Fun Facts About 'Bonanza' You Probably Haven't Heard Before

FUN FACTS August 2, 2017 By Vincent

For the uninitiated, Bonanza was an incredibly popular TV show that ran from 1959 - 1973 and followed the lives of the Cartwright family who lived on the Ponderosa ranch in Nevada and defended their livelihood from a multitude of foes. With 431 total episodes, Bonanza is NBC’s longest-running Western series.

Despite being such a long-running and beloved TV series, there are still a few facts about the show that are little-known about. Here we go through a few of them.

Not Like Other Dads

At the time  Bonanza was being cast the typical TV trope was to depict fathers ads dimwitted men often bossed around or controlled by their wives despite being the breadwinners of the family.

Producer David Dohort wanted to move away from this vision and so Ben became a figure to be admired and looked up to. As such, Dohort also insisted the show become an hour long rather than just 30 mins so that the character could be explored further.

The Characters Never Changed Their Clothes

Like in some sort of cartoon, the characters in the show never changed the outfits that they wore, they were the same in every episode.

This was done mainly to cut production costs so that stock footage could be worked into the show when necessary. It also saved on the wardrobe budget as well. Despite this, the show was still one of the most expensive made during its time,  spending between $100,000 and $150,000 per episode. Stock footage used would later save thousands of dollars on big shoots per episode.

Michael Landon Wasn't Michael Landon's Real Name

Michael Langdon was the actor that played Little Joe, the youngest of the Cartwright sons, but despite being credited as Michael Langdon, this wasn't his real name.

 Eugene Maurice Orowitz took the screen name of Michael Langdon after wanting to be called Michael Lane but after discovering there was another actor in the Screen Actors Guild with this name, so he went to the phone book and found the name Alf Landon and adopted the second name as his own.

A Cast Of Many Talents

Not only were the cast all highly-rated actors but many of the could sing as well with four of the Cartwrights contributing to a Christmas album in 1964 called Christmas at The Ponderosa.

Lorne Greene, who played the father Ben, even had a single, “Ringo,” that became a huge hit in the U.S. and Canada.

Pernell Roberts Hated The Show

American actor and singer Pernell Roberts Jr. played the role of Adam Cartwright, the oldest son but left many stunned when he decided to leave the incredibly popular show 6 years into its 14-year run.

However, insiders were less shocked as Roberts purportedly hated the show from the very beginning due to his politics and his low opinion of the writing. He returned to stage afterward.

The Show Inspired A Restaurant Chain

The Ponderosa and Bonanza Steakhouses are part of the same chain and were actually inspired by the long-running TV show. They were actually started by cast member Dan Blocker, who played Hoss Cartwright, when he founded the first American Bonanza Steakhouse in Kokomo, Indiana in 1965.


The restaurants are now owned by the Metromedia entertainment group and can be found all over the USA and Canada.

Life Imitates Art

Actor Victor Sen Yung played the Cartwright's chef Hop Sing but the actor himself was also an accomplished chef and actually used his skills after the show ended.

Yung went on to appear on many cooking shows and in 1974 released his own cookbook, The Great Wok cookbook. He also ran his own Chinese pottery business and appeared in many more films and TV shows including the 1946 film Dangerous Money (pictured).

 It Was Supposed To Be A Version

When producer David Dohort was putting the show together, he had the idea that it would be like a King Arthur story but played out in the Wild West of America. 

Christos Georghiou/

The idea was that Ben Cartwright would be a King like character and his sons were his knights but it didn't quite work out like that.

Dan Blocker Was The Complete Opposite of Hoss Cartwright

The character of Eric 'Hoss' Cartwright was supposed to sweet, gullible and a little bit dim and was famously played by Dan Blocker.

Blocker himself was very much the opposite of this though as he was incredibly smart with a Master's degree and was even formerly a teacher. He went on to fund the Ponderosa steak house chain as well.

Blocker The Big Baby

Apart from being a noted actor and entrepreneur, Dan Blocker had another, quite odd, accomplishment to his name.

At the time of his birth, he was the biggest baby to ever have been born in Bowie County, Texas. In his first grade, Blocker already weighed a rather hefty 105 pounds.

It Almost Got Cancelled

Despite going on to be one of the most popular television shows of a generation, Bonanza almost got canceled after one season. It was first aired on Saturday nights but its ratings were horrendously low and so it was considered for cancellation.

It was only because it was the first TV show filmed and broadcast in color that NBC were determined to give it another go that it got renewed for a second season and moved to Sunday nights where its ratings soared and it eventually reached number one in 1964.

David Canary Was In Line To Be Spock

David Canary joined the Bonanza cast as 'Candy' Canady when Pernell Roberts left the show but before he was cast he was in the running for another iconic role.

Amongst the shortlist of actors to play the alien Spock on the iconic Star Trek,  the role eventually went to Leonard Nimoy.

The 'Real' Ponderosa Ranch

The fictional ranch of Ponderosa was set in the very real place of Incline Village, Nevada and so many fans traveled to the village in order to get a look at the ranch but were disappointed to find that very little was actually there.

As such, property developers sensed an opportunity and built a theme park and recreations of the ranch house that were so good that portions of the show were later filmed there. The park remained open until 2004 and it continued to attract fans.

Zorro Was Very Nearly Adam Cartwright

Guy Williams became famous for his depictions of Zorro on film but before he took the famed swashbuckling role, he was offered the role of Adam Cartwright but he turned it down.

He would later appear on the show as the cousin Will Cartwright, a character created in case Pernell Roberts ever walked as the staffers sensed Roberts did not wish to stick around.

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