Skip to main content

Bonanza aired in 1959. According to Britannica, the show starred Lorne Greene as the patriarch of the Cartwright family.

With a dusty 1800s Nevada as a backdrop, Bonanza followed the elder Cartwright as he navigated life with his three sons, each from a different wife. All of Ben Cartwright’s wives had died at one point or another, making Ben a single parent to the three boys. Adam, Hoss, and Little Joe enthralled audiences for more than a decade. 

‘Bonanza’ was groundbreaking in more ways than one

Bonanza was the first western broadcast in color. It was also the second longest western show ever. It ran from 1959 to 1973, a 14 year stretch that is only beaten by Gunsmoke in the Western genre. 14 years on the air is nothing to sneeze at, in any television genre. And Bonanza could have lasted longer if it weren’t for a real-life tragedy that struck the cast. 

The eldest Cartwright son, Adam, was played by Pernell Roberts. In 1965, Roberts left the show, but Bonanza didn’t suffer any loss of viewership. Even though there were only two remaining Cartwright sons, their big personalities and the challenges they faced running the Cartwright ranch were enough to keep the drama going. In 1962, the actor who played Hoss, the middle Cartwright, passed away. Without Dan Blocker’s Hoss, the show was irreparably damaged. It went off the air just a year later. Spin-offs and prequels followed the cancellation of Bonanza for decades, including projects that included the real children of the Bonanza cast. The Bonanza legacy will long outlive the show, and even the actors who made it. Interestingly, the two longest lasting Bonanza actors were buried within a few feet of one another. 

Michael Landon was laid to rest a few feet from Lorne Greene

Dan Blocker as Eric 'Hoss' Cartwright, Lorne Greene as Ben Cartwright, and Michael Landon as Joseph 'Little Joe' Cartwright
Dan Blocker as Eric ‘Hoss’ Cartwright, Lorne Greene as Ben Cartwright, and Michael Landon as Joseph ‘Little Joe’ Cartwright | NBCU Photo Bank

Greene played the Cartwright patriarch, Ben Cartwright. Roberts, who played the eldest son Adam, left long before the end of the show. The actor who played Hoss passed away before Bonanza’s official cancellation. That left Michael Landon, the actor who played Little Joe, as the only surviving Cartwright son. He and his TV dad are both buried just outside Hollywood. Not only are they in the same cemetery, but they’re a stone’s throw away from one another. 

Landon is interred inside, in a tomb in the Hillside Cemetery. According to Seeing Stars, fans are unable to access the building where Landon was laid to rest, although his marker is visible from the glass doors on the outside. Greene, on the other hand, is one of the few people buried in the ground at Hillside Cemetery, where tombs and crypts are popular.  Greene is buried just behind the building where Landon’s tomb can be found. His grave references his Bonanza role, and reads in part, “The world’s best-loved father. BEN CARTWRIGHT.”

How did Michael Landon and Lorne Greene die?


‘Bonanza’: Why Was Hoss Killed Off?

Despite the difference in age, Landon and Greene actually passed away within just a few years of one another. Greene was born in 1915, and passed in 1987. According to the AP, Greene passed of a perforated ulcer at 72. He was working right up until his death, and had even signed on to a Bonanza movie.

Landon passed just four years later at 54, on July 1, 1991. He suffered from pancreatic cancer. According to Survivor Net, documentary on his life claimed that Landon was exposed to carcinogens on the set of Little House on the Prairie. The set for the classic show was built near the remnants of a former nuclear reactor. Some speculate that this exposure is what led to his cancer, and his untimely death.