‘Bonanza’: One Guest Star Called Michael Landon and Cast the ‘Dirtiest Men Alive’

by Halle Ames
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Being called the “dirtiest men alive” isn’t exactly the best compliment to receive, but for Michael Landon and the Bonanza cast, it’s just another day in the office.

Between the dirt and the dust and the horses and the heat of Virginia City, yeah. You were going to get a bit dirty! It’s the wild west. And the idea that people wanted it any other way is farcical.

I would say the term “dirtiest men alive” may have been a bit of a stretch, but they sure were high on the list.

Bonanza Cast in Need of a Bath

Emmy-winning actress Mariette Hartley, who is now 80-years-old, was featured on the hit show Bonanza several times. She portrayed numerous characters, including Jennifer, the daughter of Ben Cartwright’s old friend Harry Carlis.

In an interview posted by A Word on Westerns in 2015, Hartley recalled what her brief stint on the 1959 hit Bonanza was like. She notes that the hygiene on set wasn’t the best she’s seen. Also, lucky for Hartley, her character was constantly getting close to numerous Bonanza stars.

“Those guys are so dirty,” stated Hartley. “Like, they are the dirtiest men alive. I remember there was no way I could keep a straight face. I was terrible on the set. Terrible. With Little Joe, well, you guys know him, I mean, he is just so dirty, and he was so funny. Nothing was not fair game or whatever you say. I mean, it was just awful. And then, of course, I was so crazy about Hoss.”

Mariette Hartley Felt “Like Alice in Wonderland”

One fan in particular noticed Hartley as a couple of different roles. But, the kicker, as Hartley pointed out, is that the fan was so involved and dependent on the show, that they used it to parent. However, they may have been treating the Cartwrights and the Ponderosa a little too real for their own good.

“So the next year, I ended up with Pa. I got a letter from David Dortort, they brought it to me on set, and it said, ‘Dear, Mr. Dortort. You know we raise our children by the morality of the Bonanza boys. We’re very strict, very rigid, very disciplined with them, and we absolutely believe the way you’ve raised these kids. Now, when you got involved with this woman, didn’t you recognize her as the [Native-American] the year before?’ I mean, you know, I really felt a lot of the times like Alice in Wonderland, who would kind of come to this place and had no idea what reality was in any way in my life.”

The hit show ran from 1959 until 1973, with over 430 episodes released.

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