‘Bonanza’: A Young Dennis Hopper Starred in 1964 Episode

by Matthew Wilson
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Over the years, “Bonanza” had many guest stars out in the Old West. A young Dennis Hopper even made a guest role on one episode early in his career.

Before he captivated audiences on the big screen, Hopper got his start appearing in TV westerns. He appeared on “Bonanza” in 1964 during Season Five, Episode 31 “The Dark Past.”

Hopper played a lonesome bounty hunter, who came to town and crossed paths with the Cartwright family. Hopper’s bounty hunter traveled alone to hunt down an outlaw named Ron Starr. The bounty hunter ended up being the son of a preacher that patriarch Lorne Green once knew.

Hopper’s character abandoned religion for a wrathful justice. But it wasn’t long before he needed the Cartwrights’ help. The lone gunslinger act didn’t hold up, and Hopper’s character partnered with the “Bonanza” gang. It turns out that “Bonanza” was just one of several westerns that Hopper took part in during his career. He also had guest roles on “Rifleman,” “Wagon Train,” and “Cheyenne” as well.

Dennis Hopper Had a Movie Career After ‘Bonanza’

When TV first came out, Hopper didn’t realize serious actors didn’t star in television programming. So early in his career, he appeared in various shows for Warner Bros. But that began to change as his star power grew.

“Well, Warner Bros. got into television very early, so I did a lot of television there. In the beginning, it was sort of okay to do television. But then it became this thing where movie actors didn’t do television—they certainly didn’t do commercials, because that just meant the end of your career,” Hopper told Interview Magazine. “Peter [Fonda] said, ‘Let’s promise ourselves that we will not do a motorcycle movie.’ I said, ‘Absolutely, man. We’re going to be like the singing cowboys. I’m going to be the sidekick, and this is going to be ridiculous.’”

Both Fonda and Hopper ended up skyrocketing to fame when they starred in “Easy Rider” in 1969. The two actors played bikers on a road trip through America. The film was seminal for Hopper’s career and led to bigger and better things on the film side.

The actor continued to act in various films until his death in 2010.

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