behind the scenes 1
Behind The Scenes

the information on this page consists of THREE areas

Episode information in BLACK
Trivia in RED
Bloopers in BLUE

 

SEASON 1 (1959 –1960)

"The three sons are forever at each other’s throats, but when the chips are down they forget their differences and fight shoulder to shoulder. Livingston has called it a love affair between four men – and in effect that’s what it is."
David Dortort, 1959.

"We went up to Lake Tahoe, we were going to shoot on location the first week and we were going to do all the riding shots so they could use them in various segments in the show and we went up there and spent one week on horses and every night we’d go into the restaurant and stand there and have dinner. We were in pain."
Michael Landon talking about the first week of filming

"When they ask me, ‘Daddy, why do people watch you on TV?’ I tell ‘em they don’t watch me, they watch the show."
Dan Blocker, 1960.

"The funniest thing was to see the four guys trying to ride up. You know it’s one eighth of a page in a script but it could take days for the Cartwrights just to mount up and ride out. Because these horses leave, whoever gets on first and rides out, the other horses go, they don’t care. And Lorne, if you look at the old Bonanza series, you’ll see Lorne’s mouth moving, 'Don’t you ride out, don’t you ride out, dammit.' You watch it, you’ll see."
Michael Landon on the Johnny Carson show, talking about the early days of making Bonanza.

"The first two years, I wore a hat that looked like a yarmulke - the itty-bitty cowboy hat."
Michael Landon

"Ben Cartwright as played by Lorne Greene is not a congenital idiot. He is not led around by the nose by anybody. We do not have any Moms built into our show – or, for that matter, any women. We are, as it were, anti-Momism. We don’t have any little brats who talk like Leonard Bernstein. Nor do we believe in the philosophy that life favors the underdog. Instead, we deal with a love affair between four strong men and, even more importantly, with the land and with roots."
David Dortort.

"Doing the show is a whale of a ball. My problem is, I can’t find anybody I don’t like. In fact things are so good I’m afraid it’s a frame up."
Dan Blocker, 1960.

"I feel as if I’m playing one-fourth of a character. We need time to develop individuality in the given situation. As far as I’m concerned, the only question is: is an actor good or isn’t he? After all, it’s his face hanging out there."
Pernell Roberts, 1960.

"I can’t disagree with Pernell (in response to above quote) But I still feel that in the family kind of story your own individuality should – and does – come through."
Lorne Greene, 1960.

"I think the show is popular basically because of the four characters, not because of the stories – which are sometimes terrible."
Dan Blocker, 1960

"When you get right down to it the strongest attachments are between men – fathers, brothers. It all helps take a Western out of the ‘yup’ and ‘nope’ kind of thing."
Michael Landon, 1960.

"The man had range. I saw in him great tenderness and sensibilities. Perhaps another Wally Beery. I remember he was all ready to quit acting and go back to teaching school. I told him to stick around. He did. And he has hardly missed a day’s work since."
David Dortort talking about Dan Blocker, 1960.

 

Episode 1. Rose For Lotta - First aired on September 12, 1959.


In this episode Joe’s mother is called Felicia, in later episodes she is called Marie. At the end of this episode the cast sung some words to the Bonanza tune (the singing was later edited out). The second half of the song did depict what the Cartwright’s were: Family. “We’re not a one to saddle up and run, Bonanza. Any one of us who starts a little fuss knows he can count on me. One for four, four for one, this we guarantee. We got a right to pick a little fight, Bonanza. If anyone fights any one of us, he’s gotta fight with me.”

Episode 2. The Sun Mountain Herd– First aired on September 19, 1959.
Michael Landon's son, Mark, didn't like it when the script called for his father to be beaten in a fight scene. He was on the set the day they filmed the fight scene for this episode, between Joe and Early Thorne (Leo Gordon). Knowing Mark was upset about it, Michael told him not to worry - that Hoss would get him.


Blooper: Towards the end of the episode when the Cartwrights have gone after Burdette, Thorne and Glory, Ben says, “Adam, you and Little Joe cut around that hill. Hoss and I will plug the gap from this end.” As Michael rides past the rock he is laughing. Also, when the Cartwrights first go into town, Joe isn’t wearing a gunbelt but later when he and Hoss meet Glory in the street, he is.

