Linda Lawson, ‘Bonanza’ Actress, Dead at 86

by Joe Rutland

Linda Lawson, a singer and an actress who appeared in Bonanza as well as Night Tide, is dead at 86 years old. She died from natural causes on May 18 at the Motion Picture and Television Retirement Home, according to The Hollywood Reporter. Lawson would find herself performing later in life at The Sands Hotel in Las Vegas. She’d also reportedly open for performers like Frank Sinatra and Lena Horne who played in the bigger spaces.

Lawson was born Linda Spaziani in Ann Arbor, Mich. Born in 1936, she was the youngest of three children. A move to Las Vegas with her sister Diana happened after she went to high school while living in California.

Linda Lawson Would Work At MGM Before Getting On-Screen Work

Lawson then moved back and lived in Los Angeles. While there, she was an employee of MGM, then started to find work as an actress. Among her credits in the 1960s and ’60s were Bonanza, Tales of the Texas Rangers, Border Patrol, Maverick, and Mr. Lucky. Lawson also appeared in Adventures in Paradise and The Aquanauts. She married movie producer John Foreman, best known for Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, in 1958. They had two children and were married until his death in 1992.

She also released an album titled Introducing Linda Lawson in 1960. She also was a featured singer on compilation albums like Music for a Bachelor’s Den. Then, in 1961, the actress would star in Night Tide which came from writer and director Curtis Harrington. She would play Maura, a mysterious mermaid, opposite Dennis Hopper. Other roles from the Lawson resume’ included Don’t Call Me Charlie, Ben Casey, and The Alfred Hitchcock Hour for TV. Film work would include Let’s Kill Uncle and Sunset Strip. Looking back into 2000, she played Mrs. Pagnini in That’s Life opposite Ellen Burstyn and Kevin Dillon. Her final credits in the world of show business included roles on Without a Trace and ER. Lawson is survived by two daughters, Julie Foreman Hayes and Amanda Foreman. 

Bonanza is one of the greatest TV Westerns in the history of the medium. The show starred Lorne Greene, Michael Landon, Pernell Roberts, and Dan Blocker. Others including Mitch Vogel and Tim Matheson would be part of the show in its later years on NBC. Lawson played Melinda Bowers in the 1960 episode titled The Trail Gang. The synopsis from IMDb states that Ben, played by Greene, hires Sam Jackson to be a drover. Yet Jackson is outlaw Johnny Logan, who is on a mission to kill the sheriff of Waycross, his father. This is Logan’s sole reason to join up with Ben Cartwright.