With the Hollywood western in decline towards the end of the 1950s, fans of the genre were able to find some satisfaction in the growing number of western television series. Among the best of these were Bonanza (1959-73) and The High Chaparral (1967-71), both of which were conceived and produced by David Dortort, who has died aged 93.
Bonanza, the first primetime western in colour, was set on the Ponderosa ranch and focused on the adventures of the all-male Cartwright family – Adam (Pernell Roberts), Hoss (Dan Blocker) and Little Joe (Michael Landon), the sons of the thrice-widowed Ben (Lorne Greene), who was named after Dortort's own insurance salesman father.
The series was unusual for its concentration on a united family, rather than the traditional lone cowboy protagonist. It also contrasted with the increasing violence and blurring of the differences between
The Hollywood writer/producer passed away on Sunday in his Westwood, California apartment.
Dortort pitched his idea for the western adventure in 1959 and Bonanza came to life on the small screen later that year. His creation was the most-watched programme from 1964 to 1967 and ran for a total of 14 years.
Dortort produced several Bonanza spin-offs including Bonanza: The Next Generation, and he racked up writing credits for other TV series including Lassie, The Restless Gun, Climax! and Waterfront.
The three-time Emmy nominee was also president of the Producers Guild of America and served as president of the Television-Radio branch of the Writers Guild of America.
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