David Dortort - Rotten Tomatoes

David Dortort

Highest Rated:   100% The Lusty Men (1952)
Lowest Rated:   73% Clash by Night (1952)
Birthday:   Not Available
Birthplace:   Not Available
David Dortort contributed to a number of feature films of the 1950s as a screenwriter, but it was as a producer on television that he made his lasting impact on popular culture. Although he couldn't have known it when he launched Bonanza in 1959, Dortort created one of the great iconic series on American television, and perhaps most popular "franchise" series this side of Star Trek. David Dortort had a strong interest in the American West as a boy during the 1920s, which he soon began indulging, in both his reading and his writing. Dortort attended City College in New York and, after earning a B.A., went to work for the city-owned radio station WNYC, and wrote stories for magazines in his spare time. He served four years in the military during World War II, and after returning to civilian life he decided to begin writing again. In 1947, he published a novel, Burial of the Fruit, dealing with juvenile delinquency and drugs, which went on to sell a reported two million copies. He wrote one more novel, The Post of Honor, which was published in 1949 but proved rather less successful. Following the sale of Burial of the Fruit's film rights to Hecht-Lancaster, Dortort headed to Hollywood. He received his first two screenwriting credits in 1952, for the script of Fritz Lang's melodrama Clash by Night and for Nicholas Ray's rodeo drama The Lusty Men. By the mid-'50s, he'd demonstrated a talent for writing psychological thrillers as well, most notably the screenplay for A Cry in the Night (1956), a suspense film about a deranged man (Raymond Burr) whose obsession with a young woman (Natalie Wood) leads to her kidnapping and a city-wide manhunt. During the late '50s, he returned to writing Western scripts, including the screenplays for Reprisal and The Big Land. Dortort also began writing for television during the mid-'50s, earning Emmy nominations for his adaptation of Walter Van Tilburg Clark's The Ox-Bow Incident to television, and transposing William Faulkner's fiction to the small screen in An Error in Chemistry. In 1957, Dortort started writing for the Western series The Restless Gun, starring John Payne, and quickly moved into the producer's spot on the show, which ran for two seasons. In 1958, he began devising the television series that would immortalize him, entitled Bonanza. An hour-long show shot in color -- the first of its kind on television -- the series told the story of the Cartwright family of Virginia City, NV, during the mid- to late 19th century. Bonanza went on the air in September of 1959 and survived scathing early reviews and lackluster initial ratings to become one of the NBC network's top-rated programs. Within four years, Bonanza was one of the defining Western series on television. In tandem with Gunsmoke, it dominated the genre for most of its run over the decade that followed. One characteristic of the series that still elicits comment is the relatively disposable role that women played in the structure and content of the show through its run. The core of the series was the relationship between the father, Ben Cartwright, and his sons, and of the sons with each other; female characters were virtually an intrusion on the formula, regardless of how good or powerful an actress was cast in a particular guest role, or what kind of performance she gave -- it was always a guest role, and that character would never be around to join the Cartwrights in the final shot of the episode. One running joke, even among fans of the series, is that the fastest way for a woman character in a television Western to contract a fatal illness, get shot, or meet with a horrible accident was to fall in love with -- or, worse yet, get engaged to -- a Cartwright on Bonanza. The formula worked for 14 years, Dortort himself describing the series at one point as a family love story between four men. For the actors involved -- Lorne Greene, Michael Landon, Dan Blocker, and Pernell Roberts -- it meant getting

Highest Rated Movies

Filmography

MOVIES

RATING TITLE CREDIT BOX OFFICE YEAR
No Score Yet Bonanza: The Return
  • Producer
1993
No Score Yet Bonanza: The Next Generation
  • Producer
1988
No Score Yet The Big Land
  • Screenwriter
1957
No Score Yet Reprisal
  • Screenwriter
1956
No Score Yet A Cry in the Night
  • Screenwriter
1956
100% The Lusty Men
  • Screenwriter
1952
73% Clash by Night
  • Screenwriter
1952

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