Besides acting, “Bonanza” star Dan Blocker is still known in certain parts of Texas. He proved he was destined for big things early in life. We mean that literally. Blocker’s birth weight broke a county record.
That record still stands to this day in Bowie County, Texas. Blocker was born on Dec. 10, 1928, and weighed 14 pounds at his birth. Meanwhile, the largest baby reportedly ever born weighed 22 pounds back in the late 1800s. Blocker was often larger than life on the hit show “Bonanza.”
Blocker got his acting start on a “Three Stooges” sketch before he made a few guest appearances on “Gunsmoke” as well. But Blocker got arguably his biggest and most iconic role when he joined the cast of “Bonanza” in 1959. He portrayed the good-natured Eric “Hoss” Cartwright on the show. The western followed the trials and adventures of the Cartwright family in the old West. Blocker portrayed the character for 13 seasons and was arguably the heart of the show both on and off-screen.
Dan Blocker Passes Away
Unfortunately, Blocker passed away between Season 13 and Season 14. The actor died after developing a pulmonary embolism from gall bladder surgery. His death came as a complete shock to both the cast and also fans as well. Production had already written several storylines for his character. Originally, Blocker’s character’s wife would die during the premiere, and the show would explore Blocker’s mission for justice.
Fans referred to the final season without Blocker as the “Season without Hoss.” Among other factors, the show didn’t move forward past its 14th season. But Blocker’s death definitely factored into the reasoning to end the show.
“After Dan’s death, I didn’t see how the show could continue,” his co-star Lorne Greene said. “I said to my wife, ‘That’s it. It’s finished.’”
Blocker’s death shook actor Michael Landon, who considered Blocker to be a friend. Ever the professional, Landon tried to be a source of strength for the cast. But the sadness seemed to swell and unleash during a speech Landon made about the late actor. Landon reportedly broke down in tears.
“We try to mention Hoss’ death very simply, in passing … it might not please everybody,” Landon said of the Season 14 premiere. “I’m sure that some people would rather have a whole hour memorial to Dan, but we just couldn’t do that. We tried to do what we thought he would have wanted us to do.”
Production decided to kill off Blocker’s character in a move that allowed both the characters and fans to mourn. It was the first time a character had been killed off as a result of an actor’s real-life passing.