Dan Blocker's life before 'Bonanza' is proof the actor was made to play Hoss Cartwright
Dan Blocker lived a short life, but his early success and experiences embodied Hoss.
Bonanza's western reign is something we'll never see again in television history. The success of the show was due to many factors, but characters like Eric "Hoss" Cartwright, brought to life by Dan Blocker, are the main reason.
Although the show was set in the mid 1800s, nearly a hundred years before the actor was born, Blocker was able to become one with Hoss. The role resonated with many of his characteristics and early life experiences.
In the role, he was known as the "loveable gentle giant" and the second son of Ben Cartwright, who was seen as unapproachable at first glance. Those first glances were often wrong, though.
Blocker would play Hoss for 13 seasons before his unexpected death in 1972 at just 43 years old.
However, the actor's short life has seen plenty of success.
He was born in Dekalb, Texas, in 1928. At 22, he enrolled in Hardin-Simms University, where he got his first taste of acting. Blocker received a degree in Speech and Drama, but the success was just starting.
Not only was he book-smart, but he also played football at a school affiliated with Hardin-Simms before transferring to Sul Ross State Teacher's College to finish his Master's Degree in Dramatic Arts. In true Blocker style, he worked as a rodeo performer and bouncer as a student.
He was 300 pounds which made visitors a little intimidated by his size, but they quickly realized he was good-hearted. Some may say this was an early start to preparing for his significant future role.
Blocker got drafted into the U.S Army during the Korean War, where he started basic training in Louisiana before serving as an infantry sergeant in Korea from December 1951 to August 1952.
With his strength, talents, and education, Blocker was ready for any profession, including being a teacher.
His instructor journey started with a position as a sixth-grade and high school English and Drama teacher in Sonora, Texas, until 1954. He then began teaching in California while also taking on acting roles.
Before his big Bonanza break, the actor was seen on television screens in top-rated shows. He appeared on the episode "Outer Space Jitters" on The Three Stooges, where he played a goon, and multiple episodes of NBC's The Restless Gun as a blacksmith, Gunsmoke, Colt 45, and more before snagging his iconic role.
The role of Eric "Hoss" Cartwright fit right into Blocker's hands.