Episode 3. The Newcomers
Episode 4. The Paiute War
Episode 5. Enter Mark Twain

Episode 6. The Julia Bulette Story – First aired on October 17, 1959.


From an article in TV Guide. January 1962: The script required Landon to play a highly charged death scene with actress Jane Greer that would have been a severe test for any actor. But Landon seemed to be taking the prospect lightly, cracking wise to the point where producer David Dortort began to worry. However, as director Chris Nyby swung into the scene, a miraculous transformation occurred. Suddenly Landon was all business, every emotion surfaced and attuned; genuine tears began rolling down his cheeks. His audience – which included his producer, co-stars Dan Blocker and Lorne Greene and a member of the press – was too shaken to speak. Dortort later commented: “Mike didn’t play that scene; he lived it.” When the scene finished, Landon quickly disappeared behind the water cooler to make, as it were, some badly needed repairs on his emotions. Moments later he reappeared and, smiling roguishly, made a reference to the recently demised lady’s love-life, so irreverent, so hilarious (and so unprintable) that they are still talking about it around Paramount studios.

In an article in 1961, where Michael Landon picked who he thought were the ten most exciting women in the world, one of the women he chose was Jane Greer (Julia Bulette). Michael said, “I have a special place in my list for Miss Jane, ‘cause she is, to my way of thinking, a wonderful woman. First of all, she’s got a really great sense of humor. When she laughs, the world laughs. You just can’t help it, because she’s got that way of loving life and living every minute of it like it was the greatest adventure ever. And that attitude is infectious, really catches on.”


Blooper
: In the scene towards the end after Joe has given his speech defending Julia and everyone is heading over to Julia’s Palace, Michael almost walks into a post and puts his hand up to his nose. 

Episode 7. The Saga of Annie O'Toole First aired on October 24, 1959

Guest star Ida Lupino played Annie O’Toole.

 

Episode 8. The Phillip Diedeshiemer Story
Episode 9. Mr Henry TP Comstock -First aired on November 7, 1959.


Blooper: Towards the start, when the Cartwright’s hear the shots being fired and ride to help, Ben says, “All right, boys. Let’s sweetin’ ‘em” They ride away and Joe’s hat comes off.

Episode 10. The Magnificent Adah – First aired on November 14, 1959.


In an earlier draft of this script, Ben’s third wife was named Reba. 

Episode 11. The Truckee Strip
Episode 12. The Hanging Posse – First aired on November 28, 1959.


In an earlier draft of this script, it is Hoss who is with Adam and the posse not Joe.

Episode 13. Vendetta
Episode 14. The Sisters - First aired on December 12, 1959

The following is part of an interview with Jean Willes who plays Amelia Terry in this episode. "My first reaction to Pernell was that I tremendously admired him as an actor. We met on 'Desire Under The Elms.' As I've said, my first impression was that he was...even then...a tremendous actor. He was new to me. Remember this was his first picture. Pernell's good looking...but certainly not the pretty type...which I can't tolerate anyway. There's something very magnetic about his appearance. He's strong looking in a quiet, quiet way. He's very masculine, personable, very attractive. I wouldn't say he is particularly withdrawn. As a matter of fact, he's very good company and very witty. We worked together for several weeks and I enjoyed knowing him tremendously. Burl Ives was on the set and sang his songs for us. It was a fun set. Then later...about a year and a half later, I worked with Pernell in Bonanza. Perhaps he's a little changed...a little more used to the business...more at home in the movie industry. When I first knew Pernell it was his first picture...now he's more confident in the ways of the picture business."

Episode 15. The Last Hunt
Episode 16. El Toro Grande
Episode 17. The Outcast

Episode 18. House Divided – First aired on January 16, 1960.


Blooper: In a fight scene, Fred Kyle’s “missing” arm is visible.

  Episode 19. The Gunmen
  Episode 20. The Fear Merchants
  Episode 21. The Spanish Grant
  Episode 22. Blood on the Land
  Episode 23. Desert Justice
  Episode 24. The Stranger
Episode 25. Escape To The Ponderosa – First aired on March 5, 1960.


