'Bonanza': Who Wrote The Beloved TV Western?

Who Wrote Bonanza?
October 12, 2020 - 10:09 / Lucas Anderson

Bonanza remains one of the most popular Western shows of all time. With stars like Michael Landon, Lorne Greene and Dan Blocker, the classic Western was rated as one of TV's Top 5 shows for nine of its 14 seasons (1959-1973). But do you know who was behind the creation and writing of Bonanza? Read on to find out!

All Bonanza fans can name the show's lovable cast members, originally including Pernell Roberts alongside Lorne Greene, Michael Landon, and Dan Blocker. But who was behind the production of the NBC Western that aired from 1959 to 1973? Let's take a look at the main figures who brought Bonanza to the small screen and created a TV classic.

Bonanza: Who wrote and created the classic Western?

The best-known figure behind Bonanza's production was David Dortort (1916-2010). He's credited as the series creator and was the writer of a handful of episodes in the early seasons.

Bonanza creator/writer David Dortort (L) with Frank Capra (R)

But as for the full series, over 100 writers are credited with contributions to the show's 430 episodes. Prolific TV writer John Hawkins holds the title of most Bonanza episodes written, according to IMDb, with 29 of them between 1961 and 1972.

Coming in second place, with 20, was none other than "Little Joe Cartwright," AKA star Michael Landon. It's said to have taken the actor several tries before Dortort felt his writing was suitable for the series, but he was eventually taken on as a regular writer.

Bonanza star Michael Landon wrote and directed episodes

Landon also directed 14 episodes over the years, proving to be an essential part of Bonanza on- and off-screen. He'd later serve in a similar star-writer/director role with Little House on the Prairie. But on Bonanza, Landon's screenwriting total were closely followed by writers Preston Wood and Thomas Thompson, with 19 and 18 respectively.

Bonanza: Producers and more trivia

Beside Dortort as Bonanza executive producer was Mark Roberts, while Fred Hamilton, Robert Blees, and Richard Collins received main producing credits. With hundreds of cast members, writers, and other production team workers, Bonanza was truly a collaborative effort of mid-20th century TV glory.

For more on Bonanza's production and behind-the-scenes secrets, we've also done deep dives into the iconic theme song and where the Nevada-set show was actually filmed. You can also test your Bonanza knowledge in our quiz!