Just before David Cassidy found fame on “The Partridge Family,” he found himself as a guest star on NBC’s popular western series “Bonanza.”
Cassidy, in an episode called “The Law and Billy Burgess,” plays the role of an angry teenager named Billy Burgess. Things are not working out in Burgess’s life at all because of his anger issues. Ben Cartwright, played by Lorne Greene, is spending time counseling Burgess and trying to get at the root of the anger.
Well, it turns out that Billy has a tough day at school. At day’s end, he wishes that his teacher would die. Guess what? The teacher is murdered. People point fingers at young Burgess.
Now Cartwright knows that the teenager is innocent, but Burgess keeps on saying that he killed the teacher.
David Cassidy had a tough upbringing of his own, being abused physically and emotionally by his father, actor Jack Cassidy. Maybe he was finding a way through this role to turn some of his personal anger loose. Wherever David Cassidy dug within himself to portray Burgess, it proved to be a powerful episode on “Bonanza.”
Lorne Greene: ‘Bonanza’ Role Is Him Acting Like His Father
Lorne Greene was the fatherly head of the Cartwright clan for 14 seasons on “Bonanza.” When asked about playing Ben Cartwright, Greene simply said that he was portraying what he saw in his father.
“I don’t know whether I could ever match my father as a person,” Greene said in an interview with the New York Post. “But as an actor I try to be like him.”
Daniel Greene, Lorne’s father, tried keeping his son out of trouble. Lorne Greene said he was a bit mischievous as a kid. But his father’s behavior toward him helped provide a template for Greene. Lorne would embody what he saw and observed in his own father.
A couple of times, Daniel Greene caught the future “Bonanza” patriarch either lying or making up absence notes. It struck him hard, something Lorne Greene remembered.
“All I remember is my father’s eyes saying to me, ‘What kind of a delinquent have I brought into this world?'” Greene said. “From that moment on, I became a reformed character. He never mentioned that incident again and he didn’t tell my mother because he knew it would hurt her.”
Young Dennis Hopper Plays Bounty Hunter In 1964 Episode
Speaking of David Cassidy and young guest stars, if you had Dennis Hopper as one on your “Bonanza” guest-star Bingo card then claim your prize.
Hopper, who would go on to movie fame in “Easy Rider” and others, played a bounty hunter in “The Dark Past” episode from 1964.
Now Hopper, who portrays Dev Farnum, comes into town and gets crossways with the Cartwrights. Farnum is looking for Ron Starr, an outlaw who he hopes is nearby. Farnum is actually the son of a preacher Ben Cartwright once knew.
But Farnum, obviously, didn’t follow his father’s footsteps. Yet he finds himself in need of help, so he reaches out to the Cartwrights. He asks them to help him track down Starr, and off they go in search of the outlaw.
Hopper managed to appear in other TV westerns at that time, too, like “Wagon Train” and “The Rifleman.”
There was not much time between those appearances and when his big-screen career took off. It’s cool, though, to look back and see where actors like Hopper started. Especially on a classic TV western like “Bonanza.”