Dan Blocker, American Actor: Hoss Cartwright

Posted on Jan 10, 2012 under ARCHIVES | 2 Comments

Dec. 10, 1928 to May 13, 1972

“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.” – S. Grellet

Hoss Cartwright was my favorite character on Bonanza.  I believe a lot of that had to do with Dan Blocker’s portrayal of this gentle giant.  Hoss always saw the best in everyone, sometimes to a fault.  He could be taken by cons from time to time, yet always was the epitome of goodness and kindness.   I think Stephen Grellet’s passage fit Hoss to a tee!

I often watch the old reruns of Bonanza and always walk away with a smile on my face thanks to Hoss Cartwright. I believe there was a great deal of Dan Blocker incorporated into Hoss.  Although he surely was a great deal more intelligent, I think they both shared a warm heart and a kind thought.

Bobby Dan Blocker was born in De Kalb, Texas on December 10, 1928.  The son of Ora Shack Blocker (1895-1960) and Mary Blocker (1901-1998).  Shortly after his birth the family moved to O’Donnell, Texas; south of Lubbock.  They ran a family store “Blocker” which is now an abandoned building in downtown O’Donnell.

Dan attended Texas Military Institute and played football for Hardin-Simmons University in Abilene, TX.  He graduated Sul Ross State Teacher’s College in Alpine earning his masters in dramatic arts.  He was drafted into the Army and served in the Korean War as a First Sergeant.

He was a high school English and Drama teacher in Sonora, TX, a sixth grade teacher and coach at Eddy Elementary in Carlsbad, NM and taught for a while in California.

While in high school, he worked as a rodeo performer and a bouncer at a bar.  His fellow classmates remembered him for his good nature and large profile of  6’3″ — 300 pounds.

Dan is best remembered for his endearing role as Eric “Hoss” Cartwright in the long running western series Bonanza, airing in 1959.  Before Bonanza, his first role was in the film “Hook a Crook” (1955) and taking on cameo roles in Gunsmoke, Playhouse 90, Cheyenne, Tales of Wells Fargo, The Restless Gun and Maverick.  He also appeared on The Rifleman and Zane Grey Theater.  He continued taking on other small parts including the role as a bartender in the 1957 film Gunsight Ridge and in 1958 as a prison guard “Tiny Budinger”, a recurring role, in the NBC western Cimarron City.

His break came in 1959 when he was cast as Hoss Cartwright, the middle son of Ben Cartwright, portrayed by Lorne Greene.  Pernell Roberts was cast as older brother Adam and Michael Landon as his younger brother Little Joe.

Left to Right: Pernell Roberts, Michael Landon, Lorne Greene, Dan Blocker

Bonanza ran from 1959 to 1973, filming in three states and 430 episodes.  Bonanza was the second longest running western on television behind Gunsmoke. which ran for 20 yrs.  It was the first television series designated to be filmed and broadcast in color.

Dan said that he created Hoss’ character based on a quote from Stephen Grellet, a prominent French Quaker missionary:

“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.”

He also received partial ownership in the very successful chain “Ponderosa/Bonanza Steakhouse” restaurants.  This was in exchange for his being a commercial spokesman, as the character Hoss and for his many personal appearances at the various franchises.

On May 13, 1972, Dan Blocker died following gall bladder surgery, he was only 44 years of age.  The writers of Bonanza  took the step of referencing the character’s death in the show’s story line in August.  This was a very  unusual step for its time.  Bonanza lasted for only one more season without Hoss.  The 14th season ended nine episodes shy of a full season.  He was buried in the family plot in DeKalb, TX.

He was married to Dolphia Parker whom he met as a student at Sul Ross State and had four children.  All his children’s names begin with a “D”.  Dirk Blocker (actor), David Blocker (producer) and twin daughters Debra Lee (artist) and Danna Lynn.

The O’Donnell Heritage Museum, located in O’Donnell, TX is often referred to as “The Dan Blocker Museum” as the second floor is dedicated as the “Dan Blocker Room.”

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2 Responses to “Dan Blocker, American Actor: Hoss Cartwright”

  1. David ORourke Says:

    You did a great job writing this article Ellen. Can’t wait to see your Novel…lol

  2. Nancy Radlinger Says:

    Oh this was one of my favorite shows growing up and I also like the character “Hoss” and like you said the way that he was portrayed as the gentle giant. Thanks for the walk down memory lane.

    Skype: nancyradlinger

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