, Roberts very rarely, if ever, spoke to him. As well as Creator/Producer David Dortort affirms in interviews with Television Archives.
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During the first season, the guest stars were paid far more than the regulars. The producers didn't think the stars were well-known enough to pull in viewers.
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Although it got off to a rough start, by 1961, it was the number one show.
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Most viewers have only heard the famous theme song played as an instrumental. The song had lyrics, and footage exists of the lead actors singing them. Lorne Greene, Dan Blocker, and Michael Landon sang a lyrical version of this theme for the pilot, but it never aired.Johnny Cash recorded his own version of the theme song.
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Every time one of the Cartwrights became seriously involved with a woman, she died from disease, was killed, or left with someone else.
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In the show's early episodes, the Cartwrights were hostile to visitors. Lorne Greene pointed out that since Ponderosa was so large, the Cartwrights would be an important business interest in the community. People would visit for economic, political, and social reasons, and the Cartwrights would logically welcome them. The producers agreed, and altered the characters accordingly.
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This is the second-longest-running Western television series, behind Gunsmoke (1955). It continues to air in syndication.
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From the third season on, the Cartwrights, and nearly every other recurring character on the show, wore the same clothing in almost every episode. This was done to cut the cost of re-filming action shots (such as riding clips in-between scenes), as previously-shot stock footage could be re-used.
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Michael Landon was the only original cast member who never wore a hairpiece during filming. Pernell Roberts and Lorne Greene began the series with hairpieces. Greene wore his modest frontal piece in private life, too, whereas Roberts preferred not to wear his, even to rehearsals. Dan Blocker began wearing a toupée in 1968, as he began to lose his hair. Even Victor Sen Yung's Hop Sing wore an attached ponytail. Landon dyed his hair throughout the run of the series, as he began to go gray when he was twenty.
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The character "Ben Cartwright" was ranked number two in TV Guide's list of the "50 Greatest TV Dads of All Time" (June 20, 2004 issue).
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The opening burning map of the Ponderosa Ranch was illustrated without compass points, which caused the map to appear to be incorrectly oriented (Reno appeared to be west of Carson City). David Dortort, choosing not to redo the map, added the compass points. Many have suggested that the compass points are pointing in the wrong direction (slightly north-northwest). However, the compass points are aligned with Magnetic North instead of True North.
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For most of its 430-episode run, the show's main sponsor was Chevrolet. The stars occasionally appeared in commercials endorsing Chevrolet automobiles.
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Michael Landon was nicknamed "Socks" on the set, as it was said he smoked so heavily that even his socks smelled of cigarette smoke. By 1961 he was smoking four packs of unfiltered cigarettes a day. He eventually quit smoking in the summer of 1989, but in the autumn of 1990 began to show symptoms of pancreatic cancer.
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Pernell Roberts objected to the racist portrayal of minorities in the series.
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Before becoming a rancher, Ben Cartwright was a ship's Captain. His port of call was New Orleans, Louisiana.
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Robert Blake and Robert Fuller were considered for the role of Little Joe Cartwright. Producer David Dortort had mixed feelings about Michael Landon, the new, unfamiliar actor auditioning for the part, thinking he was way too young. With the encouragement of his wife, who picked up a publicity still of Landon, Dortort changed his mind and gave Landon the role.
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It took Michael Landon several attempts before he wrote a script that producer David Dortort thought was good enough to use. After this, he became a regular writer and director for the series. Later, he would re-write many of his Bonanza scripts for new episodes of Little House on the Prairie (1974).
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Bonanza was not the first television western series to be completely shot in color. However, it was the first network television western to air completely in color.
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It's mentioned/implied that Hoss is a few years younger than Adam. But off-screen, Dan Blocker is born in the same year (1928) and is just seven months younger than Pernell Roberts.
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In a Television Archives interview, Ray Evans and Jay Livingston said that when Desi Arnaz asked them to write a theme song for a Western television show, Arnaz told them he couldn't pay them much for a weekly salary, because the show was only going to last one year. The men made a deal with Arnaz to keep the rights to the song. When this show became an unexpected smash-hit, the men made millions.
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Anthony Lawrence didn't write authentic Western scripts, so he focused on writing about relationships. One day, Producer David Dortort told Lawrence he wanted to do a story on each of Ben's wives. Lawrence replied, "Let me do it, I can kill off at least two of them!" Lawrence thought he would get thrown off the set for saying that. Instead, he scripted the episodes with Ben and his wives: Bonanza: Elizabeth, My Love (1961), Bonanza: Inger, My Love (1962), Bonanza: Marie, My Love (1963), and Bonanza: Journey Remembered (1963).
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The last 14 episodes of season one, and the first 17 episodes of season two, have fallen into the public domain. They have been released by many different companies in many different configurations, usually with the familiar theme music replaced with generic music.
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Michael Landon was responsible for Guy Williams being fired from this series.
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After eleven seasons, the show's theme music was replaced by an original tune composed by David Rose. Rose continued to work with Michael Landon after this show ceased production, by becoming the resident composer on Little House on the Prairie (1974) and Highway to Heaven (1984).
