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Dan Blocker Biography

Posted: Sat Nov 08, 2008 8:50 pm
by weavereb
Dan Blocker (December 10, 1928 – May 13, 1972) was an American actor best remembered for his role as Eric 'Hoss' Cartwright in the TV western blockbuster Bonanza.
Image Biography

Blocker was born in De Kalb in East Texas, the son of Ora Shack Blocker & Mary Davis Blocker. His family moved to O'Donnell located in both Lynn and Dawson counties near Lubbock in west Texas soon after his birth. He attended Texas Military Institute and later graduated from Sul Ross State Teacher's College in Alpine, where he earned a master's degree in the dramatic arts. (The Hoss character was originally written as "lovable but slow-witted". Blocker however, was the only cast member with an advanced degree.). Despite playing the "middle son" on Bonanza, he and the actor who played his elder TV brother, Pernell Roberts, were born the same year. Blocker said that he portrayed the Hoss character with a Stephen Grellet excerpt in mind, "We shall pass this way on Earth but once, if there is any kindness we can show, or good act we can do, let us do it now, for we will never pass this way again."
Image Blocker held down various jobs as a high school English and Drama Teacher in Sonora, Texas, actor and rodeo performer. He reputedly worked as a bouncer in a beer joint while a student. By all accounts he is remembered from his school days for his size of 6 ft 3 in (1.91 m) and weight of 300 pounds (136 kg), and as being good-natured despite his intimidating size.

Blocker was drafted and served in the Korean War. He later married Dolphia Parker, whom he had met while a student at Sul Ross State.
Image All of their four children's names begin with a 'D': actor Dirk Blocker and producer David Blocker, and twin daughters Debra Lee (who studied to be a hairdresser) and Danna Lynn. The actor once owned an authentic 1965 Chevrolet Chevelle SS396 (with the sought-after Z16 option) as Chevrolet was the commercial sponsor of the show. His Chevelle is now in private hands, and is sometimes displayed in car shows.
Image A Free Methodist, Blocker was among Hollywood celebrities who supported then U.S. Senator Eugene J. McCarthy for the Democratic presidential nomination in 1968. McCarthy's anti-war theme scuttled fellow Texan Lyndon B. Johnson's reelection bid, but the senator failed to draw more conservative Democrats. After McCarthy withdrew, Blocker then supported another Minnesotan, Vice President Hubert H. Humphrey for the presidency against the Republican Richard M. Nixon. Blocker so opposed the Vietnam War that he uprooted his family in 1970, and moved to Switzerland in protest. He kept a house in Inglewood, California and commuted to NBC. His 6,000-square foot Tudor style mansion in the Hancock Park area of Los Angeles is currently owned by Rob Zombie. [1] On a television interview Zombie claims to have had encounters with Blocker's ghost, though he may have been joking.

He received partial ownership in a successful chain of Ponderosa/Bonanza Steakhouses in exchange for serving (in character as Hoss) as their commercial spokesman and making personal appearances at franchises. Though not as widespread as they once were, a few of the restaurants still remain.

In 1972, Blocker died suddenly of a pulmonary embolism following routine gall bladder surgery in Los Angeles. The cast and crew of Bonanza were shaken by his death, and the writers took the then-unusual step of referencing a major character's death in the show's storyline that autumn. It is speculated, however, that the loss of the show's most affectionate character hastened its end. Bonanza lasted another season, but the final season in which Blocker did not appear is the least-requested in reruns.

Blocker is buried in a family plot in DeKalb, although he lived there only briefly. The common gravesite is marked by a plain stone with the name "BLOCKER" engraved, and three family members are buried beside him.

World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) announcer Jim Ross affectionately calls many of the bigger wrestlers "Hoss" in honor of Blocker's character from Bonanza.


Stanley Kubrick attempted to cast Blocker in his film Dr. Strangelove, after Peter Sellers backed out of playing the role of Major T.J. "King" Kong, but according to the film's co-writer, Terry Southern, Blocker's agent rejected the script as being "too pinko". The role subsequently went to Slim Pickens.

Blocker also appeared in the Three Stooges short Outer Space Jitters in 1957, playing the part of "The Goon," billed as 'Don Blocker.' He appeared in an episode of Walt Disney's Zorro, "The Señorita Makes a Choice," in 1958. In 1968, Blocker starred with Frank Sinatra in Lady In Cement.

Robert Altman befriended Blocker while directing episodes of Bonanza. Years later, he cast Blocker as Roger Wade in The Long Goodbye. Unfortunately, Blocker died before filming commenced. The role went to Sterling Hayden, and the film was dedicated to Blocker.
Image Biography by weavereb Source: Wikipedia
Click here to go to Dan's Block. A forum dedicated to Dan Blocker and his work outside of Bonanza.