‘Bonanza’: Lorne Greene Detailed the ‘Great Tragedy’ of Dan Blocker’s Death

by Joe Rutland

Lorne Greene felt like a member of his own family died when “Bonanza” costar Dan Blocker died after surgery in 1972. It affected him deeply.

“Dan Blocker is one of the great tragedies that take place in a person’s life,” Greene said during a 1986 interview with Ray Martin. “A big, huge man, I referred to him as ‘my big son Hoss,’ 6-foot-3 anyway you want to measure it.

“He was a marvelous human being, a very bright, very bright man,” Greene said. “Never hurt anybody in his life. And a little blood clot after an operation took him away. You expect a man like that something horrendous to happen.

‘Bonanza’ Star Says Blocker ‘Was Very Sorely Missed’ After Death

“But something as big as that, no. And he was very sorely missed,” he told Martin. “Bonanza” lost one of its main cast members when Blocker, who only went into the hospital for gallbladder surgery, ended up dying because a blood clot entered his heart.

Blocker, a native of De Kalb, Texas, died on May 13, 1972, at 43 years old. The NBC hit western never really recovered from losing “Hoss” among the Cartwright clan. They tried filling his spot with different actors but no one could help heal that loss.

After 14 seasons on NBC, the network canceled “Bonanza” and its last original episode aired on Jan. 16, 1973. It is the second-longest-running western series in American TV history. Only “Gunsmoke” on CBS beat that mark with 20 seasons under its belt.

Besides Greene and Blocker, Michael Landon and Pernell Roberts made up the original Cartwright family. Roberts left the show after a few seasons, but Landon remained a part of it until the very end.

Before Death, Blocker Predicted Show Would Come To An End Pretty Soon

It is rather strange and wild to listen as Blocker, in an interview one year before his death, say he thought “Bonanza” would end soon.

Blocker talked in 1971 with interviewer Bobbie Wygant. Wygant asked him if he could see the show going on “ad infinitum” as it was entering season No. 13.

“Well, I think it could be,” Blocker said. “I think it’ll eventually become an economic burden for the network and the sponsors to such an extent that they will probably drop it.

“I foresee the show lasting another couple of years,” he said. And how much longer was the show on NBC? Two more years.