''Bonanza'' made sure that Hoss was still a part of the show, even after Dan Blocker's death

Fans would never forget Big Hoss, and neither would ''Bonanza.''

When an actor dies unexpectedly, it's always difficult. But when they're part of an ongoing ensemble series, it goes deeper. From then on, there will always be a part of your show missing, that you notice the absence of from time to time, but never stop missing. This was how it felt after the death of Dan Blocker, whose size made him take up a lot of space in life and whose personality made him take up a lot of space in our hearts. 

There are a few ways to address the death of an actor. You can dedicate an episode to them, or write in the death of their character as part of a storyline. Some series have chosen the route of lighter fare, and written off a character as having simply moved away, onto a new adventure, after the original actor passes away. Some shows simply don't address the loss of the character at all, a less than favorable decision for viewers.

A show like Bonanza will always be separated into two eras: Before Dan Blocker, and after. While there was only one season without Big Hoss, his absence was felt throughout the show, and even addressed by the characters a few times. According to an interview with The Courier-Journal, Michael Landon, who played Little Joe Cartwright, was tasked with penning the first episode after Blocker's death.

Landon revealed that the plot, which follows Little Joe's romance and marriage with a woman, was originally written for the character of Hoss Cartwright. After Blocker's death, Landon was forced to adjust the script.

He said, "What rewriting I did was a couple of scenes indicating the death of Hoss." No words can adequately describe the loss of a friend, so Landon elected to let the gaps in dialogue tell much of the story about life in the wake of Hoss's death, which Landon called, "A kind of stillness." He explained, "You can say some things better in silence on film than in words."

Still, the readjustment of Bonanza wasn't especially difficult, because the cast and crew weren't interested in ensuring that Blocker had been erased from the series. They still wanted to convey that Hoss was still a member of the Cartwright family, and he was still involved in the series, even if he was gone. Landon stated, "It's still Dan's show. Always was. Always will be."

Are you sure you want to delete this comment?
Close

6 Comments

Pacificsun 1 month ago
As a kid, the Hoss Cartwright character was the first I came to realize was synonymous with a true person. My dad was devoted to Westerns. And looking back now I can see they were very worthy stories focused on humanity. I'm sure the news was in the papers, but TV Guide did a feature as well. And my dad was very much affected by the loss. I've never forgotten the hole he left in that Series. And I think they were wise to not try and explain it away, too easily. After all art, follows life. And sad things happen.
cperrynaples 1 month ago
Years later, one of the Bonanza movies revealed that Hoss drowned!
Randall 1 month ago
I will always have a place in my heart for Hoss Eric Cartwright
harlow1313 1 month ago
I weep for crazy Eugene Barkley, forgotten and hidden away in the attic, cared for by Silas.
Are you sure you want to delete this comment?