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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Stories of the journeys of a wagon train as it leaves post-Civil War Missouri on its way to California through the plains, deserts and Rocky Mountains. The first treks were led by gruff, ... See full summary »
The Shiloh Ranch in Wyoming Territory of the 1890s is owned in sequence by Judge Garth, the Grainger brothers, and Col. MacKenzie. It is the setting for a variety of stories, many more ... See full summary »
Bret and Bart Maverick (and in later seasons, their English cousin, Beau) are well dressed gamblers who migrate from town to town always looking for a good game. Poker (5 card draw) is ... See full summary »
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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Most viewers have only heard the famous theme song by Jay Livingston and Ray Evans played as an instrumental. The theme song actually had lyrics and there is footage of the lead actors singing those lyrics. Lorne Greene, Dan Blocker and Michael Landon sang a lyric version of this famous instrumental theme for the pilot, but it never aired. Johnny Cash recorded his own version of the theme song. See more »
Floor model wheel slot machine in saloon was not built until 1896. See more »
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 »
Feature film makers have many lessons to learn from this classic western serial. Although each episode was made on a small budget when compared to the Hollywood "A" features of today, all of the production values of great classic movies of the golden age -- painterly composition and design, emotionally effective acting, lyrical music, suspenseful storytelling, beautiful timing, strong dramatic dialogue, elegantly choreographed action, powerful themes, colorful period costumes, folksy comic relief -- all of these values were at a consistently high level from show to show, with never an awkward effect or a misfit scene. Each of the featured characters was drawn in a unique and stylish way, suggesting the storybook characterization that distinguishes the best of the Hollywood golden age. Every one of the episodes stands well as a feature length movie in its own right and would look as good on the big screen as on TV. There's plenty of feeling, no padding or softness, and no mindless experimentation with technique or vulgarity such as has ruined so many westerns made since 1970.
It's difficult to understand why an approach which succeeded for so long was abandoned in the 1970's by both television and feature film makers. Many producers turned instead in the direction indicated by spaghetti westerns. Compared to classic westerns like "Bonanza," spaghetti westerns were much less lyrical and took more of a gutter eye view of the old west, stripping it of its romantic appeal and substituting what to a misguided new generation seemed a dirtier and therefore more authentic realism. In retrospect, Hollywood gave up way too much for the little that it got in return. The success of a vast body of works similar in appeal to "Bonanza" (including many of the other action adventure TV serials made from the '40s to the '60s) is proof that there is a widespread taste that is radically different from the one which has predominated in Hollywood since the '70s. Let's hope that one day we'll see the return of Bonanza's classic values to the screen.
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