Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Imaginary Wild West -- "Adam Cartwright" RIP

 The Bonanza cafe at the train station in Lodz, Poland, 2005. Photo (c) Ruth Ellen Gruber

By Ruth Ellen Gruber

The actor Pernell Roberts has died at the age of 81. Though he chafed at the role -- and quit at the height of his popularity, he was  best known to millions of fans around the world  as Adam Cartwright, one of the three sons of patriarch Ben Cartwright on the seminal and wildly popular TV western, Bonanza - which first went on the air in 1959. He was the last of the four Cartwrights to pass on.

I am including a link here to Roberts' obituary as it appeared in the British newspaper The Guardian,
as the popularity of Bonanza spanned the globe. I vividly recall hearing the theme song -- sung in Czech -- playing at the Colorado Hotel on my first visit to the Sikluv Mlyn Wild West theme park in the Czech Republic.
There are certain actors who are forever defined by one role, some to their pleasure and others to their displeasure. Pernell Roberts, who has died of pancreatic cancer aged 81, was definitely of the latter ilk. Roberts, who played Adam Cartwright in Bonanza for 202 episodes from 1959 until 1965, thought himself capable of far greater things, and left the television horse opera at the height of his, and the show's, popularity.

With complete but refreshing disregard for his multitude of loyal fans, Roberts explained why he left the show "I had six seasons of playing the eldest son on that show. Six seasons of feeling like a damned idiot, going around like a middle-aged teenager saying, 'Yes, Pa' 'No, Pa' on cue. It was downright disgusting – such dialogue for a grown man. I felt I wasn't being taken seriously as an actor, and that's like death to one's talent. Stuck as Adam Cartwright, I was only able to use about one-tenth of my ability."

Despite his extremely negative views of Bonanza [...] and of the character of Adam Cartwright, Roberts's dependable demeanour – tall, dark and handsome features and deep baritone voice – brought much-needed gravitas to the enjoyable and lively familial adventures on the Ponderosa ranch.

          Read full obit here

 Bonanza in fact was popular all over the world, wherever the flickering TV screen lit up livingrooms and served as an alternative family hearth.

"Whenever you are puzzled about why boys  today no longer read books,  the actor Pernell Roberts should come to mind," read his obituary in Germany's Die Welt. "For the book-reading, cool, always dressed in black Adam, whom he played for six years in the legendary Western television series Bonanza, embodied a role model for many boys in the 1960s."

No comments: