‘Bonanza’: Candy Actor David Canary Earned Role by ‘Scaring’ Creator David Dortort

by Emily Morgan
(Photo by 20th Century-Fox/Getty Images)

In 1967, one actor earned their spot on the classic western series, “Bonanza,” after he scared the cowboy boots off its creator. When Pernell Roberts left the show after playing Ben Cartwright’s eldest son Adam Cartwright, the series’ creator David Dortort had a big task ahead of him in finding a new storyline and character. Eventually, he came up with a character named Candy Canaday, a former soldier who turns into a ranch-foreman and befriends the Cartwrights. 

If you’re a fan of the show, you know Candy would do just about anything for Ben and his boys, which meant that Candy’s character had a tough personality. For that reason, Dortort had a difficult time casting the part. However, all that changed when he watched a movie starring Paul Newman called Hombre. The 1967 film was an adaptation of an Elmore Leonard novel, and David Dortort went to see the flick once it came out in theaters. That’s how he came to discover actor David Canary who had a villainous role in the movie. Even though it was a small role, his performance made a big impression on the Dortort. In an interview with the Archive of American Television, Canary said that’s when he got called in to read for Candy.

‘Bonanza’ Actor Gives His All During Audition

During the audition, Dortort wasn’t convinced that the actor could pull off the role of Candy. Canary said he’d just finished reading when he heard the creator say, “I want to know, can you get angry?”

In the blink of an eye, the “Bonanza” hopeful spun around, got up in Dortort’s face, and let out a boiling rage. The actor recalled, “I think I actually literally scared him.” He didn’t break the tension in the audition room. Instead, he called back to Dortort, “Yeah, that was me being angry.” Now it makes sense why Canary nailed his audition and went on to become a beloved part of the show. He wasn’t afraid to prove himself when his moment came. As a result, the risky move ended paying off in the long run.