‘Bonanza’: Two Stars Appeared in Iconic Film with Lucille Ball and Henry Fonda Before Joining the Show

by Jennifer Shea
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Both of the actors Mitch Vogel and Tim Matheson had roles on “Bonanza.” They appeared as the orphan Jamie Hunter and as the parolee turned ranch hand Griff King, respectively. But before they did, they both appeared in the classic 1968 film “Yours, Mine and Ours,” starring Lucille Ball and Henry Fonda.

Vogel later recalled that on “Bonanza,” Michael Landon, Lorne Greene and Dan Blocker were very kind. They all made the young actors, and him in particular, feel welcome.

“The thing that impressed me so much was that Lorne Greene, Michael Landon, and Dan Blocker were all so very nice to me,” Vogel told Medium in 2017. “They brought me pictures — which I didn’t ask for — that they signed to me. They made me feel so special.”

Before ‘Bonanza,’ There Was ‘Yours, Mine and Ours’

“Yours, Mine and Ours” follows a Navy officer (Fonda) and a nurse (Ball) with 10 and eight kids, respectively. The two start dating. But, realizing the size of their two families, they are hesitant to continue. However, a mutual friend pushes them together. They eventually fall for each other, deciding to form one huge, nontraditional family.

The film got mixed reviews. The New York Times panned it for being “anti-sex and pro compulsive procreation.” Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times said that “as a genuinely amusing family film, it will do nicely.” Creative Loafing advised moviegoers to steer clear of the 2005 remake and “for the real deal, check out the delightful 1968 original.”

Some critics scoffed at the plot twist whereby the film’s aging stars get a surprise addition to their already oversized family. But other details were more believable. Though they were sometimes reminiscent of the 1950 film “Cheaper by the Dozen.”

In “Yours, Mine and Ours,” Vogel played Tommy, one of Lucille Ball’s brood. And Matheson played the oldest of Henry Fonda’s 10 children.

How Vogel Landed Jamie Hunter

When it came to “Bonanza,” Vogel recounted how show creator and executive producer David Dotort called him up. Dortort said he was interested in using Vogel in one of his shows. They eventually wrote the part of Jamie Hunter with Vogel in mind. He first showed up in Season 12, per Medium.

“David actually didn’t tell me that I was going to be a series regular,” Vogel told Medium. “He kinda said, ‘You can come and stay with us.’ But it wasn’t a commitment at that point for a series. I guess David wanted to see how the character would resonate with people. Apparently it resonated well. He officially asked me to join the cast not long after. It was quite exciting to be asked to do something like that without having to audition or anything.”

Looking back on “Bonanza,” Vogel said he’s just grateful the TV show managed to resonate with as many people as it has. And so, too, did “Yours, Mine and Ours.” With their appearances in both, the two actors share in a slice of pop culture history.

Outsider.com