For fans of “Bonanza,” the question of why none of the Cartwrights ever got married on the show is a prevalent one.
In short, it all came down to money.
Well, that’s what Lorne Greene, who played Ben Cartwright on the NBC western, said. He was interviewed in 1986 and shared his thoughts around why neither he nor his sons ever walked down the aisle.
Greene gets asked by host Ray Martin if there was a “male-chauvinist thing” going on at the Ponderosa when it came to women.
‘Bonanza’ Star Says Show Producers Didn’t Want Marriages To Sons
“No it wasn’t that,” Greene said. “They just didn’t want anybody to get married because that’d be another mouth to feed.” The audience laughs, then Greene says, “Well, words to that effect.”
“We used to get thousands of letters from people saying, ‘Why are you killing us off?’ The women, they had to die somehow,” he said. “And then we’d get thousands of letters saying, ‘You mustn’t do this to us, you mustn’t do this to us.'”
Greene says not having women on “Bonanza” as regular cast members “was the policy of the show.”
“Because if one of the boys got married, and the other one get married and the third, we’d have a tremendous crew of people to pay,” he said.
Well, that’s why you didn’t see Adam, Hoss, or Little Joe take a woman’s hand in marriage. “Bonanza” didn’t want to fork over the cash for the extra crew. That’s quite a story for American television’s second-longest-running western.
Greene Said Show Wasn’t Worried About Competitor’s Success
Because of the success of “Bonanza” on NBC, other networks did their best to counter-program against the popular western.
CBS decided to put “The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour,” featuring the comedy duo of Tom and Dick Smothers, against the Cartwrights.
In a 1967 interview, Greene was asked how he felt about the somewhat controversial CBS variety show finished ahead of “Bonanza” in the ratings for a few weeks.
Bottom line: Ben Cartwright, and Greene, wasn’t bothered.
“A new show comes on the air, people know that we’re going to be there the following week,” Greene told Bobbie Wygant in 1967. “They don’t know if they’re going to be there the following week. So they tune in to see and they tune in for three and four and five weeks.
“Then after that, if they like that show, they’ll stay to that show,” Greene said. “We do shows that are good enough, they’ll come back to be with the Cartwrights.”
Sure enough, “Bonanza” outlasted “The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour” and other shows CBS and ABC put up against it.
Lorne Greene died on Sept. 11, 1987, at 70 years old. But he left quite a legacy on TV behind thanks to his time on “Bonanza.”