The Tragic Death of Dan Blocker Ended Bonanza

Dan Blocker was a Texas native. They say that everything is bigger in Texas, and that idiom certainly applies to Blocker’s larger-than-life personality. He was one of the most beloved members of the cast on Bonanza, where he played Hoss Cartwright, son of Ben Cartwright.

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Blocker got his start on television in 1957, guest-starring in an episode of The Restless Gun. That small role got him the chance to audition in front of producer David Dortort. In 1958, he landed his first major recurring role in Cimarron City as the character Tiny Budinger.

It was in 1959, however, Dortort cast Dan as Hoss Cartwright in Bonanza – a role that would become his most defining work. Unfortunately, it was also his final role, because in 1972, after undergoing a relatively routine procedure removing his gall bladder, Dan developed a block clot in his lung and suddenly died.

His loss made waves across Hollywood, and it was clear that Bonanza would never be the same. For the first time in TV history, however, his death was addressed to the audience. So in many ways, he made history. Viewers got a chance to mourn his loss just as his family and friends did.

The final season of Bonanza was surreal. It was blatantly obvious that Blocker was absent. Without Hoss, it didn’t even feel like the same show. That’s also precisely while it’s 14th season was also its final one.

Even today, that season is the least requested one for syndicated reruns. The first episode was highly viewed and historic in the way that it was the one that announced Hoss’ death, but the remainder of the season almost felt compulsory. Bonanza, without Dan Blocker, wasn’t really even Bonanza.

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