American actor (1928-1972). He was, at 14 pounds, the largest baby ever born in Bowie County, Texas, and by the time he was 18 years old, he was 6' 3" tall and weighed almost 300 pounds. He attended the Texas Military Institute and attended Sul Ross State College. Originally, he was an athletics major, but his size and strength got him recruited by the drama department to work as a stage hand. Blocker got interested in acting, changed his major to drama, and started pursuing a career in acting. After he graduated, he worked a season of summer stock, but was drafted into the Korean War. After the war, he got his master's degree, got married, and got a job as a high school teacher in Los Angeles.
Blocker's interest in acting got jump-started after he got a small part during the 1956 season of "Gunsmoke", and he started trying out for more parts. He scored a bunch of roles on TV Westerns, like "Wagon Train," "Cheyenne," "Maverick," "Tales of Wells Fargo," and others. He also appeared in a few movies -- he was a bartender in a murder mystery called "The Girl in Black Stockings" and a "prehistoric zombie" in a Three Stooges short called "Outer Space Jitters."
While he was appearing on an episode of "The Restless Gun" in 1958, he caught the eye of producer David Dortort, who later cast Blocker in the role for which he is still best known: Hoss Cartwright, burly middle son on "Bonanza." Hoss was an enormously popular character -- possibly the most popular character on the show. And Blocker enjoyed playing Hoss, too -- "Bonanza" gave him opportunities to play comedy and drama, sensitive and strong. Blocker's prominence on TV also gave him the opportunity to indulge his political side a bit. A liberal Democrat, he made several public service announcements supporting racial tolerance and appeared in a patriotic TV special called "Swing Out, Sweet Land" in 1971.
Blocker continued to appear in movies while "Bonanza" was on TV. He was in a couple of Frank Sinatra's movies -- "Come Blow Your Horn" and "Lady in Cement." He didn't get away from Westerns, though, playing major roles in "Something for a Lonely Man" and "The Cockeyed Cowboys of Calico County."
In 1972, Blocker won what could have been his biggest role to date -- he was cast as has-been writer Roger Wade in Robert Altman's "The Long Goodbye." But after gall bladder surgery in May, he died during recovery when a blood clot lodged in his lung. Sterling Hayden took over Blocker's part in "The Long Goodbye," which was dedicated to his memory. "Bonanza" didn't survive the absence of Hoss -- it was cancelled midway through the 1972-73 season.
O'Donnell, a small town in West Texas where Blocker spent a lot of his childhood, is the site of a museum dedicated to him. A statue of Blocker is located across the street from the museum.
Research from the Internet Movie Database (www.imdb.com) and the All Movie Guide (www.allmovie.com)