Lorne Greene handled contract negotiations for his Bonanza castmates
The businessman made himself, Michael Landon and Dan Blocker millionaires.
To be financially successful in almost any industry you must learn to negotiate. Luckily for the cast of Bonanza, Lorne Greene was a top-notch businessman who made sure he and his on-set family got the money they deserved.
Bonanza was a top-rated Western series. It was so popular that the actors were recognized worldwide and barely had privacy. With a successful production, you'd think that the actors were instant millionaires — they weren't, for a few different reasons. Yet, they did eventually make it up in the end.
According to a 1972 article in the Los Angeles Times News Service, Greene, who played Ben Cartwright, was the one who handled negotiations with NBC. It stated that the businessman "handled negotiations for himself and his co-stars Michael Landon and Dan Blocker. The three became millionaires three years ago when they sold off their residual rights to 10 years of programs."
It also added that "Landon and Greene were earning $17,000 an episode when the show was canceled, plus 100 percent residuals which eventually doubled their salaries to $34,000 an episode."
Some might ask, "Well, why weren't the actors paid more?" It's important to note that Bonanza was a costly series to create; it's one of the reasons why the characters wore many of the same clothes. Each episode cost about $100,000 - $150,000, making it one of the most expensive series on-air during its run.
It's safe to say that Greene acted like a father to Landon and Blocker on camera and behind the scenes, looking out for them in different ways.