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When Pernell Roberts decided to quit the series, newcomer---and former Zorro (1957) star---Guy Williams was brought in to replace him as the very attractive new character, cousin Will Cartwright, who was to become a permanent cast member. However, he only lasted 5 episodes due to Michael Landon's insecurities. Landon notoriously refused to work with any actor whom he deemed better looking and more charismatic than himself, so he had Williams fired. (Indeed, before filming Highway to Heaven (1984), Landon told the producers he refused to do the series unless his much older-looking friend, Victor French was brought in to play Mark. The producers had wanted a much younger and more handsome actor for that part.) Later, Roberts decided not to quit the series.
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Footage of the main street in Virginia City was reused often. It showed a surrey with passengers, with a Chinese Man and an Indian talking over a jug, at the lower left, and two old prospectors with mules at the lower right.
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Bonanza: Ride the Wind: Part 1 (1966) and Bonanza: Ride the Wind: Part 2 (1966) were released as a theatrical film outside the U.S.
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Lorne Greene was 44 when the series first aired on American television and was nearly 58 when the final episode was broadcast.
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Dan Blocker, who played Eric "Hoss" Cartwright, started the Bonanza steakhouse chain in 1963, naming it after the show. Eventually, it was sold to a company called Metromedia in 1989. Metromedia also bought the Ponderosa steakhouse chain (started two years after Bonanza under no connection with the show) one year earlier, and marketed both restaurants under the same concept. Ponderosa was also the name of the show when it first went into syndication back when it was common to give the syndicated version a different name (or variation of the name) to differentiate it from the original if the original was still in production.
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One of the longest running television series in television history spanning 14 years, 14 seasons and 430 episodes.
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Michael Landon was 22 when the series aired for the first time on American television and was 36 when the finale was broadcast.
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In their American Archives interviews, both David Dotort and Haskell Boggs said, Desi Arnaz purposely hired unknown actors to play the father and children. Desi wanted to prove a television show could be successful by the writing, not the "Star names". Desi clashed with NBC executives who wanted to hire known names, but he proved to be right, in the end, as Bonanza smashed its' competition in the Nieslen Ratings.
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5 years after the series ended, Lorne Greene starred in the short-lived science fiction series Battlestar Galactica (1978) (TV Series) as Commander Adama.
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The burning map in the opening scene is actually the eastern shore of Lake Tahoe and not the northern shore. This can be proven by turning the image 90-degrees clockwise and comparing it with a map. The burning is symbolic of cattle branding irons.
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The show held the record for the most hour-long episodes (430) of any prime time, scripted series until Law & Order (1990) surpassed it in 2009. Law & Order: Special Victims Unit (1999) has also surpassed it as well.
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A young Dennis Hopper played bounty hunter Dev Farnum in Bonanza: The Dark Past (1964).
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1 year after the series ended, Michael Landon joined the family drama series Little House on the Prairie (1974) as Charles Ingalls.
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Ben's first wife was Elizabeth Stoddard, Ben met her while working as a first mate on a sailing vessel. She died giving birth to Adam. Her story is told in the episode "Elizabeth, My Love".
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Ben's second wife was Inger Borgstrom. Ben met her when he was travelling west with Adam. She was killed fighting Indians. Her story is told in "Inger, My Love".
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Ben's third wife was Marie DeMarigny. He met her while doing a favor for a deceased friend in Louisiana. As it turned out, she was his widow, and Ben fell in love with her. She died in a horseriding accident after she gave birth to Joe. Her story is told in "Marie, My Love".
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In Season 6's "Old Sheba" the circus elephant is called Old Sheba. Incidentally, in Lorne Greene's later series Battlestar Galactica (1978) (TV Series) there was character called Lieutenant Sheba (Played by Anne Lockhart).
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Spoofed in Mad Magazine as "Bananaz"
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The original "Puff Daddy", whether an 1860s western or a 1980s modern setting, Michael Landon's characters all sported the one same puffy-permed hairdo.
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Guest stars Ricardo Montalban and Madlyn Rhue whom played Matsou and Hatoya in Season 2's 'Day of Reckoning' both later appeared together in Star Trek: The Original Series: Space Seed (1967). Ricardo Montalban as Khan and Madlyn Rhue as Marla.
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Tommy Tedesco played the iconic lead guitar for the famed Bonanza Theme Song.
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Spoilers 

The trivia items below may give away important plot points.

When Dan Blocker died unexpectedly just before filming for the final season began, the writers decided to have Hoss die in an accident. The opening episode, a two-hour special, was originally scripted to feature Hoss.
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Throughout the series, Joe was shot 18 times, Ben was shot 14 times, Hoss was shot 11 times, and Adam was shot 6 times.
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Hoss proposed to 6 women, 3 of whom died. Joe proposed to 11 women, 4 of whom died. Ben proposed to 3 women, 2 or whom died. Both of the women that Adam proposed to lived.
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Adam, Hoss, and Little Joe were half brothers, with the same father and different mothers.
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Hoss' given name is Eric. His mother was Ben's second wife, Inger.
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Bonanza, Gunsmoke, The High Chaparral and Dr Quinn Medicine Women were all filmed at Paramount Studios.
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Bonanza was actually filmed at the Paramount Pictures studio lot.
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See also

Goofs | Crazy Credits | Quotes | Alternate Versions | Connections | Soundtracks

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