Happy Birthday Dan Blocker: Remembering the Western Legend Who Played Hoss on ‘Bonanza’

by Lauren Boisvert

It’s Dan Blocker’s birthday, December 10, and he would have been 93 years old. Blocker is best known for playing Hoss Cartwright on “Bonanza,” but he had an interesting career spanning mostly westerns.

He was born in De Kalb, Texas, and played football in college at the Hardin-Simmons University in Abilene, Texas. While there, he got his degree in speech and drama.

Before his acting career, he was actually in the military; Dan Blocker served in the Korean War from 1951 to 1952, after he was drafted into the US Army. He was an infantry sergeant, and was awarded a Purple Heart for injuries sustained during combat. After serving in the military, he went back to school and received a master’s degree in drama.

Before moving to Los Angeles with his wife, Dolphia, Blocker was a high school English and drama teacher. He also taught a bit after moving to California, before seriously pursuing acting.

Dan Blocker’s Acting Career

Dan Blocker began his acting career in 1957, with his first credited appearance in “Outer Space Jitters,” a Three Stooges short. He played a character called the Goon, but credited as Don Blocker. Before that, he appeared in “The Girl in Black Stockings”, “Black Patch”, and “Gunsight Ridge”, all uncredited roles.

Next, he had 5 different guest roles on 5 episodes of “The Restless Gun.” The show followed the exploits of Vint Bonner, a gunfighter wandering through the West in the aftermath of the Civil War. After that stretch of roles, Blocker went on to have guest appearances on “Have Gun – Will Travel”, “The Rifleman”, “Gunsmoke”, “The Rebel”, and “The Young Captives.” Then, came his big break.

Dan Blocker got the role of Eric “Hoss” Cartwright, Ben Cartwright’s second son on “Bonanza”, in 1959. He played Hoss for 415 episodes, before his untimely death in 1972 at the age of 43.

Hoss Cartwright was a “gentle giant”; he seemed intimidating, with his stature and quiet nature. But, he was loyal, caring, and kind. Although, he had a tough side as well, usually reserved for anyone who tried to hurt or take advantage of anyone he cared about. He was sensitive and looked at life simply.

In between playing Hoss, Dan Blocker also had roles in “The Errand Boy” as a Hoss cameo, “Come Blow Your Horn”, “Lady in Cement”, “Something for a Lonely Man”, and “The Cockeyed Cowboys of Calico County.” Hoss Cartwright was his last role.

Blocker had 4 children with his wife Dolphia, actor Dirk Blocker, producer David Blocker, and twins Debra Lee and Danna Lynn. On the PBS special “Pioneers of Television: Westerns”, Mitch Vogel claimed that Dan Blocker was “so easy to get to know—the kind of guy you could go and have a beer with.”