Beloved western “Bonanza” was one of the longest-running and most popular westerns of all time. For 14 seasons, fans kept up with the Cartwright family’s comings and goings and their ponderosa. Even today, the show remains a popular show in syndication.
The late Dan Blocker, best known for playing the middle child, Hoss, first got his acting start in the “Three Stooges” short, Outer Space Jitters. Later, he started appearing in various western series like “Gunsmoke” and “The Restless Gun.”
Blocker also starred in the western series “Sheriff of Cochise and Zorro.” He later booked recurring roles on “The Rifleman” and “Wagon Train.” He made his big break when he was cast as Hoss Cartwright.
Dan Blocker’s Early Life & Career Before ‘Bonanza’
Before becoming a household name, Blocker grew up in De Kalb, Texas. His friends and family remembered him fondly for his massive size, standing at 6′ 4″ and weighing 300 lbs. Despite his intimidating outward appearance, Blocker was knowns for having a kind heart and pleasant demeanor.
Before his journey to Hollywood, he played football at Hardin-Simmons University and Sul Ross State Teacher’s College. He finished his academic career with a master’s degree in dramatic arts. Afterward, he got experience in cowboy life when he worked as a rodeo performer in Texas. He also landed a gig as a bouncer and a teacher before moving to Los Angeles.
Before he knew he wanted to pursue acting, the U.S. Army drafted Blocker for the Korean War. During his time serving, he earned numerous medals as an infantry sergeant, including the honorable purple heart award.
After his 13-season stint on the series, Blocker sadly passed away much too young at 43 in 1972. Blocker had undergone gall bladder surgery which resulted in a post-operative pulmonary embolism.
Since Blocker was still a character on “Bonanza,” the writers had to deal with losing him as well as his character. The writers decided that no one could replace Blocker and they had to kill off his role.
Much later, in 1988, Hoss’ off-screen death was revealed in the TV movie Bonanza: The Next Generation. In the film, it’s revealed that Hoss drowned trying to rescue a woman.