Little Joe finds true love in newcomer Alice Harper. Following a courtship, the two are engaged. Unlike most of the Cartwrights' previous girlfriends, Alice makes it to the altar. Joe and Alice are ...
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The Cartwright's ten-thousand square mile Ponderosa Ranch is located near Virginia City, Nevada, site of the Comstock Silver Lode, during and after the Civil War. Each of the sons was born to a different wife of Ben's; none of the mothers is still alive. Adventures are typical western ones, with lots of personal relationships/problems thrown in as well. Written by
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The opening and closing credits show a picture on the screen that corresponds with whatever credit is being given ("Music by" is accompanied by a man playing a violin, "Written by" has a Mark Twain-inspired writer type holding a book with "Bonanza" written on its cover, etc.) See more »
It got to be a running joke around Bonanza about how fatal it was for any women to get involved with any Cartwright men. After all Ben Cartwright was three times a widower with a son by each marriage. And any woman who got involved with Adam, Hoss, and Little Joe were going to end up dying because we couldn't get rid of the formula of the widower and the three sons that started this classic TV western.
Perhaps if Bonanza were being done today the writers would have had revolving women characters who came in and out of the lives of the Cartwrights. People have relationships, some go good, some not so good, it's just life. And we're less demanding of our heroes today so if a relationship with one of them goes south we don't have to kill the character off to keep the survivor's nobility intact. But that's if Bonanza were done today.
But we were still expecting a lot from our western heroes and Bonanza though it took a while to take hold and a change of viewing time from NBC certainly helped, the secret of Bonanza's success was the noble patriarch Ben Cartwright and his stalwart sons. Ben Cartwright was THE ideal TV Dad in any genre you want to name. His whole life was spent in the hard work of building that immense Ponderosa spread for his three children. The kids were all different in personality, but all came together in a pinch.
The Cartwrights became and still are an American institution. I daresay more people cared about this family than the Kennedys. Just the popularity that Bonanza has in syndication testifies to that.
Pernell Roberts as oldest son Adam was written out of the show. Rumor has it he didn't care for the noble Cartwright characters which he felt bordered on sanctimonious. Perhaps if it were done now, he'd have liked it better in the way I describe.
This was just the beginning for Michael Landon, how many people get three hit TV shows to their credit. Landon also has Highway to Heaven and Little House On the Prarie where he had creative control. Little Joe was the youngest, most hot headed, but the most romantic of the Cartwrights.
When Roberts left. the show kept going with the two younger sons, but when big Dan Blocker left, the heart went out of Bonanza. Other characters had been added on by that time, David Canary, Tim Matheson, and Ben Cartwright adopted young Mitch Vogel. But big, loyal, but a little thick Hoss was easily the most lovable of the Cartwrights. His sudden demise after surgery left too big a hole in that family.
So the Cartwrights of the Ponderosa have passed into history. I got a real taste of how America took the Cartwrights to heart when I visited the real Virginia City. It doesn't look anything like what you see in Bonanza. But near Lake Tahoe, just about where you see the Ponderosa on the map at the opening credits, is the Cartwright home, the set maintained and open as a tourist attraction. Like 21 Baker Street for Sherlock Holmes fans, the ranchhouse and the Cartwrights are real.
And if they weren't real, they should have been.
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