The Restless Gun (1957–1959)
With the Hollywood western in decline towards the end of the 1950s, fans of the genre were able to find some satisfaction in the growing number of western television series. Among the best of these were Bonanza (1959-73) and The High Chaparral (1967-71), both of which were conceived and produced by David Dortort, who has died aged 93.
Bonanza, the first primetime western in colour, was set on the Ponderosa ranch and focused on the adventures of the all-male Cartwright family – Adam (Pernell Roberts), Hoss (Dan Blocker) and Little Joe (Michael Landon), the sons of the thrice-widowed Ben (Lorne Greene), who was named after Dortort's own insurance salesman father.
The series was unusual for its concentration on a united family, rather than the traditional lone cowboy protagonist. It also contrasted with the increasing violence and blurring of the differences between
The Hollywood writer/producer passed away on Sunday in his Westwood, California apartment.
Dortort pitched his idea for the western adventure in 1959 and Bonanza came to life on the small screen later that year. His creation was the most-watched programme from 1964 to 1967 and ran for a total of 14 years.
Dortort produced several Bonanza spin-offs including Bonanza: The Next Generation, and he racked up writing credits for other TV series including Lassie, The Restless Gun, Climax! and Waterfront.
The three-time Emmy nominee was also president of the Producers Guild of America and served as president of the Television-Radio branch of the Writers Guild of America.
"Bonanza" ran from 1959-73, was the most-watched show on television from 1964-67 and maintained a place in the ratings top 10 for a decade. Dortort also created "The High Chaparral," which originally followed "Bonanza" on Sunday nights on NBC and ran for three seasons.
In 1959, Dortort pitched his show to RCA subsidiary NBC. "Bonanza" would be filmed in color in gorgeous Lake Tahoe, Nev. -- to help promote the sale of RCA's color TVs -- and feature a cast of relative unknowns (Michael Landon, Lorne Greene, Dan Blocker and Pernell Roberts) as members of the Cartwright family.
Dortort went away from the typical Western formula of focusing on lone drifters, choosing to focus on a family of three boys and a father living on the Ponderosa Ranch.
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