Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Those rascals from Bonanza

I'd heard since I was a kid that the cast of Bonanza once famously slipped the Viewmaster photographer the finger.  As you can see, this is one urban legend that's actually easily verified -- in 3D yet.  It appeared in reel one of the 1964 set based on the episode A Pink Cloud Comes from Old Cathay airing April 12, 1964  Dan Blocker, Michael Landon, Lorne Greene and Pernell Roberts are all clearly flipping the bird (albeit surreptitiously).  Guest actors Benson Fong (with hammer) and Philip Ahn don't appear to be in on the gag.  

The synopsis on IMDB reads: A mix-up in his request for mail-order Chinese fireworks brings Hoss instead a feisty mail-order bride whose militant ideas ignite a workers' rebellion and threaten the completion of a Virginia City railroad project.  Sounds pretty far fetched, doesn't it?  Wait until you hear who the bride was -- That Mail Order Bride,  the not-even-remotely Asian Marlo Thomas. Right from the start, she turns out to be something of a firecracker -- a proto-Feminist Communist. (It's not as interesting as it sounds).  All told, this is a fairly typical episode of Bonanza -- easy going and amiable and it never did pretend to be a historical document on the Old West.  But it sure sold a lot of color televisions. 

There were other Bonanza Viewmaster sets, so be sure to look for this 1964 version on ebay.  They come up for auction often, so one wonders just how many were issued -- certainly tens of thousands at least.  After all, Bonanza was a very popular show and Viewmaster was at its height of popularity at the time.  One can only imagine how the guys reacted when they found out their little joke made it past the Viewmaster editors.  I'm sure there was a round to celebrate the occasion. Probably things were not quite so happy at Viewmaster. 

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