‘Bonanza’: ‘Old Charlie’ Episode Was a Real Family Affair: What Guests Joined John McIntire on Screen?

by Clayton Edwards

Bonanza was one of the best western series to ever air. So, it’s easy to see why it would draw in some great talent from around the acting world. In an episode of the eighth season of the show titled, “Old Charlie,” John McIntire and some of his family made guest appearances on the series.

In that episode, McIntire joined the Bonanza crew to play Old Charlie Conners. He’s generally well-liked by everybody in town. Charlie runs a livery stable. But, more importantly, he’s a good guy. He always had a story to tell or some big plan to strike it rich. Then, a man with a price on his head comes to town. He’s on the run and needs to put some trail behind him. So, he heads to Charlie’s livery stable and tries to rob it. He waves a knife in Old Charlie’s face before he falls on it and kills himself. When his family catches wind of the man’s death, his identical twin shows up in town looking for revenge.

That sounds like a great setup for a Bonanza episode, right? Well, it gets even better. John McIntire was a legendary on-screen cowboy. He was trail boss Chris Hale on Wagon Train before his guest appearance. Later, he would star in The Virginian. Before becoming a famous TV cowboy, John McIntire was a real-life cowboy. He grew up on a ranch in Montana. So, his upbringing gave him the experience he needed to be one of the best cowpokes on the small screen.

Who Did McIntire Bring With Him to Bonanza?

McIntire brought some of his closest family members with him to guest star on Bonanza. According to MeTV, he was joined by his wife, Jeanette Nolan, and his son Tim McIntire. John and Jeanette played husband and wife, Charlie and Annie Conners. Tim, on the other hand, played both the man with the knife. Billy Barker and his revenge-seeking twin brother, George. He had to put a real Buck knife in his father’s face during the role.

The Bonanza episode saw the McIntire couple playing husband and wife. They would go on to do that again for The Virginian. However, they worked together off and on through their careers. The couple appeared together in a variety of roles. They weren’t just limited to westerns, either. John played the sheriff in Psycho and Jeanette was the voice of Mrs. Bates. They also played Dan’s parents on the hit primetime sitcom Night Court.

Working on classic shows like Wagon Train and Bonanza and iconic films like Psycho made John McIntire a star. However, being able to share that with the ones he loved must have been the best part of the job.