Lorne Greene handled contract negotiations for his Bonanza castmates

The businessman made himself, Michael Landon and Dan Blocker millionaires.

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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.

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19 Comments

MichaelVegas 16 months ago
People forget that shows back then cost A LOT to make, here is a example, The Original Battlestar Galactica (1978) the Pilot ALONE cost $7 million to make with each episode costing $1 Million Each now think about this Star War cost $11 Million to make
Adanor 16 months ago
Doesn't it always seem that the actor who plays the father, often takes on that role in real life off camera with his "sons?" Not only did Loren Greene do this but, Robert Reed who played Mike Brady on The Brady Bunch also took on an off camera father role and even took all of "his children" plus Ann B. Davis (Alice) on a cruise.
CoreyC 16 months ago
It wasn't until the 70's and 80's that celebrities began to have real muscle and cast began to get real money.
Deleted 16 months ago
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Cougar90 16 months ago
Loren Greene told Roberts, "Look the show is going to be canceled sooner or later. Take the money they give you and when the show is canceled use the money to make the movies and tv shows you want to make." Roberts didn't listen to him, however Michael Landon did. Roberts later admitted he shouldn't have left the series the way he did. He mellowed in his later years.
Pacificsun 16 months ago
Here's MeTV's own story (2020) referencing most expensive shows to produce.

https://www.metv.com/lists/8-of-the-most-expensive-tv-shows-made-in-the-1960s-and-70s
Mblack 16 months ago
Raquel Welch has dies. Star of Fantastic Voyage, Kansas City Bomber and Shawshank Redemption. And other films.

She even made it to TV, an episode of Seinfeld.
murgatroid45 Mblack 16 months ago
She wasn't in Shawshank.
NedRyerson murgatroid45 16 months ago
Well, sort of. Think again.
cperrynaples NedRyerson 16 months ago
No, that's Rita Hayworth! Remember it's the 40's!
Runeshaper 16 months ago
It's great to have that father figure with a good head for business as well.
LoveMETV22 16 months ago
Have to wonder what Lorne Greene, Michael Landon and Dan Blocker might have received if they had opted for 10 years of residuals. Someone won there. It sounds similar to:

Would you like 1 Million $ right now, or a penny that doubles every day for a month (30 days)?
cperrynaples LoveMETV22 16 months ago
I'm not going to answer THAT question even though I KNOW the answer! However, I do wonder if Greene got any kickbacks from Blocker's Bonanza restaurants!
Cougar90 LoveMETV22 16 months ago
I know they got $1M each for the rerun rights of the first seven years, plus the money from the second seven years of the series, plus the rerun money. It's safe to say they were multi-millionaires.
MrsPhilHarris LoveMETV22 16 months ago
I was wondering the same thing.🤔
cperrynaples Cougar90 16 months ago
Well, I assume they didn't get perpetual residuals! Deforest Kelly once complained he got no Star Trek money until the movies were made!
TheKodakKid cperrynaples 16 months ago
I remember in an interview that Bob Denver said that the cast members of “Gilligan’s Island” only got paid for three showings of each episode. He also said that was pretty much standard at the time, for TV contracts. (Remember, kids, back then, there were only three national networks. Most local stations that might by reruns to fill time, did not broadcast 24 hours a day either.)

Imagine how much they could have made! The show has basically never left the air. Between syndication to different local stations, and different networks (like MeTV) that regularly carry the show, it’s theoretically possible that they would have made much more than they did during the show’s initial run.
cperrynaples TheKodakKid 16 months ago
Well, you must have read the story that he didn't expect GI to make it through the '70's! Now it runs every Sunday on MeTV as well as other networks!
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