Tuesday, June 18, 2013

A Lost in Space “Bonanza” Part Two: “Danger Will Cartwright!”.

You can find A Lost in Space “Bonanza” Part One, featuring actor Jonathan Harris and writer Peter Packer HERE.

But, did he just say: “Danger Will Cartwright!”?

"Danger" takes many forms! 

Yes, indeed… Joining Ponderosa rancher Ben Cartwright and his sons Adam, Hoss, and Little Joe – for a five-episode arc at the end of Season Five of the classic Western TV series BONANZA – was Ben’s nephew “Will Cartwright”. Will was played by none other than GUY WILLIAMS, between his turns as ZORRO and Professor John Robinson of LOST IN SPACE!

A "star" among the stars!

In direct contrast to the brave and stalwart (though often bickering) Cartwright boys, nephew Will was a “restless soul” with something of a more checkered past than viewers we used to from men bearing the Cartwright name.

Though he was basically good, as you would expect a “Guy Williams character” to be, Will brought a new type of tension and character conflict to the Ponderosa – in that Ben was delighted in the discovery of his nephew and wished him to stay-on permanently, while the brothers (especially Adam) were a tad more suspicious of the newcomer.

Aw, c'mon!  Could you possibly be suspicious of this, er, "Guy"?


Will was rightly appreciative of Ben’s hospitality, and tried to acclimate himself to the life of a (NOT-so-Poor) but honest rancher, but the “restless soul” aspect of his personality cast a “Will He Stay, or Will He Go” vibe over the entire multi-episode arc.

It is only viewing these episodes in hindsight that prevents one from completely buying-into the possibility of Will ultimately staying on the Ponderosa, and becoming the “fourth Cartwright son”. Of course we know that, not only did it not occur, but Adam (Pernell Roberts) would soon depart as well.

In support of the continuance of the Will Cartwright character was Guy Williams getting HIS OWN CREDIT added to the famous opening theme sequence of BONANZA!

We’ll never know if Will Cartwright departed by “producers’ design”, or because Guy Williams cast his future lot with the new and upcoming series LOST IN SPACE in 1965. But, it is clear that he was hastily written out at the end of Episode 33 of the season (“Triangle” air date: May 17, 1964) – and that he made things very interesting, while he was there!

…And, the funny thing was that BONANZA was still around (for quite a while) after LOST IN SPACE was cancelled in 1968 , so Will Cartwright might have “rode again” had things fallen-out properly!
Perhaps not so coincidently, one of Guy Williams’ episodes of BONANZA (“The Ropers” air date: April 05, 1964) was written by future prolific LOST IN SPACE writer Peter Packer.

So, we begin BONANZA Season Five with Jonathan Harris, and end it with Guy Williams! 

Alas, the Robot never got to roam the Ponderosa!
The "Will Cartwight Arc" of episodes can be found on the DVD set BONANZA The Fifth Season Volume Two". 

…And need I even mention that, on LOST IN SPACE, Guy Williams’ son was named “Will” and his younger daughter was played by Angela “Cartwright”. Naaah… that’s just silly!


Anonymous said...

My impression was that Pernell Roberts had announced his intention to quit the show, and Guy Williams was brought in as his replacement. The "Laura Dayton arc" was designed to end with Adam Cartwright married off and "moving East." Then Roberts changed his mind and stayed for another season, so they married off Will instead. Then Roberts eventually quit and they married off Adam anyway. It might have been interesting if Will had become a permanent addition to the cast. His shady past and Maverick-type personality would have provided a contrast to his upright uncle and cousins. But I expect that, before too long, Will would have had to straighten up and fly right, and would have become as squeaky clean as the rest of them. Ben would welcome misfits and ex-criminals and give them a second chance. But, sooner or later, they would have to become good guys or Ben would either kick them out or (if necessary) shoot them. -TC

Joe Torcivia said...

Anon / TC:

In view of the way “The Will Cartwright Saga” (for lack of a better overall title) played out, I’m completely inclined to agree with you.

Pernell Roberts deciding to stay, meant Will had to go – so, go Will did, and quickly. But, the abruptness of Will’s departure seemed very much in keeping with the restless core of his character – and the “Should I stay, or should I go?” vibe of the arc as a whole.

In a way, it’s a shame, because Roberts left anyway – and Will would have offered an additional dimension of intrigue not present in the regular cast. Though, as you say, Will would have had to eventually “straighten-up and fly (Cart-w) right”. (Pardon!) He still would have made things interesting, even in his semi-rehabilitation.

Then again, LOST IN SPACE would not have been the same with someone else in command. Too bad, Guy Williams didn’t return as Will after LIS ended. He would still have had a few season’s worth of shows for us to enjoy.

Looking beyond Guy Williams, perhaps Pernell Roberts was more “restless” than Will Cartwright -- and for longer than we think…

Go back to BONANZA’s first episode of Season Four (the previous season) to find “The First Born” (Air Date: September 23, 1962) and see Barry Coe set up as Little Joe’s half-brother “Clay Stafford”.


The basic premise was not unlike that for Will Cartwright, and Clay had even more (and darker) “Shades of Grey” than did Will. Barry Coe may also have been set up to be the eventual “third son” for the same reasons. There’s so much interesting stuff that we’ll never know…

Anonymous said...

