David Dortort

Producer


The Academy of Television Arts & Sciences Foundation Presents

02:26

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About
About this interview

In his three-hour-plus Archive interview, David Dortort (1916-2010) speaks of his early career as a novelist and writer of feature films, and recalls his friendship with author Norman Mailer. He talks about early programs he worked on, including Suspense, Fireside Theatre, and Climax, for which he adapted William Faulkner's "An Error in Chemistry." He chronicles creating and producing The Restless Gun, starring John Payne, where he first met and cast Michael Landon and Dan Blocker. Dortort recalls creating Bonanza for NBC, and insisting it be shot in color. He discusses the enormous popularity of the show, and its cast. He outlines mentoring Michael Landon when Landon started to write, and later direct, episodes of Bonanza. He details the end of the show due to the death of Dan Blocker and the loss in the cast of Pernell Roberts. He talks about producing subsequent shows including The High Chaparral, The Chisholms, and the Bonanza prequel Ponderosa. Henry Coleman conducted the interview on August 8, 2002 in Los Angeles, CA.

"From the very first foot of film, 'Bonanza' was in color. People were flocking to RCA dealers and they were selling thousands of color television sets. Anybody who had a color set would watch the only color show on the air. So, little by little, the idea of the family caught on. People got caught up in the message of love, peace, harmony, all the good qualities in humankind."

Highlights
David Dortort on pitching Bonanza to NBC and Tom Sarnoff helping to get it on the air and shot in color
04:49
David Dortort on the Hollywood Blacklist
04:36
David Dortort on executive producing the miniseries The Chisholms, starring Robert Preston
01:58
David Dortort on adapting William Faulkner's "An Error in Chemistry" for Climax!, produced by Martin Manulis>
07:45
David Dortort on the popularity of Bonanza, on the effect of the show being in color, and on the sponsorship of the show by General Motors
02:54
David Dortort on writing "The Ox Bow Incident" for The 20th Century-Fox Hour
03:59
Full Interview

Chapter 1

On his early life and influences; on his activities during World War II
12:27
On being President of the Writers Guild of America, producing The Restless Gun, and on his career as a novelist; on the first time he saw television, and on his career as a novelist and feature film writer; on the difference between writing a novel and writing a feature film
17:15

Chapter 2

On Norman Mailer; on writing various feature films; on writing for Suspense
10:02
On writing for Fireside Theatre and learning to write for the audience; on adapting William Faulkner's "An Error in Chemistry" for Climax!, produced by Martin Manulis; on writing "The Ox Bow Incident" for The 20th Century-Fox Hour
19:07

Chapter 3

On the Hollywood Blacklist; on writing and producing The Restless Gun, starring John Payne; on casting Michael Landon in the pilot of The Restless Gun and on Dan Blocker as "Fred Burgermen" on the show
14:04
On the concept of The Restless Gun; on John Payne as "Vint Bonner" on The Restless Gun; on favorite episodes of The Restless Gun, on working with Dan Blocker as "Fred Burgermen," and on using the show to cast Bonanza
11:36
On casting Pernell Roberts as "Adam Cartwright" on Bonanza; on working with John Payne as "Vint Bonner" on The Restless Gun 
03:25

Chapter 4

On John Payne's contractual disputes on The Restless Gun and on the beginnings of Bonanza; on pitching Bonanza to NBC and Tom Sarnoff helping to get it on the air and shot in color; on writing the pilot for Bonanza
14:19
On the casting of Bonanza; on the lack of women in the cast of Bonanza; on the network reaction to the pilot of Bonanza and on the directing of the pilot
09:16
On the shooting of Bonanza; on favorite Bonanza scripts and on getting the historical aspects of the show right
05:33

Chapter 5

On Jack Carson guest starring on Bonanza and dealing with historical events on the show; on "Ben Cartwright's" (Lorne Greene) wives on Bonanza and his relationship with his family on the show; on the popularity of Bonanza, on the effect of the show being in color, and on the sponsorship of the show by General Motors
09:41
On nearly leaving Bonanza over a contract dispute; on Michael Landon writing and directing for Bonanza, and Landon's relationship with Lorne Green
10:33
On the end of Bonanza due to the death of Dan Blocker and Pernell Roberts leaving the show, and on Lee Marvin guest-starring on the show
07:51

Chapter 6

On friction between Pernell Roberts and the producers of Bonanza; on Victor Sen Yung as "Hop Sing" on Bonanza; on Lorne Greene as "Ben Cartwright" on Bonanza
11:04
On the shooting schedule of Bonanza; on the various guest stars of Bonanza; on the theme of the show and its end and legacy
12:09
On creating The High Chaparral; on Leaf Erickson as "John Cannon" and Cameron Mitchell as "Buck Cannon" on The High Chaparral; on juggling doing The High Chaparral with Bonanza and on the success of The High Chaparral
06:14

