‘Bonanza’: How Photography Director Haskell Boggs Created a Memorable Setting in ‘The Artist’ Episode

by Joe Rutland
(Photo by Silver Screen Collection/Getty Images)

“Bonanza” photography director Haskell Boggs needed to create a special place for an episode. Would you believe he found it in a barn?

Boggs was working on “The Artist,” which is from the NBC hit western’s fourth season. Matthew Raine, played by actor Dan O’Herilhy, is an artist who is losing his eyesight.

Raine needs to find a place where he can hang up his paintings for sale. Ben Cartwright, played by Lorne Greene, comes to his rescue on “Bonanza.”

But how and where are you going to find a place for Raine to work as well as sell his paintings? Leave it to Boggs’s incredible imagination to make it work.

‘Bonanza’ Art Director Turns Ponderosa Barn Into Creative Space

“It was a show between Lorne and him,” Boggs said in an interview with the Archive of American Television. “And this man that was going blind, he couldn’t paint anymore. So he started selling his paintings to an art gallery in San Francisco.

“But certain paintings he didn’t want to sell,” Boggs said. “But the point was we had to have an art gallery for his studio. And we used the interior of the barn on the Ponderosa.”

Boggs said blankets were put up on the “Bonanza” barn’s walls. He said he threw color lights on the wood and created quite a look.

“Everyone wanted to know where that sequence was shot,” he said. “They could not believe it was shot in the barn. But we jazzed it up so much that looked rich and we got our art gallery, our studio, in which he was working in.”

Just another example of how Boggs used the power of creativity, along with his photographer’s eye, to create a magical scene.

Classic TV Western Took Its Narrative From A Timeless Story

“Bonanza” used its creative aspects for this episode. Yet it also used a timeless story, placed within the confines of the Old West, to come up with its ideas.

Actually, show creator David Dortort wanted “Bonanza” to retell “The Legend of King Arthur” through the eyes of the Old West. Dortort saw Ben as King Arthur and his sons as the king’s knights.

But that direct retell idea started going into the background. Dortort, though, did impose his King Arthurian dream on an episode in the sixth season.

Show writer Robert V. Barron put together the episode called “A Knight to Remember.” In it, a knight in shining armor who called himself “King Arthur” appeared before the Cartwrights.

No, it didn’t reflect Dortort’s truest desires to have “Bonanza” be the West’s King Arthur fable coming to life. Yet he was able to do it in one episode and, by golly, get away with it.