‘Bonanza’: How the Classic Western Handled ‘Hoss’ Cartwright Actor Dan Blocker’s Death

by Joe Rutland

In the history of classic TV shows, Bonanza stands out as one of the greatest Westerns, and it had Dan Blocker, in part, to thank for that. Lorne Greene, Michael Landon, and Pernell Roberts also had vital parts during the show’s run on NBC. It did leave end its fantastic run after 14 seasons, though. One reason had to do with the death of Dan Blocker. How did the show handle this immense loss to its cast and fans worldwide?

Actor’s Death Becomes Turning Point For ‘Bonanza’ on NBC

Blocker died in 1972 at 43 years old. He died from a pulmonary embolism after going through gallbladder surgery. Blocker played the big-as-life, lovable Hoss Cartwright, a son of Greene’s Ben Cartwright. The series was still solid in the ratings when he passed away after Season 13.

The Season 14 premiere episode is titled Forever and Ben talks about how it feels to “lose a son.” That makes a reference to Hoss and, of course, to Blocker. He would refer to Hoss in a past-tense sense in the episode. Bonanza did set some people on notice as it becomes one of the first shows on TV to talk about a character’s death.

The show added actors like Tim Matheson and Mitch Vogel to the cast but it would not be enough. After 14 seasons, the Ponderosa would close up shop for new episodes. We get more from MSN.

Lorne Greene Almost Packed Up And Left The Ponderosa A Bit Too Soon

In case you didn’t know who played what on Bonanza, let’s get you a quick rundown. Greene played Ben Cartwright, Landon played “Little Joe” Cartwright, and Roberts played Adam Cartwright. Hoss, Little Joe, and Adam were sons of Ben. They would work together on keeping the Ponderosa an active and working ranch. On Sept. 12, 1959, Bonanza first took to the airwaves on NBC.

Speaking of Greene, did you know that the actor almost left after 16 episodes? Why would the proud Canadian and veteran radio announcer decide to leave the show at its early stages? Greene chats about the situation in a 1971 interview with the Hawaii Tribune-Herald. “After the first 16 shows, I went to David Dortort (the producer) and I said I wanted out,” he said. “We had done 16 shows, and all I was saying was ‘Get off my land’ and quoting the Bible, which was how the part was written then.”

Well, the show’s writers worked up an episode and let Ben reveal a deeper side to his character. How did Greene feel about it all now? “I said to myself that if the show lasted half a season, beautiful,” he said. “If it lasted a full season, beautiful. Three years, beautiful. Twenty years, beautiful.”