Chapter 7

On executive producing the miniseries The Chisholms, starring Robert Preston; on working on later Bonanza made-for-television movies with Ben Johnson and Lorne Greene appearing in one of them
06:06
On then-current projects and activities; on career highlights; on creating the Bonanza prequel Ponderosa and how he'd like to remembered
06:12
Shows

Bonanza

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David Dortort on favorite episodes of The Restless Gun, on working with Dan Blocker as "Fred Burgermen," and on using the show to cast Bonanza
04:09
David Dortort on casting Pernell Roberts as "Adam Cartwright" on Bonanza
01:27
David Dortort on John Payne's contractual disputes on The Restless Gun and on the beginnings of Bonanza
06:14
David Dortort on pitching Bonanza to NBC and Tom Sarnoff helping to get it on the air and shot in color
04:49
David Dortort on writing the pilot for Bonanza
03:17
David Dortort on the casting of Bonanza
05:02
David Dortort on the lack of women in the cast of Bonanza
02:45
David Dortort on the network reaction to the pilot of Bonanza and on the directing of the pilot
01:29
David Dortort on the shooting of Bonanza
02:02
David Dortort on favorite Bonanza scripts and on getting the historical aspects of the show right
03:31
David Dortort on Jack Carson guest starring on Bonanza and dealing with historical events on the show
03:09
David Dortort on "Ben Cartwright's" (Lorne Greene) wives on Bonanza and his relationship with his family on the show
03:37
David Dortort on the popularity of Bonanza, on the effect of the show being in color, and on the sponsorship of the show by General Motors
02:54
David Dortort on nearly leaving Bonanza over a contract dispute
04:53
David Dortort on Michael Landon writing and directing for Bonanza, and Landon's relationship with Lorne Green
05:40
David Dortort on the end of Bonanza due to the death of Dan Blocker and Pernell Roberts leaving the show, and on Lee Marvin guest-starring on the show
07:51
David Dortort on friction between Pernell Roberts and the producers of Bonanza
05:16
David Dortort on Victor Sen Yung as "Hop Sing" on Bonanza
01:15
David Dortort on Lorne Greene as "Ben Cartwright" on Bonanza
04:33
David Dortort on the shooting schedule of Bonanza
02:10
David Dortort on the various guest stars of Bonanza
01:01
David Dortort on the theme song of Bonanza
02:51
David Dortort on the end of Bonanza in 1973 and on the legacy of the show
04:37
David Dortort on working on later Bonanza made-for-television movies with Ben Johnson and Lorne Greene appearing in one of them
04:08
David Dortort on creating the Bonanza prequel Ponderosa
02:52

Climax!

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David Dortort on adapting William Faulkner's "An Error in Chemistry" for Climax!, produced by Martin Manulis
07:45

Fireside Theatre

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David Dortort on writing for Fireside Theatre and learning to write for the audience
07:22

High Chaparral, The

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David Dortort on creating The High Chaparral
01:30
David Dortort on creating The High Chaparral
01:30
David Dortort on Leaf Erickson as "John Cannon" and Cameron Mitchell as "Buck Cannon" on The High Chaparral
02:18
David Dortort on juggling doing The High Chaparral with Bonanza and on the success of The High Chaparral
02:26

Restless Gun, The

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David Dortort on being President of the Writers Guild of America, producing The Restless Gun, and on his career as a novelist
07:32
David Dortort on writing and producing The Restless Gun, starring John Payne
04:20
David Dortort on casting Michael Landon in the pilot of The Restless Gun and on Dan Blocker as "Fred Burgermen" on the show
04:52
David Dortort on the concept of The Restless Gun
02:31
David Dortort on John Payne as "Vint Bonner" on The Restless Gun
04:56
David Dortort on favorite episodes of The Restless Gun, on working with Dan Blocker as "Fred Burgermen," and on using the show to cast Bonanza
04:09
David Dortort on working with John Payne as "Vint Bonner" on The Restless Gun
01:58
David Dortort on John Payne's contractual disputes on The Restless Gun and on the beginnings of Bonanza
06:14

Suspense

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David Dortort on writing for Suspense
05:22
Topics

Anthology Drama

View Topic
David Dortort on writing for Suspense
05:22
David Dortort on adapting William Faulkner's "An Error in Chemistry" for Climax!, produced by Martin Manulis
07:45

