Bonanza

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NBC (ended 1973)

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Bonanza
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Show Summary

White-haired Ben was the proud patriarch of the Cartwrights, the family at the center of one of TV's most beloved and long-running series. Their ranch, the Ponderosa, was 1,000 square-miles (600,000 acres) in size and sprawled from mountainous shores of Lake Tahoe to the desert terrain near Virginia City in the Nevada Territory. Ben oversaw his frontier empire with the help of his three sons: Adam, Hoss, and Joe. The series was set in 1859 when the series began and would progress through and following the Civil War.
---------------------------------- Series creator and producer David Dortort, who oversaw the series during its 14 year network run on NBC, says he first first got the idea for the series writing the 1953 episode of "Fireside Theatre" titled "Man of the Comstock."
---------------------------------- By 1959, NBC wanted a big filmed series to promote the sales of color television sets. NBC was the only network investing in color programs since its parent company RCA owned the electronic color transmitting system used by TV. "Bonanza" was just the type of show the network needed to "show off" its living color. In its initial season, it floundered in the ratings on Saturday nights against CBS' "Perry Mason"; it's said its renewal had a lot to do with its being shot in color. In the second season, "Bonanza" more than held its own in the Nielsens. It was the network's decision to move the series to Sunday nights that allowed it explode into a Top-10 hit.
---------------------------------- "Bonanza" differed in many ways from the dozens of other westerns on the air during its run. It relied more heavily on the characters than it did on action--though there was plenty of that. Good and bad weren't always as simple as "black hats" vs. "white hats"; many times, good people didn't live happily ever after. Despite that, Ben imparted a high code of ethics upon his sons. Among the principles:

1-Intolerance and bigotry were not acceptable. The Cartwrights often came to the defense of Indians, Chinese, and others who were the targets of the narrow-minded.

2-Once a man had paid his debt to society and was released from prison, he deserved a clean slate and a chance to start over.

3-The land was sacred. Ben's greatest business headaches came from his refusal to allow his land to be polluted and destroyed for profit. When the Cartwrights cut down a tree for lumber, they planted another. Their environmental concerns remain unique for a television series.
---------------------------------- Ben's path to his dream home of the Ponderosa (named for the Ponderosa Pine, plentiful in that area) was a long time in coming. He was a seaman, acting as first mate for Captain Abel Stoddard, when he met his boss' daughter Elizabeth and fell in love. She died after giving birth to first child Adam. Leaving the sad memories behind in the Northeast, he traveled to St. Louis and opened a trading company. He met and married the Swedish stunner Inger Inger Borgstrom who loved horses and shooting. She gave birth to son Hoss en route to the frontier, but was killed by an arrow during an ambush. Moving to New Orleans, Ben became an importer/exporter and fell for Creole beauty Marie DeMarigny. He made her wife number three and finally made it to the West. They established the Ponderosa and she gave him another son, Joseph. Marie died several years later in a riding accident. The story of each of these romance were detailed in individual episodes early in the series' run.
---------------------------------- The high mortality rate of women encountered by Ben and his sons, known jokingly as the "Cartwright Curse," became a running gag among comedians and viewers alike. If a female became a love interest to any of the show's men, even money says she'll be sick, dying, or dead by the end credits.
--------------------------- Location filming kept the series from feeling "studio bound" and gave Bonanza a chance to highlight its color cinematography. Though much was filmed on a huge sound stage at Paramount Studios, scenes were regularly shot on the studio's outdoor "Western Street" and on locations throughout Southern California and Lake Tahoe, Nevada. The rising cost of shooting at Paramount eventually forced a move to the Warner Brothers studio in Burbank. To explain the new appearance of Virginia City, Season 12 began with "The Night Virginia City Died" where a huge fire destroyed the "old" town.
---------------------------------- Changes inevitably took place among cast members during "Bonanza"'s long run. After several years of complaining about being held back from a movie career, Pernell Roberts was finally sent on his merry way after of Season 6. Prior to that, amid fears of Roberts' departure, Guy Williams was brought in for a few episodes as Ben's nephew Will Cartwright. It's said the cast resented his character being added and he disappeared after five appearances. Beginning with "Sense of Duty" in Season 9, David Canary joined the cast as Ponderosa ranch foreman Candy Canady. He practically became a Cartwright, appearing in roughly a third of the series' total episodes. He disappeared with no mention at the end of season eleven after failing to get a raise from producer Dortort. Young orphaned teenager Jamie Hunter did become a real fourth Cartwright son when he was taken in by Ben in Season 12 and legally adopted in "A Home for Jamie" the next season. In the wake of Dan Blocker's death following Season 13, the cast was beefed up. David Canary returned as Candy (reportedly Michael Landon personally asked him to appear) and Tim Matheson was added a Griff King, a young man paroled into Ben's custody who was hired as a ranch hand.
---------------------------------- The loss of Blocker left a hole that simply couldn't be filled. This, combined with the show's move to Tuesday nights after eleven years on Sunday, dealt the series a death blow. Ratings took a nosedive and Bonanza aired it final episode in the middle of Season 14 on January 16. 1973.
---------------------------------- After all these years, Bonanza remains hugely popular. Besides the quality of the program itself, having filmed in color has kept it from looking "old". Episodes began to be released by CBS/Paramount on DVD beginning in 2009, and were uncut from their network airing with all the original music intact.
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Lorne Greene

