The Autry National Center proudly announces a celebration in honor of Bonanza, the second-longest running television Western and one of the most beloved series in the world. Bonanza Day will celebrate the show’s 50th anniversary and highlight the career achievements of its creator, David Dortort, who will be in attendance. A special announcement will be made regarding the David Dortort Archive acquisition and a financial contribution to the Autry by the Dortort family.
The event features a daylong viewing of the series’ best episodes, starring Lorne Greene, Pernell Roberts, Dan Blocker, and Michael Landon, and special film clips in the Imagination Gallery’s Western Legacy Theater. Jeffrey Richardson, Assistant Curator of Film and Popular Culture, will moderate a panel discussion addressing the history, making, and filming of Bonanza.
The panel of speakers will feature series regular Mitch Vogel, who played “Jamie Cartwright;” Kent McCray, Bonanza production supervisor; and Andrew J. Klyde Esq., an archivist and historian, executive producer of the DVD set Bonanza: The Official First Season (which will be released in North America on September 15), and an attorney for Bonanza Ventures.
Adding to the Autry’s significant popular culture collections, the David Dortort Archive offers researchers a close look at the business of Western entertainment and the role played by producer and writer David Dortort, creator of the television series Bonanza and The High Chaparral. Containing primary and secondary resources such as correspondence, draft and final scripts, audience rating records, awards, photographs, periodicals, and reference books, the archive documents the history and influence of Western television.
When fully processed, the David Dortort Archive will be accessible to the public online in the library catalog and Collections Online, the Autry’s digital database, and available for research through the Autry Library. The financial donation will assist in preserving the items so that future generations can benefit from the documents and material in perpetuity. In addition, part of Mr. Dortort’s collection, including the original hand-written pilot for Bonanza, has been and will continue to be displayed in the Autry’s Imagination Gallery.
“The David Dortort Archive is a significant gift to the Autry as it provides a rare glimpse into television history that the Autry can now make accessible to the general public and researchers,” said John Gray, President and CEO of the Autry. “In addition, generations to come will take note of his business sense. From his astute strategy of filming Bonanza in color to his continued merchandising savvy, he has achieved what few individuals have ever accomplished and taught long-lasting lessons with wholesome values in the process.”
To date, Bonanza continues to influence countless individuals and is one of the longest-running and most beloved television series in history. The High Chaparral, with its culturally diverse cast, was ahead of its time and presented a kind of Western ranch life that was more complicated than generalized heroics and slapstick antics.
More than a successful television series, Bonanza is part of a small yet elite group of programs that have become part of American folklore. Dortort created the story of the legendary Cartwright family and their magnificent Ponderosa Ranch, hand-picked the perfect cast, and pioneered color television. Bonanza was the first hourlong dramatic series broadcast in color. The most popular program in the United States for an unprecedented three consecutive seasons, Bonanza garnered numerous accolades, including Emmys, TV Guide awards, Western Heritage awards, and favorite series awards across the world. Almost half a billion people in over 80 countries have viewed the series. Bonanza ended its remarkable run, which included 433 hours over 14 years, on NBC in 1973.
About David Dortort
One of the most respected and influential individuals in television history, David Dortort produced over 600 hours of television including Bonanza, one of the most honored and recognized programs in the world. Born and raised in New York City, Dortort traveled alone across the United States while still in his teens. Married in 1940, he was stationed in Los Angeles during the Second World War, and soon after wrote his bestselling novel, Burial of the Fruit. His second novel, The Post of Honor, was also critically acclaimed. After working for a time in New York as a writer of magazine stories and television dramas, he moved his family to California to try his hand at screenplay writing. He wrote and cowrote several motion pictures and teleplays for numerous series during TV’s “golden age.”
After producing John Payne’s series The Restless Gun for two years, Dortort began Bonanza, and quickly developed his reputation as a hard-working, efficient producer who was always willing to give a break to aspiring and talented individuals in front of and behind the camera. The High Chaparral and more accolades followed. Other series produced by Dortort were The Cowboys (1974) and a prequel series featuring younger versions of the Bonanza characters called The Ponderosa (2001). In 1979–1980, he created the 13-week CBS miniseries The Chisholms, starring Robert Preston, Rosemary Harris, and Ben Murphy.
In recent years, Dortort received honors from the President of the United States, he was given the Golden Boot Award for contributions to the Western genre, and his alma mater, City College of New York, recognized his lifetime of achievement. His company, Bonanza Ventures, controls merchandising and licensing rights worldwide to all elements of his television series.
About the Autry National Center
The Autry National Center is an intercultural history center dedicated to exploring the experiences and perceptions of the diverse peoples of the American West. The Autry celebrates the cultures of the American West through three institutions on two Los Angeles campuses: the Southwest Museum of the American Indian in Mt. Washington; the Museum of the American West in Griffith Park; and the Institute for the Study for the American West, which comprises the Braun Research Library and the Autry Library and is headquartered in Griffith Park.
The Autry National Center’s hours of operation at its Griffith Park location have changed. The new weekday hours for the Autry’s Museum of the American West are Tuesday through Friday, 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. The museum store’s new weekday hours are Tuesday through Friday, 10:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Saturday and Sunday hours for the museum and the museum store are 11:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. On Thursdays from July 1 to August 31, hours for the museum and museum store are 10:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. The museum and museum store will continue to be closed on Mondays.
Admission is $9 for adults, $5 for students and seniors 60+, $3 for children 3–12, and free for Autry members, veterans, and children 2 and under. Admission is free on the second Tuesday of every month.