‘Bonanza’: One Member of Cartwright Family Appeared on Show Two Years Before Starring Role

by Joe Rutland

“Bonanza” is a show that, despite its success, went through some cast changes. One of those costars appeared before joining the cast.

He spoke with Jeremy Roberts during a 2017 interview on the topic.

“I actually did a guest star part on ‘Bonanza’ when I was 12 years old — two seasons before I officially joined the cast,” Mitch Vogel, who would play Jamie Hunter for three seasons, said.

“The episode was called ‘The Real People of Muddy Creek’ [broadcast on Oct. 6, 1968, during season 10],” Vogel said. “I was a young, working child actor who had only appeared onscreen up to that point in [the movie] ‘Yours, Mine and Ours’.” 

Future ‘Bonanza’ Star Actually Costars With Another Actor Who’d Join Show’s Cast

Vogel plays Tommy, one of Lucille Ball’s eight children, in the movie. In another “Bonanza” connection, Tim Matheson, who joined the NBC western during its final season as parolee-turned-ranch hand Griff King, plays the older son of Henry Fonda’s 10 kids.

Vogel also appears in an episode of the short-lived 1967 western “Dundee and the Culhane.” In this show, John Mills played a British lawyer who teams up with a younger Irish-American lawyer, Sean Garrison, to practice law in the Wild West.

But it’s the “Bonanza” connection that the show’s fans have endeared themselves with Vogel for decades. He joined the cast as Jamie Hunter, an orphan taken into the family by Ben Cartwright, played by Lorne Greene. Ben adopts Jamie and he becomes one of his sons along with Michael Landon and Dan Blocker.

A Couple of Classic TV Western’s Cast Members Cross Paths On Another Show

“Bonanza” suffers a huge loss when Blocker dies after gall-bladder surgery in 1972. The show truly never finds its balance again. NBC cancels the show and airs its last episode on Jan. 16, 1973.

Now Vogel and Landon would cross paths again as the young actor played Johnny Johnson between 1974-75 on “Little House on the Prairie.” By 1978, though, he was long gone from show business. Vogel focuses his time these days on producing plays for churches and sings.

One more quick “Bonanza” tie-in with Vogel: he’s still happy to celebrate the show. He made appearances in 2005 and 2010 at “Bonanza”-related fan events in England.

The classic TV western managed to stick on NBC for 14 seasons, making it one of the network’s most successful shows. Greene, who led the Cartwright family on the Ponderosa, was originally born in Canada before coming to the United States. He had quite a career in radio with a powerful voice which reported on World War II to Canadian radio listeners.

Landon would go on from “Bonanza” and have success with “Little House on the Prairie” and “Highway to Heaven.” Sadly, all of the western’s original cast members have died. Fans continue watching the show from one generation to another thanks to the power of reruns.