‘Bonanza’: The Series Was Actually Meant to Be an Old West Representation of a Timeless Story

by Jon D. B.
bonanza-series-was-actually-meant-to-be-an-old-west-representation-of-timeless-story-king-arthur

How different would Bonanza, the most celebrated Western of its time, have been if it had dug deeper into this timeless legend of old?

Everyone knows Bonanza. Even those unfamiliar with the actual show know the name. The sprawling, classic Western is a fixture of pop culture, and was beyond iconic even in its own heyday.

For over a decade, audiences delved into the deeds of the Cartwright family. Their Nevada ranch set the stage for countless adventures and mishaps from 1959 to 1973. Bonanza’s dusty, Americana day-to-day in Virginia City, however, held its inspiration in a far more legendary setting – one that rings of valor and splendor the world over.

As the history goes, show creator David Dortort had a grand vision for his Western epoch. In the beginning, Bonanza was to be a direct Western retelling of The Legend of King Arthur. In fact, Dortort envisioned his patriarch, Ben Cartwright, as King Arthur himself. His knights? None other than the Cartwright sons.

Yet as the show’s development continued, Bonanza began to slip away from this “direct retelling” format. The inspiration is still there, though, and became far clearer in later seasons of the show. As fans will remember, one Season 6 episode in particular would bring Dortort’s love for Arthurian legend directly to the forefront.

‘Bonanza’s ‘A Knight to Remember’

A remarkable 181 entries into the series, Bonanza writer Robert V. Barron would craft “A Knight to Remember” with showrunners. Hitting television as Episode 13 of Season 6, this beloved adventure would see a knight in shining armor calling himself “King Arthur” literally appear before the Cartwrights and audiences alike.

In “A Night to Remember,” two stagecoach robberies take place while Adam Cartwright is travelling. In both instances, said “King Arthur” comes forth to ward off the robbers. Both times, too, Adam is accused of robbery, as no one will believe his hairbrained “King Arthur” tales.

For the episode, late actor and Western icon Henry Jones would play King Arthur, who reveals himself to be the equally mysterious Uncle Leo. He’s no uncle to the Cartwrights, however, nor the King Arthur of legend. Instead, Uncle Leo is an eccentric, wayward drifter with a suit of “antique store” armor. Once his niece comes to fetch him, Leo’s jig is up. As they say: Truth Will Out!

The episode is peak Bonanza fun, and is actually available to watch for free on Youtube. If you feel that ol’ pang in your heart, give “A Knight to Remember” a full spin below with us right here on Outsider:

Bonanza – Episode 181 – A Knight to Remember – Arrested for robbing the stagecoach he was riding, Adam can’t convince the sheriff that the real bandits were run off by a knight in shining armor who called himself…King Arthur!

Western Series

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