Lorne Greene

Ben Cartwright

Michael Landon

Michael Landon

Joseph "Little Joe" Francis Cartwright

Dan Blocker

Dan Blocker

Eric "Hoss" Cartwright (1959-1972)

Pernell Roberts

Pernell Roberts

Adam Cartwright (1959-1965)

David Canary

David Canary

Candy Canaday (1967-1970, 1972-1973)

Mitch Vogel

Mitch Vogel

Jamie Hunter-Cartwright (1970-1973)

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SUBMIT REVIEW
  • Bonanzas in other things out

    10
    I am so much fun of The Cartwright family. They give me lots inspiration. very good family and very good relationships between them. I absolutely love to watch them in lots of time :)))
  • Bonanza in Italian?

    10
    Hi folks,

    I lived in Italy as a child and we would watch "Bonanza" dubbed in italian. You have not really laughed hard until you have seen Hoss Cartwright speak in formal italian. I have not been able to find these episodes anywhere on the internet or Youtube. Have any suggestions for me? I recently hooked up with my old military brat friends from those days via FB, and I sure would like to post it on our group's page.

    grazie!moreless
  • Great classic tv series!

    10
    Well, whenever I heard Bonanza, the Cartwrights is the only thing that comes up on my mind or should I rather says the famous ones. Everybody during this era used to watched this show in their living room - enjoying every episode with their entire family. Why? Because this series can be described in so many great things! The Cartwrights is known for a very well respected family which enjoys every moments of their life. I have always wanted to own a copy of this classic show and I placed a DVD order at memorylanedvd . com . I would have to say that the package I received is precious because it's complete and has of good quality which is really beyond my expectations. I'm now enjoying watching this again because it's really worth re-watching! Certainly, this is a must-see for the entire family a great classic show ever been produced in the TV history!moreless
  • Bonanzza wearing gumbelts

    7.0
    After all these years of watching the show, i never noticed that all gunbelts worn in the show do not have bullets. This does not seem natural to those times. Any one know why the producers decided to go without bullets?
  • The mill

    10
    I have not seen it but I am sure it was good since all episodes of Bonanza were good.
  • ACTOR PERNELL ROBERTS, WHO SHOCKED HOLLYWOOD BY LEAVING THE TV WESTERN BONANZA AT THE HEIGHT OF ITS POPULARITY, THEN FOUND FAME AGAIN YEARS LATER ON TRAPPER JOHN, MD, HAS DIED AGED 81.

    Bonanza star Pernell Roberts dies

  • THE MAN WHO PLAYED DOCTOR HIRAM BAKER ON LITTLE HOUSE ON THE PRAIRIE HAS DIED OF CANCER.

    Kevin Hagen dies at 77

    • The Hopefuls
      The Hopefuls is on The Best of Bonanza, a four-DVD set by Mill Creek Entertainment, copyright 2007, replaced theme song.
      10/25/11
      1
    • The Mill
      The Mill is on a four-DVD set called The Best of Bonanza, by Mill Creek Entertainment, copyright 2007, replaced theme song.
      10/25/11
      1
    • Badge Without Honor
      Badge Without Honor can be seen on a six-episode DVD by Vintage Home Entertainment, copyright 2004, original theme song. It can al...
      10/25/11
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    • Showdown
      Showdown can be found on a four-DVD set by Mill Creek Entertainment called The Best of Bonanza, copyright 2007, replaced theme song.
      10/24/11
      1
    • Death at Dawn
      Death at Dawn: On a two-episode DVD set by Ovation Home Video, copyright 2002, replaced theme song. On a six-episode DVD by Vint...
      10/24/11
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    More Info About This Show

    Themes

    for the nostalgic, Love & Romance, Military & War, Westerns, Romantic Comedy