An article from 1962 talks about the accident that happened on the set during the filming of this episode. It was the last day of shooting and they were filming the final segments. Earlier that day, Grant Williams had joked to Pernell that in the last five pictures he’d done, he’d been killed off. This is part of the article: As everyone knows, the guns used on TV shows contain blanks and instead of the deadly bullets, a harmless shell casing is fired. Every thousandth time, though, something can go wrong. Pernell and Grant were standing close together when Pernell raised his gun. Grant heard the blast seemingly in front of his face, then he felt a sharp pain in his neck, as if he had suddenly been cut with a knife, hot and searing and bright. He flinched, his hand going automatically to his throat. His fingers came away with blood. “My God, what is it?” Suddenly the scene was forgotten and Pernell was standing there, his face dark with worry. “I don’t know.” Grant’s eyes were puzzled. He grinned weakly. “I thought for a second you shot me!” Then they noticed the bright metal scattered on the ground. Pernell bent down curiously, then straightened up, holding a piece in his hand. “The shell casing exploded,” he said in bewilderment. “You must have caught part of it in your neck.” The seriousness of the situation hit him. He looked at Grant’s neck again, but thankfully the blood had stopped and there was just a dark line to indicate he had been hurt at all. It was not until two years later that Grant found out how close he’d come to disaster that day. His neck often hurt him but by then he was starring in his own series, Hawaiian Eye, and didn’t want to take the time to see a doctor. When he did, he was told that the operation to remove the shrapnel–like shell part might cause all the muscles on the left side of his face to collapse. He took the chance, and today is all right again.

  Episode 26. The Avenger
Episode 27. The Last Trophy – First aired on March 26 1960.


In a 1962 article, guest star Hazel Court (Lady Beatrice Dunsford) said: “I didn’t know Pernell before the series. But I knew his name. I had seen him in Bonanza. We got on very well for we had lots of things in common and we had lots of laughs. We both knew a lot about the theatre and had a lot of discussions about England and New York. He loves Shakespeare and so do I. He is tremendously friendly and it was actually working on that show that was one of the happiest weeks I have ever spent because it was full of fun. We laughed and joked all the time. Pernell did a very sweet thing for me. He heard it was my birthday and had a very beautiful cake made as a surprise for me. The top of the cake was a beautiful picture of the Ponderosa all done in sugar frosting. He is a very deep thinker. He is a very serious minded person. I think he has a very handsome face. Physically he is very strong. He always took me to lunch at the commissary but then we all lunched together. He saw that I was seated. But nothing serious – he knew that I was more or less engaged to Dan Taylor.”

In later years Hazel Court talked about how much she enjoyed working on this episode, saying how wonderful everyone was. On her first day of filming she had a scene with Pernell. Pernell rode off and her horse immediately followed his – she wasn’t ready and fell off. She jokingly said the director was more worried about the horse than her.     

Episode 28. San Francisco – First aired on April 2, 1960.


Michael told a story on the Johnny Carson show about Lorne never wanting to be seen without his toupee: “When Lorne would go into the make-up department, he’d have a hat on and the door to the make up department looked like an apartment door in New York city, there are eight locks, right. Then he’d come out and he’d be there. One day, he had to jump off a ship in the B tank at Paramount. Well, when he jumped in, we used to call it, the gray rat, it stuck on the top of the water. Lorne went under. So the assistant director, I mean, he’d go, ‘turn it off, boys,’ and walk away from it. He wants to pretend no one notices. Well, Dan and I can’t wait to see Dad without it so we’re leanin’ over the thing, waitin’ for Lorne to come up. He doesn’t come up. He doesn’t come up, bubbles come up. And now it looks like the ad for deliverance. You remember the hand that comes up, like this, searching. And he finds it, shroop, under it goes. I mean, he held his breath for three minutes. He came up and he had it on top like a beret.”

 

In an article in 1988, after Lorne Greene’s death Michael told the same story. “If Lorne was touchy about anything, it was his baldness. He covered his head with a toupee that Dan Blocker and I called ‘the Gray Rat,’ at first behind his back and then, to his obvious amusement, openly. Hard as we tried, we never caught Cartwright or Greene without the hairpiece. We came close as we were filming a scene in which Ben leaped into a ‘lake,’ really a tank of water. He submerged, but the Gray Rat did not. It floated. ‘Everyone clear the set,’ barked the assistant director, aware of the star’s sensitivity. Dan and I just edged closer to the tank; no one could move Blocker, and we wouldn’t have missed this for the world. Ten, twenty, maybe thirty seconds passed. Finally a hand appeared, snatched the soggy Gray Rat and pulled it under. A moment later, up came Lorne, the dripping piece on his head, a grin on his face. Foiled again!” (Later, Michael talked about visiting Lorne in hospital before he died). “On August 4, he entered hospital for treatment. When I visited him there, he was asleep and not wearing his hairpiece. I waited until he awoke. ‘Do you realize,’ I said, ‘that after almost thirty years this is the first time I’ve seen you without the Gray Rat.’ Lorne rolled his head back on the pillow and laughed at finally being caught.”  

