‘Bonanza’ Star Dan Blocker’s Early Life Embodied His Hoss Cartwright Role

by Joe Rutland
(Photo Courtesy Getty Images)

When talking about larger-than-life actors and characters in classic TV, a list might start with Bonanza star Dan Blocker. He, of course, famously would play Eric “Hoss” Cartwright on the long-running Western staple on NBC. Sadly, Blocker would die at a relatively young age. Yet his early life adventures would pave the way for him to become a memorable part of TV lore. Hoss definitely could be viewed as a gentle giant as he stood tall over his fellow cast members. Blocker played the second son of Ben Cartwright for 13 seasons. As we said, he sadly died unexpectedly at 43 years old in 1972, MeTV reports.

What in the world would set him up for success? A lot of his early life experiences. We’ll start out with him being born in the small town of Dekalb, Texas, back in 1928. When he would be 22 years old, Blocker would enroll in Hardin-Simmons University in Abilene, Texas. There, he would get a first taste of acting. Blocker did get a degree in Speech and Drama. Success would come along and knock on his door.

Dan Blocker Of ‘Bonanza’ Would Also Be A Teacher In His Life

But he would spend time as a rodeo performer and bouncer while being a student in school. Blocker also played football before he would transfer to Sul Ross State Teacher’s College and finished up his Master’s Degree in Dramatic Arts. One thing that made him pretty intimidating was not only his size but Blocker also weighed 300 pounds. Once people got to know Blocker or become acquainted with him, they could see that he was a good-hearted soul.

He would get drafted into the U.S. Army during the Korean War. Blocker started basic training in Louisiana. He would serve as an infantry sergeant in Korea between December 1951 and August 1952. One thing that made him stand out was a mixture of strength, talents, and education. Blocker had planned on being a teacher, too.

That journey would start out in Sonora, Texas, where he was a sixth-grade and high school English and Drama teacher. When he started teaching in California, Blocker would also take on acting roles. Ahead of Bonanza, though, Blocker would have roles on some top-rated television shows. Blocker would appear in Outer Space Jitters, an episode of The Three Stooges. He played a goon on there. Blocker also would appear in episodes of the NBC show titled The Restless Gun as a blacksmith. Added TV shows that he popped up on included Gunsmoke and Colt 45. What’s interesting to note is that Gunsmoke would be a show in which Bonanza would battle for supremacy on network TV back in the day.