Historic Events and Social Change

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David Dortort on his activities during World War II
03:31

Hollywood Blacklist

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David Dortort on the Hollywood Blacklist
04:36

Industry Crossroads

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David Dortort on the Hollywood Blacklist
04:36

Pop Culture

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David Dortort on the theme song of Bonanza
02:46

TV Theme Songs

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David Dortort on the theme song of Bonanza
02:46

TV's Golden Age (1940s & '50s)

View Topic
David Dortort on writing for Suspense
05:22
David Dortort on adapting William Faulkner's "An Error in Chemistry" for Climax!, produced by Martin Manulis
07:45

Technological Innovation

View Topic
David Dortort on pitching Bonanza to NBC and Tom Sarnoff helping to get it on the air and shot in color
04:49
David Dortort on the popularity of Bonanza, on the effect of the show being in color, and on the sponsorship of the show by General Motors
02:55

Television Industry

View Topic
David Dortort on the Hollywood Blacklist
04:36

War

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David Dortort on his activities during World War II
03:31

World War II

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David Dortort on his activities during World War II
03:31
Genres

Classic Anthology Series

View Genre
David Dortort on writing for Suspense
05:22
David Dortort on writing for Fireside Theatre and learning to write for the audience
07:22
David Dortort on adapting William Faulkner's "An Error in Chemistry" for Climax!, produced by Martin Manulis
07:45
David Dortort on writing "The Ox Bow Incident" for The 20th Century-Fox Hour
03:59

Cop/Detective/Mystery Series

View Genre
David Dortort on being President of the Writers Guild of America, producing The Restless Gun, and on his career as a novelist
07:32

TV Movies/Miniseries/Dramatic Specials

View Genre
David Dortort on executive producing the miniseries The Chisholms, starring Robert Preston
01:58
David Dortort on working on later Bonanza made-for-television movies with Ben Johnson and Lorne Greene appearing in one of them
04:08

Western Series

View Genre
David Dortort on writing and producing The Restless Gun  
24:13
David Dortort on creating and writing Bonanza
29:09
David Dortort on creating and writing for Bonanza
28:06
David Dortort on creating and writing for Bonanza
23:13
David Dortort on creating The High Chaparral
06:14
David Dortort on creating the Bonanza prequel Ponderosa 
02:52
People

Dan Blocker

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David Dortort on casting Michael Landon in the pilot of The Restless Gun and on Dan Blocker as "Fred Burgermen" on the show
04:52
David Dortort on favorite episodes of The Restless Gun, on working with Dan Blocker as "Fred Burgermen," and on using the show to cast Bonanza
04:09

Jack Carson

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David Dortort on Jack Carson guest starring on Bonanza and dealing with historical events on the show
03:09

William Faulkner

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David Dortort on adapting William Faulkner's "An Error in Chemistry" for Climax!, produced by Martin Manulis
07:45

Lorne Greene

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David Dortort on "Ben Cartwright's" (Lorne Greene) wives on Bonanza and his relationship with his family
03:37
David Dortort on Lorne Greene as "Ben Cartwright" on Bonanza
04:33
David Dortort on working on later Bonanza made-for-television movies with Ben Johnson and Lorne Greene appearing in one of them
04:08

Ben Johnson

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David Dortort on working on later Bonanza made-for-television movies with Ben Johnson and Lorne Greene appearing in one of them
04:08

Michael Landon

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David Dortort on casting Michael Landon in the pilot of The Restless Gun and on Dan Blocker as "Fred Burgermen" on the show
04:52
David Dortort on Michael Landon writing and directing for Bonanza, and Landon's relationship with Lorne Green
05:40

Martin Manulis

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David Dortort on adapting William Faulkner's "An Error in Chemistry" for Climax!, produced by Martin Manulis
07:45

Lee Marvin

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David Dortort on the end of Bonanza due to the death of Dan Blocker and Pernell Roberts leaving the show, and on Lee Marvin guest-starring on the show
07:51

Robert Preston

View Person Page
David Dortort on executive producing the miniseries The Chisholms, starring Robert Preston
02:00

Pernell Roberts

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David Dortort on casting Pernell Roberts as "Adam Cartwright" on Bonanza
01:27
David Dortort on the end of Bonanza due to the death of Dan Blocker and Pernell Roberts leaving the show, and on Lee Marvin guest-starring on the show
07:51
David Dortort on friction between Pernell Roberts and the producers of Bonanza
05:16

Thomas W. Sarnoff

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David Dortort on pitching Bonanza to NBC and Tom Sarnoff helping to get it on the air and shot in color
04:49

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