Thursday, November 4, 2010

More on David Dortort, the Creator of Bonanza

"Bonanza" snack bar, train station, Lodz, Poland, 2005. photo (c) Ruth Ellen Gruber

By Ruth Ellen Gruber

I have an article in Tablet Magazine today, in which I write about David Dortort, the creator of the iconic TV show Bonanza, who died in September -- I wrote about his death in an earlier post -- and tell the story the related to me about how his Uncle Harry fought with Pancho Villa....
Some years ago, when I first visited Sikluv Mlyn, a Wild West theme park in the Czech Republic, I was startled by the music piped in to the lobby of my hotel. It was the unmistakable theme song from the iconic TV show Bonanza–sung in Czech.
Bonanza, which ran from 1959 to 1973, recounted the adventures of the tight-knit Cartwright clan—the patriarch Ben, his three sons Adam, Hoss, and Little Joe—and the goings-on at their sprawling Ponderosa ranch. Syndicated to dozens of countries and dubbed into languages ranging from German to Japanese, it was one of the most popular and widely watched television shows of all time and has had a tremendous impact in honing the image of the American West around the world.
But few viewers realize how deeply rooted the show was in, well, Yiddishkeit (and not just because two of the stars—Lorne Greene as Ben and Michael Landon as Little Joe—were Jewish).
Bonanza was the brainchild of David Dortort, a pioneering television writer and producer who died in September at the age of 93. The Brooklyn-born son of Eastern European Jewish immigrants, Dortort had a lifelong commitment to Jewish causes; among other things, he and his wife Rose, who died in 2007, endowed cultural programs at the American Jewish University and Hillel at UCLA.
I discussed the Jewish underpinnings of Bonanza with Dortort during a lengthy interview at his home in Los Angeles in December 2004, as part of my ongoing research on the American West in the European imagination.
Read full story HERE

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