 

Episode 29. Bitter Water - First aired on April 9, 1960.  

Merry Anders guest stars in this episode. This is said to be the episode where Michael met his wife to be Lynn on the set, when she was an extra. Lynn later said in an interview on the Mike Douglas show, “I worked extra, usually as a model or a dancer. They put me on Bonanza and I wanted to go home until I saw green eyes here (Michael) and I changed my mind.”

"More importantly, Mike and I have a great deal of respect for each other, and we watch for things that might seem out of character. After all, if one does something good, then it's good for the series. If it's bad, it's bad for the series. I remember once checking Mike out for something he'd done unconsciously. He had a scene where, as Little Joe, he was forced to kill a man. The Cartwright's aren't killers and won't pull a gun unless forced to it, as in this scene. Now Mike loves to twirl his gun into his holster and after he'd fired that's exactly what he did. When the scene was over, I went over to Mike and said, "Hi, killer boy." "What do you mean by that?" he asked. "Loved the scene but hated the end," I said. "Do you realize that you twirled your gun into the holster after you shot that guy, which makes it look as if you enjoyed killing?" Mike hadn't realized that he had done this and he was upset when I told him about it. He wanted to re shoot the scene, but by that time they had begun to strike the set and it was too late." Lorne Greene, May 1961. Michael does this in the scene where Hoss is pinned down with gunfire from two men. Joe comes along and shoots one of the men, spinning his gun as he puts it back in the holster.  

Episode 30. Feet Of Clay – First aired on April 16, 1960.


This is the first episode in the series where Ben tells Joe to take his feet of a piece of furniture. The following is part of an interview with Lorne Greene and Michael Landon on the Dinah Shore show. Lorne Greene: “It was about the third or fourth show, I don’t know what show it was. And we were, all four of us, sitting around the coffee table and I was standing up, Mike was sitting with his feet up on the coffee table. And just before the shot, after the rehearsals, I said, ‘You know, Mike, this is a show where we’re supposed to sort of like each other, respect each other.’ and I said, ‘Mike, maybe you should like the furniture, respect the furniture. You shouldn’t have your feet on the table.’ I really didn’t know how to say it. He said, ‘Look, you play your part your way and I’ll play my part, my way.’ Then later, when we did the shot, right in the middle of my speech, I don’t know, it just came out of my head and I said, ‘Little Joe, take your feet off the table,’ and he took his feet off the table. The shot went long so they had to do it over again and this time he didn’t put his feet up on the table. But sometime later, not too much later, maybe about eight months, nine months later and he said, 'Hey Lorne, in this shot, wouldn’t it be a good idea if I put my feet up on the table and you said get them off.' "

Episode 31. Dark Star – First aired on April 23, 1960.


According to the writer of this episode, Anthony Lawrence, he had an interest in supernatural stories rather than westerns so that is how he came up with the idea for this episode.


Blooper: Tirza bites Joe's right hand but when he comes out of the room, he is rubbing his left hand and shows that one to Pa to see the wound.

Episode 32. Death at Dawn - First aired on April 30, 1960.


In an interview, Michael talks about a scene from this episode. “In one scene I was supposed to be stalking an outlaw. He was hiding in this alley between two of the studio built western stores. My part there was to run along the ‘boardwalk’ so that he could hear me coming, but instead of running straight around the corner into his bullets, I had to dive full length into the space between the two stores, twisting in the air as I did so, plus drawing my pistol, and shooting the guy before I hit the ground. Brother! You oughta try it! I had to do the same scene over and over again until the director was satisfied and was I sore!” Guest staring in this episode is Nancy Deale (playing Beth Cameron), she later married Lorne Greene.

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