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Welcome to Olde Time Cooking's presentation of Bonanza!

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When producer David Dortort sold NBC on the idea of creating Bonanza, he thought the show would offer an interesting contrast to the sitcoms and formula Westerns that filled the TV schedule at that time. He had no idea he was creating a phenomena that would air for an incredible 14 years as a first-run show on U.S.  TV, be syndicated to virtually every country around the globe, and introduce characters who would become beloved by hundred of millions of fans.

 

Joe and Little Joe CartwrightDortort, a writer turned producer, wanted to create a show that he felt would counteract the image of the bumbling, inept male depicted on many TV shows in the 50’s. He wanted his characters to be strong men.  He envisioned them as descendants of the Knights of the Round Table– men with a strong moral compass who would right wrongs and bring a sense of justice to an untamed land. He created Ben Cartwright as the strong patriarch, a father who would guide his three sons through both wise counsel land model behavior. Dortort gave each son unique and different characteristics. Adam was the intellectual and somewhat brooding oldest son, a man more likely to use brains rather than brawn. Hoss was the gentle giant, a man of incredible strengthThe Cartwright Clan with a heart of gold. Little Joe was the irrepressible youngest son, impulsive and a romantic at heart. To account for the differences among the sons Dortort gave each son a different mother, having Ben Cartwright becoming a widower three times.  Instead of the mythical Camelot ,Dortort gave the Cartwrights the sprawling Ponderosa ranch, an empire of cattle, timber and mining set in the mountains of Nevada, near Lake Tahoe.  Bonanza was one of the first "landed" Westerns, that is, a Western where the characters had a permanent home to defend and use as a base. Most Westerns of that era had characters who traveled from town to town, using these travels as a way to create perilous circumstances.  In Bonanza, the Cartwrights dealt with a wide variety of personalities and situations that, more often than not, came to their doorstep.

 

The cast included Lorne Green as Ben Cartwright.  Greene was best known before Bonanza for his deep, booming voice.  A Canadian, Greene had been known as "The Voice of Canada", a tag he received because of the numerous radio broadcasts in which he participated in that country.  Pernell Roberts drew the role of Adam, and Dan Blocker was cast as Hoss.  Michael Landon became Little Joe.

All four actors had performed in numerous small roles on American TV, but none were well known to the viewing public. That  quickly changed once Bonanza hit the airways.

 

Here come the CartwrightsThe first episode of Bonanza aired on September 12, 1959.  The show was hardly an instant success.  For it’s first two seasons, Bonanza struggled in the ratings, kept on the air mainly because it was filmed in color.  Color TV was a new phenomena at that time, and RCA (NBC’s parent company) wanted a show that would encourage viewers to purchase the new television sets.   Early episodes included many shots of the beautiful Lake Tahoe area as well as sets and costumes that featured rich, dark colors.  Bonanza languished on Saturday night for two years before NBC chose to move it to a Sunday night time slot.

On Sunday night, the show found an audience and became a hit. For 10 of its 14 year run, Bonanza was consistently in the top 10 of all rated TV shows, and from 1964 to 1967, it was the single most watched television program in America.

 

Dan Blocker as Eric "Hoss" CartwrightIn many ways, Bonanza was ahead of its time.  The show dealt with then-controversial issues, such as racial prejudice, psychological problems, drug and alcohol abuse, and mercy killing.   The writers also kept the viewers interested by offering contrasting shows.  One week, an episode would be a compelling drama and the next week, the episode would have a comedic theme.  Such was the excellence of the cast that the four stars handled drama and comedy with equal ease.  Each actor had the ability to create a scene filled with tension or heart-wrenching tenderness, then turn around and send the audience into gales of laughter with hilarious misadventures.

 

Michael Landon as Little Joe CartwrightFans also could count on each episode having, if not a happy ending, at least a satisfying one. Good always triumphed over evil.  Characters could be counted on to eventually do the right thing, no matter how painful or upsetting it might be for the Cartwrights.  Ben reinforced the family's values with quiet lectures and comforting words.  Audiences knew they could enjoy Bonanza without worrying about scenes of overt sex or horrifying violence.

Hoss, Ben and Little Joe

 

Lorne Green as Ben Cartwright The last new episode of Bonanza aired on January 16, 1973.

Bonanza was more than a TV Western about a man and his three sons working as a family in the rough and violent era of the Old West. It has become a piece of the fabric of American culture.  Ben Cartwright and his sons Adam, Hoss and Little Joe are familiar names to people who weren't even born when the show first aired and the show’s distinctive opening theme is instantly recognized everywhere. Bonanza continues to be popular as it airs in syndicated re-runs both in the U.S. and in numerous other countries, spawning Internet fan clubs and creating new fans every time it is shown.

 

Pernell Roberts as Adam CartwrightThe cast of Bonanza continued with successful careers after the show was canceled.  Michael Landon, who had begun his writing and directing career while on Bonanza, became a successful producer-director-writer as well as a popular actor.  His two subsequent series – Little House on the Prairie and Highway to Heaven– were immensely popular.   Lorne Greene had starring roles in the series BattleStar Galactica and Code Red.   David Canary has crafted a successful career in soap operas.  Even Pernell Roberts returned to TV, starring in Trapper John M.D.

 

 

The above pictures, and background, used courtesy of Bonanza Ventures, Inc.  Thank you for your permission to honor this great American show.

The following is legal information about BONANZA copyright and trademark from Bonanza Ventures.

The name "BONANZA" is a registered trademark of Bonanza Ventures, Inc., and is used with permission. Bonanza Ventures, Inc., is not responsible for the content of this web site.

The names and likenesses of the characters appearing in the "BONANZA" and "THE PONDEROSA" photoplays, and any images and pictures from such photoplays, are collectively the copyrighted and trademark-protected property of Bonanza Ventures, Inc. and the National Broadcasting Company, Inc., and are made available only for private, non-commercial use. Please take notice that any use of this material for any commercial use, or any unauthorized display, distribution, transmission or other use of this material, is expressly prohibited and constitutes a violation of the rights of Bonanza Ventures, Inc., and NBC, Inc. 

All images from "BONANZA" are Copyright 1959-2008 Bonanza Ventures, Inc., and NBC, Inc. All rights reserved. BONANZA™, , and all related indicia are trademarks of Bonanza Ventures, Inc. Used with permission. 

Bonanza Ventures, Inc. is the official worldwide rights holder to the television programs created by David Dortort: "BONANZA" (and its prequel, "THE PONDEROSA"), and "THE HIGH CHAPARRAL."  At the time of this page's creation, any person or entity interested in doing anything related to these series and/or its characters must obtain permission first, and may do so by contacting Bonanza Ventures, Inc. through its attorney:  

Andrew J. Klyde 
141-15 72nd Avenue 
Kew Gardens Hills 
New York 11367-2331 U.S.A.
Phone: (718) 261-4128; Fax: (718) 261-4408; 
email: sayajk@usa.com

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