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."

Interviewee(s)
Highlights
David Dortort on pitching Bonanza to NBC and Tom Sarnoff helping to get it on the air and shot in color
David Dortort on the Hollywood Blacklist
David Dortort on executive producing the miniseries The Chisholms, starring Robert Preston
David Dortort on adapting William Faulkner's "An Error in Chemistry" for Climax!, produced by Martin Manulis>
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
David Dortort on writing "The Ox Bow Incident" for The 20th Century-Fox Hour
Full Interview

Chapter 1

On his early life and influences; on his activities during World War II
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

Chapter 2

On Norman Mailer; on writing various feature films; on writing for Suspense
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

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
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
On casting Pernell Roberts as "Adam Cartwright" on Bonanza; on working with John Payne as "Vint Bonner" on The Restless Gun 

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
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
On the shooting of Bonanza; on favorite Bonanza scripts and on getting the historical aspects of the show right

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
On nearly leaving Bonanza over a contract dispute; on Michael Landon writing and directing for Bonanza, and Landon's relationship with Lorne Green
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

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
On the shooting schedule of Bonanza; on the various guest stars of Bonanza; on the theme of the show and its end and legacy
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

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
On then-current projects and activities; on career highlights; on creating the Bonanza prequel Ponderosa and how he'd like to remembered
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
David Dortort on casting Pernell Roberts as "Adam Cartwright" on Bonanza
David Dortort on John Payne's contractual disputes on The Restless Gun and on the beginnings of Bonanza
David Dortort on pitching Bonanza to NBC and Tom Sarnoff helping to get it on the air and shot in color
David Dortort on writing the pilot for Bonanza
David Dortort on the casting of Bonanza
David Dortort on the lack of women in the cast of Bonanza
David Dortort on the network reaction to the pilot of Bonanza and on the directing of the pilot
David Dortort on the shooting of Bonanza
David Dortort on favorite Bonanza scripts and on getting the historical aspects of the show right
David Dortort on Jack Carson guest starring on Bonanza and dealing with historical events on the show
David Dortort on "Ben Cartwright's" (Lorne Greene) wives on Bonanza and his relationship with his family on the show
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
David Dortort on nearly leaving Bonanza over a contract dispute
David Dortort on Michael Landon writing and directing for Bonanza, and Landon's relationship with Lorne Green
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
David Dortort on friction between Pernell Roberts and the producers of Bonanza
David Dortort on Victor Sen Yung as "Hop Sing" on Bonanza
David Dortort on Lorne Greene as "Ben Cartwright" on Bonanza
David Dortort on the shooting schedule of Bonanza
David Dortort on the various guest stars of Bonanza
David Dortort on the theme song of Bonanza
David Dortort on the end of Bonanza in 1973 and on the legacy of the show
David Dortort on working on later Bonanza made-for-television movies with Ben Johnson and Lorne Greene appearing in one of them
David Dortort on creating the Bonanza prequel Ponderosa

Climax!

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

Fireside Theatre

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

High Chaparral, The

View Show Page
David Dortort on creating The High Chaparral
David Dortort on creating The High Chaparral
David Dortort on Leaf Erickson as "John Cannon" and Cameron Mitchell as "Buck Cannon" on The High Chaparral
David Dortort on juggling doing The High Chaparral with Bonanza and on the success of The High Chaparral

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
David Dortort on writing and producing The Restless Gun, starring John Payne
David Dortort on casting Michael Landon in the pilot of The Restless Gun and on Dan Blocker as "Fred Burgermen" on the show
David Dortort on the concept of The Restless Gun
David Dortort on John Payne as "Vint Bonner" on The Restless Gun
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
David Dortort on working with John Payne as "Vint Bonner" on The Restless Gun
David Dortort on John Payne's contractual disputes on The Restless Gun and on the beginnings of Bonanza

Suspense

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David Dortort on writing for Suspense
Topics

Anthology Drama

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

Historic Events and Social Change

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David Dortort on his activities during World War II

Hollywood Blacklist

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David Dortort on the Hollywood Blacklist

Industry Crossroads

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David Dortort on the Hollywood Blacklist

Pop Culture

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David Dortort on the theme song of Bonanza

TV Theme Songs

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David Dortort on the theme song of Bonanza

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

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

Technological Innovation

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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
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

Television Industry

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David Dortort on the Hollywood Blacklist

War

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David Dortort on his activities during World War II

World War II

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David Dortort on his activities during World War II
Genres

Classic Anthology Series

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

Cop/Detective/Mystery Series

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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

TV Movies/Miniseries/Dramatic Specials

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

Western Series

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David Dortort on writing and producing The Restless Gun  
David Dortort on creating and writing Bonanza
David Dortort on creating and writing for Bonanza
David Dortort on creating and writing for Bonanza
David Dortort on creating The High Chaparral
David Dortort on creating the Bonanza prequel Ponderosa 
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
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

Jack Carson

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

William Faulkner

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

Lorne Greene

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

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

Martin Manulis

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

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

Robert Preston

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David Dortort on executive producing the miniseries The Chisholms, starring Robert Preston

Pernell Roberts

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David Dortort on casting Pernell Roberts as "Adam Cartwright" on Bonanza
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
David Dortort on friction between Pernell Roberts and the producers of Bonanza

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

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