CLASSIC VIDEO SHOWPLACE: Dan Blocker

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For over a hundred years some of the greatest video treasures of all time have been produced. Some have been lost in the sands of time and others, soon to be rediscovered, will become fan favorites for a whole new generation. 

 Each week we will feature just one of the many hidden gems that you can see on RCN TV with insights and commentaries on classic television shows and legendary cinematic performances. 

 One of the most popular characters on 1960s’ television was the loveable, good-natured Eric “Hoss” Cartwright on the long-running western, Bonanza, played by the equally jovial, larger-than-life personality, Dan Blocker. 

Bobby Dan Davis Blocker was born in DeKalb, Texas, on December 10, 1928.  After attending a Texas Military school, he was a standout in college football for four years before being drafted into the United States Army to fight in the Korean War. He received the Purple Heart for wounds suffered in battle.

Between 1953-1958, Blocker taught high school English and drama, in addition to teaching at middle and elementary schools.  During the latter year, he received a small part in a Three Stooges’ movie, where he was billed as “Don” Blocker.  He and his wife then moved to California for Dan to try his hand at acting.

Over the next few years Blocker earned several guest appearances on television (including playing the blacksmith on Gunsmoke — the show that would spark a string of successful western-themed TV shows, including Bonanza).

He also appeared in several film projects, including two movies co-starring Frank Sinatra:  Come Blow Your Horn and The Lady in Cement.

Stanley Kubrick attempted to cast Blocker in his film, Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb.  Peter Sellers elected not to add the role of Major T.J. “King” Kong to his multiple other roles, but according to the film’s co-writer, Terry Southern, Blocker’s agent rejected the script. The role went to Slim Pickens, who played the iconic scene of riding an atomic bomb down while waving his cowboy hat.

However, the role that would make Dan a household name was that of “Hoss” … a character he portrayed for 13 seasons.  He even helped launch a string of restaurants called the Bonanza (not to be confused with the Ponderosa chain) and frequently appeared in character as “Hoss” for publicity events.

Blocker was selected for several guest-starring appearances on NBC’s popular The Flip Wilson Show comedy hour and the Jack Benny hour-long TV specials in the later 1960s.  However, most of Blocker’s acting in the 1960s and early 1970s was primarily spent on The Ponderosa.

According to Bear Family Records, Blocker portrayed his character based on the following line:

“We shall pass this way on Earth but once, if there is any kindness we can show, or good act we can do, let us do it now, for we will never pass this way again.”

By many accounts, the actor and his on-screen personality had very similar views on life and towards other people.  Both the fictional “Hoss” and actor Dan Blocker were warm, gregarious and larger-than-life individuals and were admired by people inside and outside of Hollywood.

On May 13, 1972 before Bonanza’s 14th season premiere was scheduled to begin shooting, Blocker went in for gallbladder surgery but developed a blog clot during the procedure and died that same day.  He was 43.

Until Blocker’s death, an unwritten rule in television was never to acknowledge a character’s “death” on screen.  However, after starting the fall 1972 season with no mention of Hoss’ non-appearance on the show, and facing mounting pressure from fans to acknowledge his passing, the writers and producers knew they had to break rank.  On a November episode the cast “announced” Hoss’ death–although the reason for his character’s passing was not mentioned during the program’s original run.

The loss of Blocker to the show marked the beginning of the end of Bonanza.  Without Hoss’ good-natured personality to balance the show, the ratings fell hard that final year, and most fans of the show will clearly state that the Ponderosa was never the same.  Even subsequent incarnations of the show seemed to fail miserably when compared to the first 13 seasons with Blocker in the saddle for this iconic western program.

Dan’s legacy lives on in his sons.  David is a successful Emmy Award-winning film producer and Dirk Blocker has appeared in a number of films and most recently as a regular on the wildly popular NBC comedy, Brooklyn 99.

Tune in or set your DVRs to see Dan Blocker’s legendary turn as “Hoss” on Bonanza every Sunday morning at 9am on RCN-TV.

To view the complete rundown of classic programming on RCN TV, check out the weekly listings here on our website.

 

 

 

Chris Michael About Chris Michael

Chris handles play-by-play for RCN sports events, including baseball, football & basketball games and produces/hosts the station’s 60-minute live call-in show. Among Chris’s other responsibilities include reporting on local news & sports stories, conducting “Take 5” interviews with community and political leaders, producing commercials, voiceovers and promos; and generating blog entries and videos on the internet. Click here to listen to the weekly Sports Talk podcast.

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