New York City, September 12, 2020 (Happy Anniversary, BONANZA!)
LATEST NEWS FROM BONANZA VENTURES
It's been a bit of a while since I last communicated, but with this alternate universe in which we all find ourselves, there's been much to process.
For those old enough to recall, 1968 undoubtedly was a watershed year, but I think 2020 will really be one for the history books, and there's still almost four months to go . . .
Highlights of 2019 were the releases -- after a long hiatus -- of BONANZA: The Official Ninth Season and BONANZA: The Official Tenth Season on DVD in North America (and releases of those seasons shortly thereafter in other territories) and the gala 60th Anniversary Celebration at Ponderosa II in Mesa, Arizona -- Lorne Greene's former home, built from plans adapted from the original architectural blueprints designed by Earl Hedrick for the set constructed at Paramount Studios in 1959. Hosted by Louise and Tom Swann (who also hosted wonderful friendship conventions in 2013, 2015, and 2017), the events were well attended by joyous fans from around the globe who had a rare opportunity to not only visit "the Ponderosa," but enjoy the "Cartwright hospitality" extended by the Swanns, who carefully and lovingly restored the magnificent ranch house to its 1963 grandeur.
Tom and Louise Swann sold Ponderosa II and moved to a smaller home not long after the 60th Anniversary party (their "swan song," if you will). The new owners of Ponderosa II have since graciously allowed a video tour of the interior and exterior of the house, but so far there are no plans to hold fan gatherings on the premises. The Ponderosa Ranch House constructed at Incline Village (also from Earl Hedrick's plans) has been carefully dismantled, stored and awaiting reassembly by the Thunderbird Lodge Preservation Society, an organization dedicated to preserving and honoring Lake Tahoe's history.
I have sad news to relate. Wendy Dortort Czarnecki, creator-producer David Dortort's daughter, succumbed to complications from diabetes earlier this summer.* Over the years, she's attended fan gatherings of both BONANZA and THE HIGH CHAPARRAL. She shared her father's passion for writing and great literature (although her preferred genre was science fiction rather than the Old West). She and her late husband, Matt Czarnecki (who passed away only 14 months before Wendy), owned Bright Star Setters, recognized as one of the preeminent breeders of Irish Setters in the world. They raised many champion dogs in their kennels over the years.
2020 so far has also seen the loss of several BONANZA alumni -- Brooklyn-born John Saxon (real name: Carmine Orrico) was featured in three episodes; I'd hoped to have him record an audio commentary last year, but illness prevented that. Marj Dusay (born Marjorie Ellen Pivonka Mahoney in Hays, Kansas) had a special BONANZA connection. Besides appearing in Season 10's "A Ride in the Sun," her daughter, Debra Marj Dusay, is married to Dan Blocker's eldest son, David Douglas Blocker. Multiple award-winning writer, producer, director and former child actor Gene Reynolds (born Eugene Reynolds Blumenthal in Cleveland, Ohio) is best known for co-developing (with Larry Gelbart) the iconic television series, M*A*S*H, but he was also BONANZA's first casting director. He told me he literally had to drag Barry Sullivan out of a party to convince him to report to the studio the following morning and replace Dan Duryea, who had changed his mind about accepting the lead guest-starring spot in the pivotal episode, "Death on Sun Mountain."
And days before 2020 began, we lost writer Dorothy "D.C." Fontana. Best known for her contributions to STAR TREK, and one of the first women to achieve great success in a traditionally male-dominated profession, she was also a prolific writer of episodes of television Westerns. (She used the initials "D.C." instead of her first name, finding that potential employers refused to believe a woman could write a Western.) She wrote the fan-favorite, "The Stalker," and with story editor John Hawkins, created the character of "Jamie," played by Mitch Vogel. I'd hoped she, too, would record an audio commentary. Invited to the 60th Anniversary at Ponderosa II, she had to decline because of teaching commitments at the American Film Institute.
But there is good news . . . BONANZA: The Official Eleventh Season will be available for sale throughout N. America starting the last Tuesday in October, 2020. (Released by CBS Home Entertainment and distributed by Paramount, the set is just in time to commemorate the anniversary of Michael Landon's birth . . . )
In addition to classic episodes (e.g., "The Stalker," "Dead Wrong," "A Darker Shadow," "Caution: Easter Bunny Crossing," "The Law and Billy Burgess," "It's a Small World," "A Matter of Circumstance") all complete and full-length, newly restored and remastered from original 35mm film elements for superior picture and sound (so they look and sound like they were filmed yesterday), there will be numerous terrific bonus features fans have come to expect from CBS Paramount and yours truly.
-- brand new audio commentaries accompanying select episodes
-- a rare Chevrolet commercial featuring Lorne Greene, unseen in decades
-- several "trailers" ("Here are some exciting scenes from our next BONANZA") unseen since their network broadcast 50 years ago
-- tons of rare publicity photos, behind-the-scenes shots and location photos, plus a special collection of never-before-published images from Barb Lay Kieffer, and a special layout featuring "dapper" Dan Blocker.
Every episode is closed-captioned and comes with an alternate Latin American Spanish soundtrack. And each episode retains its original music score by Academy Award ® - winning composer Harry Sukman, father of our beloved Susan Sukman McCray.
Available now for pre-ordering at Amazon! Tell all your friends and neighbors!
I thank you for being a BONANZA booster and supporter through these rough times. Better days are ahead! Meanwhile, stay healthy, stay safe, practice social distancing (watch BONANZA on DVD when you're staying home 🤠), and wear a mask!
Best BONANZA wishes,