In 1972, the Old West lost a bit of its heart and soul. Dan Blocker, one of the lead stars on “Bonanza,” passed away at only age 43. His death shook the cast and crew, especially Michael Landon. It also contributed to the show ending only one season later.
Blocker played Hoss for 13 seasons on the hit television show. “Bonanza” chronicled the on-screen adventures of the Cartwright family on the frontier. Landon tried to put on a brave face and keep the rest of the cast and crew in high spirits. But eventually, the mask slipped, and Landon broke down on set.
The actor became emotional during a speech about Blocker.
“He broke down during it,” said Ken Howard, who played Mark Twain. “What he was saying to this group, to this crew that had been together forever, was that we all know it’s not the same, and never will be.”
Michael Landon Remembers His Co-Star
During the premiere of the show’s 14th and final season, the crew made the decision to kill off Hoss. They wanted to allow the audience to grieve with them. Michael Landon reflected on the episode and Blocker’s death.
“We try to mention Hoss’ death very simply, in passing … it might not please everybody,” Landon said of the episode. “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.”
Meanwhile, Lorne Greene, who played the family’s patriarch, predicted that the show wouldn’t survive without Blocker. The actor’s words ended up being prophetic. The show would end at the conclusion of its 14th season.
“After Dan’s death, I didn’t see how the show could continue,” Greene said. “I said to my wife, ‘That’s it. It’s finished.’”