L. to R: Hoss, Ben, Adam, Little Joe
Pernell Roberts, actor, died day before yesterday, age 81. For those of you who aren't old enough to remember Bonanza, Roberts played Adam Cartwright, the oldest of the three sons on the big Ponderosa ranch, just outside Virginia City during the sliver boom years in the late 1800's. He was the last of the stars of the show alive.
The show was wildly popular in its day, airing originally from 1959-1973, and in reruns since; a western more about character than shoot-'em-ups. Pa was Ben Cartwright (Lorne Greene, who went on later to do the original Battlestar Galactica, passed away twenty years ago. The other two sons were Hoss (Dan Blocker, d. 1972), and Little Joe (Michael Landon, d. 1991.)
Hop Sing, the ranch's cook (Victor Sen Yung) passed on in 1980.
One of the legacies of the series was what was sometimes called "The Curse of the Cartwright Boys." Any woman who hooked up with Pa or any of the sons would quickly disappear -- they'd run off with somebody else or croak by the end of the episode. The boys were all doomed to stay single. Pa had each son with a different wife and all were long-gone by the time the show aired. (This meme was passed on to James Tiberius Kirk on the starship Enterprise some years later ...)
All of the actors had careers before and after, save Blocker, who died from complications for gallbladder surgery while the show was still shooting. (Apparently Blocker was the original choice to play Major T.J. "King" Kong, in Kubrick's Dr. Strangelove, a role that went to Slim Pickens. Hard to imagine him riding that bomb down.)
Michael Landon, I first saw in I Was a Teenage Werewolf, and God's Little Acre. He went on to do Little House on the Prairie and Highway to Heaven.
Pernell Roberts left the show when it was at its peak and took a starring role in Trapper John, M.D., a spin-off from M*A*S*H. This was quite controversial at the time. He did guest starring roles after that, and bits in some movies, but never got back into the center spotlight after he left Bonanza.