One of the most popular shows to ever grace a television set, “Bonanza” has a huge fan base that is still growing.
The hit show ran for 431 episodes over the course of 14 years. Starting in 1959, “Bonanza” would air its final episode in 1973. “Bonanza” is the second-longest-running western drama on U.S. network television, behind only another hit western in “Gunsmoke.” It also ranks in the top 10 longest-running, live-action American series of all time.
Watchers of the show may note that the show’s characters are usually wearing the same costumes throughout most of the series. There is a practical reason for keeping the same costumes throughout the show, according to actor David Canary. The veteran actor played “Candy” Canaday on close to 100 episodes of “Bonanza,” with his character being written off in 1970. Candy Canaday would return in later seasons of the show after the death of “Bonanza” star Dan Blocker.
In a 2004 interview, Canary says the reason for keeping the costumes the same throughout the show was for consistent stock footage.
In the interview, Canary notes all of the actors wore the same costumes so they would match the stock footage shot off set. Showrunners relied on previously recorded stock footage to fill in gaps while editing episodes. It is a pretty common practice for earlier television shows like “Bonanza.”
“They would go up to Lake Tahoe about once every two or three years and shoot a couple of shows,” he recalls. “Our doubles would dress up in our costumes and galavant across the prairie. They would ride in two’s and in three’s to film what they call stock footage that they would not have time to do back in Los Angeles.”
‘Bonanza’ Utilized Consistent Stock Footage for Show
Canary says it was important to “Bonanza” producers to keep consistency in the costumes that the actors wore. Doubles would wear the exact same costumes while filming stock footage in order to make the scenes realistic.
“That is why they kept the same costumes,” he says. “That stock footage would have been useless if we had started changing clothes all the time.”
Canary would go on to have even more success after his time on the “Bonanza.” The actor won five day time Emmy Awards for his work on the soap opera “All My Children.” He passed away in 2015 at the age of 77.