‘Bonanza’ Star David Canary Recalled the ‘Gloomy’ Set Following Dan Blocker’s Death

by Joe Rutland

It’s no secret that the classic TV Western Bonanza suffered a serious blow to its run on NBC with the death of Dan Blocker. Blocker played the gregarious “Hoss” Cartwright opposite cast members Lorne Greene, Michael Landon, Pernell Roberts, and David Canary. Well, Canary, who played Candy Canaday on there, would recall what the atmosphere was on the show’s set after Blocker died.

In this interview, we hear him talk a little about how the famed actor died. Bonanza was a major network hit and would end up being the second longest-running Western in TV history. The first should not be a surprise as it is Gunsmoke on CBS. Still, Canary would mention not only his own thoughts about Blocker himself but the show’s remaining time on NBC.

David Canary of ‘Bonanza’ Recalls Show Letting Michael Landon Write Two-Part Episode

“It was gloomy,” Canary said in an interview with the Television Academy Foundation. “It was not only the death knell of the show because Mike [Landon] had been telling me that the network wanted to syndicate it. And they were putting on the pressure after 13, 14 years to syndicate the show. He was fighting against that, he wanted to keep it going. But he saw this coming after Dan died. He succumbed to the pressure and, well, he had no choice. They dropped us. but they let him write this two-parter as a eulogy to Dan.”

If Canary’s name is familiar to you and you’re a soap opera fan, then you remember him as Adam Chandler on All My Children. He would win five Daytime Emmy Awards for his work on the ABC show. But Canary had left Bonanza in 1970 over a contract dispute. He returned after Blocker’s death. Here’s another little tidbit from Canary about Bonanza. One time, he talked about why characters would wear the same costumes. It all had to do with using stock footage on there.

“They would go up to Lake Tahoe about once every two or three years and shoot a couple of shows,” Canary said in this 2004 interview. “Our doubles would dress up in our costumes and galavant across the prairie. They would ride in two’s and in three’s to film what they call stock footage that they would not have time to do back in Los Angeles. That is why they kept the same costumes. That stock footage would have been useless if we had started changing clothes all the time.” The actor would die in 2015 at age 77. You can see his work on Bonanza thanks to the world of, well, syndication that Canary talked about in the interview.