I don't know if Guy Williams was offered the role of Prof. Robinson before or after he left Bonanza. If the former, that would be all the more reason why Will Cartwright had to go. I suppose he could have returned after Lost in Space ended (like Ronnie Schell on "Gomer Pyle" after "Good Morning, World" bombed), but there would be complications. His wife could not come back with him, since Bonanza seemed to have a strict policy against women in the permanent cast. They could have killed her off, but that was already a cliche (and I wasn't the first to make that quip about the Cartwrights' horses living longer than their wives). If Williams did leave Bonanza thinking that he would be the #1 star of LIS (as opposed to the #4 man on Bonanza), he must have been very disappointed by the second season, when Dr. Smith, Will Robinson, and the robot became the main focus.

Joe Torcivia said...

I would imagine the original LOST IN SPACE pilot – the one with no Doctor Smith and Robot, and with the existing Bernard Herrmann score – would have been filmed in the latter part of 1964, for it to be retooled for a September 1965 air date. Certainly, that kind of time must have been necessary for a pilot with so much in the way of pre-and post-production.

Consider that Irwin Allen may have filmed part of it in the big Alfred Hitchcock “Lifeboat” (1944) agitator tank, at or about the same time the VOYAGE TO THE BOTTOM OF THE SEA episode “The Exile” (March 15,1965) was filmed. At least the part of the LIS pilot that became chariot-drowning sequence of “The Hungry Sea”. See the post below…


I’d also figure that the “Will Cartwright Arc” was filmed in early 1964, for a spring 1964 airing.

How this figured into things, we’ll never know – pilots often have roles recast before making it to series. DVD has already shown us this with two other CBS series of the period – GILLIGAN’S ISLAND and THE MUNSTERS (Lily and Eddie). …Sure is fun to discuss, though!

PS: That "Horses" quip remains SO TRUE!

scarecrow33 said...

It seems that Guy Williams' "Bonanza" character suffered the same fate as Britt Lomond's character in the "Zorro" series--getting hastily written out in the space of a few minutes of one episode. (Maybe Guy Williams' fan mail was outdistancing Lorne Greene's?)Could the ghost of Monastario be getting his revenge on Zorro at last?

Joe Torcivia said...


Monestario was such a great character – and a perfect foil / villain -- on ZORRO that I felt he eventually had to go, or pretty much every story would have to have been about him.

And, if they didn’t get rid of him, it might actually have diminished Zorro as a hero, because he’d never actually accomplish “the supreme good” but, instead, continue to win small battles that ultimately meant nothing in the grand scheme of things, because the continued machinations of Monestario would become the status-quo.

At least, that's how I see it.

And, if “The Ghost of Monestario” exacted any revenge on Guy Williams, it was in having Jonathan Harris “steal” the starring role of LOST IN SPACE from him – certain better 3rd Season episodes notwithstanding.

Anonymous said...

Hello! I mean no disrespect and I wasn't there so I don't know which are the facts, so this will be hearsay only: I read online that Guy Williams was made to feel very unwelcome by most of the cast of Bonanza, mainly by Michael Landon who saw GW as a direct threat to his heartthrob status and feared he would diminish his female fan following who would move on to GW. According to the account, GW was miserable off-screen, the worst time of his career and, when he realized the producers were using him as a pawn to get Pernell Roberts to stay, he wanted no part of that and promptly asked to be written out of the series. That's how he left and shortly after was cast in LIS.

Anonymous said...

To Joe Torcivia & scarecrow33: when you speak of “The Ghost of MonAstario exacting revenge on Guy Williams", you are mixing roles with real life actors. I am sure you know this, what I am not sure of is if you know Britt Lomond ("Monastario") and Guy Williams were friends in real life? According to Britt himself, they were both up for the role of Zorro initially. Unlike what transpired behind the Bonanza scenes, it wasn't Guy's fault that Britt was written out of the show and Disney even kept him under contract, after his exit from Zorro, for several appearances at Disneyland along with Guy where they would amicably fence (in character), live, for the fans between 1958 and 1960. :) The info is out there, if you dig you will find it online.

@Anonymous: when Guy left Bonanza, he had no lifeline role to fall back on. But he would rather starve than remain in such unhealthy environment. See my previous comment, it explains why he left Bonanza. Many stars have rivalries since the beginning of television, from Vivian Vance and Fred Rawley on Lucy to Shannen Doherty and Alyssa Milano on Charmed, and it continues. Sad for the fans, but so it goes.

Anonymous said...

Here are my sources ref. Guy Williams' Bonanza departure:



This one below quotes Guy but doesn't say where he got the quotes from:
(website gives me vision problems, I'm not positive if he names his source or not)

(No, I am not the author of any Guy Williams fansite, nor have I written any of the texts posted at any website linked here.)

says that Guy was first offered Adam's role but chose to do Zorro instead, THANK ALL ALMIGHTY GREEK GODS OF TELEVISION SERIES! :D

Joe Torcivia said...

We appreciate the insights into the beloved actor (and personal favorite) Guy Williams!

I only wish we could have seen more of him, be it on future seasons of BONANZA, or in a more appropriately expanded role on LOST IN SPACE – which, to producer Irwin Allen’s credit, the Third Season (my favorite) certainly tried to do.

And, most of all, we enjoy the enthusiasm you bring to this comments section. It is much appreciated – sincerely.