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Welcome to Bonanza: Scenery of the Ponderosa!
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Adam, Little Joe, Ben and Hoss!

Pernell Roberts and Kathie Browne~A Petticoat For The Ponderosa
TV Guide~January 18, 1964

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     'The story behind the unusual developments on 'Bonanza' which may signal the end of a man's world'

     Will pretty little Kathie Browne bring peace and tranquility to the Ponderosa?  Tune in about February and find out.

     Kathie has already met up with Adam Cartwright of the 'Bonanza' Cartwrights.  Her mission now is to bring conjungal love to the outpost of male self-sufficency, the Ponderosa, and perhaps provide an escape from the ranch for one restless son.

     The romance began on December 8 in an emotion-packed episode in which Kathie played a new and very nervous widow, afraid to acknowledge that she really hated her husband and wished him dead.  Adam Cartwright lent a calm and pyschiatric-like hand, and by show's end, a romance had begun.

     However, only four episodes with Kathie have been planned so far, no definite date for a wedding has been set, and David Dortort, the show's producer, is carefully assessing public reaction to the encounter before proceeding with many more scripts.  After all, four years for the four Cartwrights have presided over their 600,000-acre domain in the Comstock Lode country, near Virginia City, Nevada, without meddling females, beautiful or otherwise.
     Since the show has been just what the title implies, a bonanza--for the sponsor, the network and the actors--why are they tampering with it?
     "For greater range and freedom", an NBC press release artfully puts it.

     "It was Pernell (Adam) Roberts' constant agitation about wanting out of the show", producer David Dortort puts it bluntly.  "We weren't sure what would happen, and had to protect ourselves".  By "protecting", Dortort means that if Roberts had left the show, a marriage would have been a logical way to shuffle him off into the sunset.  On the other hand, the new dimension in his role might make him happier about staying.  "Now", says Dortort, "the network has definitely said they will not let him out of his contract.  So he'll be with us until `65."

     It is no secret that Roberts has not been happy in the series.  During the fourth season he threatened to break his contract with the network--a sort of "brinkmanship" policy (as Roberts puts it), to call attention to his complaints and suggestions.  He feels that the scripts are often banal and inconsistent, and that he is stagnating as an actor in limited characterizations and restricted rehearsal conditions.  "And I don't like being one-fourth of a part".

     The stage was Roberts' training ground (Dortort last fall released him for a two-week appearance in the East in "Night of the Iguana"), and he is no lover of much that appears on the big glass eye.  He once remarked, "Everything on TV is that monster, compromise...Let's face it, 'Bonanza' could really be good if the powers-that-be cared enough to make it that way".  Such a remark does not endear you to sponsors, producers, networks or actors who are making a good living from a series.

     Dortort lays it on the line: "Pernell has a hate for Hollywood.  I don't think he really belongs in the acting business.  A very good actor, yes, but his performances are erratic.  An actor may not be enthralled with a part, but it is his responsibility to do his best".

     'Roberts a loner'

     Outspoken, difficult, and something of a "loner" Roberts may be.  It also may be while 'Bonanza's' ratings soar, it is uncomfortable for others to hear a not-so-still voice suggest that success is not necessarily quality.
     Yet Roberts is anxious to overcome a reputation for being a "bad guy".  He admits, "I'm resigned to staying another year and a half.  I'll go to rehearsal and give an intelligent reading, but that's all.  No more suggestions for script changes.  I'll wait it out.  And after all, the money isn't bad."

     It remains to be seen if a man like Roberts, with strong convictions, will remain quiet.  His last suggestion, made in the middle of the fourth year, was the biggest bombshell of them all.  He wrote to NBC: Let the network cast the part of his bride as an Indian girl, and get a Negro girl to play the part.

     Roberts' reasons, as in the letter, were straight to the point: "Recent events in the South have done tremendous damage to our national prestige and have clearly indicated the grievous wrong that has been perpetrated upon American Negros.  I have found this to be tremendously distressing, embarrassing and humiliating, as a man, as an American, and as a Southerner.  (Birthplace: Waycross, Georgia)....It seems to me that the forthcoming addition to the format of 'Bonanza', the impending marriage of Adam Cartwright, offers an unparalleled opportunity which might help towards the rebuilding of our national image and integrity...(This) would be one of the most progressive and constructive statements in television drama , as both the Negro and the American Indian have been constantly been exploited 'second class citizens'...."

     NBC's reply to Roberts was brief and courteous.  It thanked him for his suggestion.  It said that the part would be cast in consideration of all the requirements necessary for the role.

     'The Official Reason'

     Official reason for rejection, as Dortort expresses it, is that the suggestion "came much too late to put into effect, even if the network wanted to.  The scripts were planned."
     Replies Roberts, "There is still time to write another girl into this years' episodes if they really want to.  I'm still hoping they will."

     When queried futher, Dortort maintains the "suggestion was well meaning, but confused".  He credits Roberts with "kindly intentions", but says, "To ask a Negro to play an Indian doesn't solve anything.  It is an empty gesture towards civil rights."

     At the same time, it may be more than coincidence that this season will feature Sammy Davis, Jr. as a guest star on 'Bonanza'.  "I've been kidding with Sammy about guesting for a long time", says Dortort, "and we hope to have the show sometime in March."

     Another script that is being based on an authentic character, Thomas Bowers, a Negro concert artist who traveled and performed in the 1860's and 70's.  Dortort discovered his existance while doing research into the history of the time.  Negro actor William Marshall will do the part.

     And just to add what Dortort calls "further dimension", which might as well be read "further insurance", actor Guy Williams of 'Zorro' fame will be added as a regular member of the cast.  Originally, he was scheduled to play Ben Cartwright's younger brother, but because of his age, it made more sense to cast him as Ben's nephew.

     How will the problems of the Ponderosa turn out? A lot will depend on slender, blonde Kathie Browne.  She considers that she has been officially been an actress for two years: "The year before that I wasn't working enough to qualify.  "Blonde, but not the sexpot type, Kathie says, "I'm rather strange looking.  "Actually, her face has a striking and unusual quality.

     The lead in a little-theater production, "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof" some three years ago was Kathie's first break, and she has appeared often on such shows as 'Wagon Train', '77 Sunset Strip', 'Perry Mason', 'Temple Houston'.

     Does she take lots of lessons--dancing, singing, judo, --all those things aspiring actresses say they're doing?  "No", says candid Kathie, "I think actresses do those things when they aren't finding work".

     Kathie's previous appearances on 'Bonanza' impressed producer David Dortort.  "Her serious attitude toward acting and her versatility were wonderful.  She is intelligent and sensitive," he says.  Dortort has faith that Kathie's three or four appearances will stretch into a continuing performance, and that her presence and acting may give Roberts a reason to stay.

     Does the Roberts reputation scare Kathie?  "I have found him a bit moody, but interesting to work with.  The whole cast is wonderful.  I love to work with them", she says tactfully.  "Perhaps I can help Pernell with a new dimension and variation for his role.  After all, the character of the girl is just not a little kid next door.  She's a widow with a child, and a strong mind of her own."

     Just how these two strong minds--Adam's and the widow's--will combine, remains to be seen.  There may be a great romance--and there may not.  Who says you can always predict a 'Bonanza' ending?

 
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