Bonanza's ''Old Charlie'' was a true family affair with husband, wife and son as guest stars
The McIntire clan turned up for an episode that pitted father against son — and became a sort of 'Virginian' precursor.
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"Old Charlie," an eighth-season episode of Bonanza, is a true… well, a bonanza for Western fans. The episode primarily centers around Hoss. While Little Joe and Ben must have been off on other adventures and chores, the producers wrangled some notable Western favorites as guest stars. And they were related.
Most Western watchers know John McIntire best from Wagon Train. Following the unfortunate passing of star Ward Bond midway through the series, McIntire stepped in as trailmaster Chris Hale, leading the train until the series ended in 1965. He became somewhat of a go-to cowboy replacement, as in 1967, he joined the cast of The Virginian, replacing Charles Bickford after his sudden death.
The Virginian also offered McIntire a chance to work with his wife of three decades, Jeanette Nolan. Sweeter yet — she played his spouse onscreen, as well.
McIntire and Nolan met and wed early in the careers, as both worked in radio serials. McIntire grew up in Montana on a ranch, so it was perhaps inevitable that he would play wise ranchers and trail bosses on television. And with husband and wife both in the biz, it was perhaps also fated that the two would work together.
The couple acted together regularly throughout their life together, in everything from Psycho (he was the sheriff, she voiced "Mother") to Charlie's Angels (they were Kris's Aunt and Uncle!). They were also the parents of Dan (John Larroquette) on Night Court. Romantic, no?
But that brings us back to Bonanza. Not only did "Old Charlie" cast the couple as Charlie and Annie Conners, the episode roped in their son, Tim McIntire, for a dual role. But Tim's role was not so sweet for ol' mom and dad. No, Tim, about 22 at the time, had to point a knife right in his pop's face!
His baddie character with the buck knife, Billy Barker, falls on the blade and meets his end… which leads to an identical relative named George Barker (also played by Tim) to come seeking revenge.
Tim would work with his parents a handful of times on The Virginian, too. His most notable role, however, was the lead in the 1978 film American Hot Wax, the biopic about legendary disc jockey Alan Freed. Tim would sadly pass away before both of his parents, dying of heart failure in 1986.