‘Bonanza’: Michael Landon’s Character’s Wedding Episode Was Originally Meant for Another Star

by Keeli Parkey

Things don’t always go according to plan. That was the case surrounding the wedding that took place during the final season of “Bonanza.”

As it aired on television, the wedding during that season was a marriage between Joseph “Little Joe” Cartwright and Alice Harper. Michael Landon played “Little Joe” while Bonnie Bedelia played Alice.

However, according to an article on MeTV.com, this was not the original plan for this “Bonanza” of a wedding. For the wedding in the 14th season, which was the show’s last, Michael Landon originally planned for Hoss Cartwright to get married. His work on the show had allowed Landon to do more than just act. By that season he was also writing and directing on “Bonanza.”

One of the episodes Landon wrote and directed was the 14th season premiere. Entitled “Forever,” it was a two-part episode, according to the article. In this original script, Landon planned for this episode to revolve around Hoss’s wedding.

Sadly, Dan Blocker, who played Hoss on “Bonanza,” died in 1972. His death in May of that year was unexpected and was the result of a pulmonary embolism that occurred after he had surgery to remove his gall bladder. The show had completed filming the 13th season by the time of his Blocker’s death, but had not filmed the 14th season.

With his co-star having passed away, Michael Landon had to come up with another idea for the episode. So, he decided to make the episode about Little Joe and his marriage to Alice.

You can watch the opening to “Bonanza” below.


‘Bonanza’ Actor Says Show Became About Love

In a candid interview recorded during the early 1980s, “Bonanza” star Lorne Greene talked about his years on the classic television show. He also discusses how the show became a show about love.

Lorne Greene starred as Ben “Pa” Cartwright on “Bonanza” from 1959 until 1973. At the start of the interview, the actor talks about some of the frustration he felt while working on “Bonanza.” Greene said he didn’t like that episodes of “Bonanza” opened with one of the characters pointing a gun at someone and asking them why they had arrived at the Ponderosa. Greene brought up his concerns with a producer and asked why the characters had to do that.

“I said, ‘Look, I said if a stranger comes on the Ponderosa, why do we have to point a gun at him? And say, ‘What are you doing in the Ponderosa? He doesn’t know where he is – it’s a thousand square miles,” Greene recalled. “Why don’t we say, listen where are you from, St. Louis? Great. How about staying with us for a week? Just be our guest. We’ll talk. We’ll find out what’s happening in the rest of the world. At least, let’s be human beings. Let’s not be antagonists.”

This conversation led to a change on “Bonanza,” according to Greene. Instead of being antagonists, the show’s characters became welcoming. “Eventually, that became our characters. Instead of being a Western-shoot-em-up, it became a series about a four-letter word – love,” Greene said.

Check out Lorne Greene talk about “Bonanza” during the 1983 interview below.