Guy Williams grew up wanting to be an actor instead of working as an insurance broker. Soon enough, he landed the role of “Zorro” after auditioning for Walt Disney.
Once “Zorro” ended, “Bonanza” needed a replacement for one of the main casts. Williams was introduced to the show as Ben Cartwright’s nephew.
However, his time on the show did not last as they cut off his character after five episodes. Here’s what happened in the life of Guy Williams before and after he joined the cast of “Bonanza.”
WILLIAMS BEFORE THE “BONANZA” SHOW
Born Armando Joseph Catalano in 1924, Williams had always wanted to be an actor because of his good looks. However, his mother wanted him to be an insurance broker like his father.
During World War II, he worked as a welder, cost accountant, aircraft parts inspector, and salesman before pursuing a career as a fashion model.
When a casting director rejected him because he had no interest in hiring someone with a foreign name, his agent, Henry Wilson, advised him to change his name to Guy Williams.
He was successful as a model and was published in newspapers, magazines, book covers, billboards, and he even made it to Harper’s Bazaar.
In 1946, he landed a one-year contract from MGM and moved to Hollywood. After appearing in only a few films, he returned to New York. In 1950, he began filming the first television commercials that made him very popular.
He joined the Neighborhood Playhouse in New York the following year, introducing him to work in TV productions such as “Studio One.” He then landed another one-year deal at Universal Studios in 1952 and moved back to Hollywood.
Between 1952 and 1953, Williams appeared in movies such as “Back at the Front,” “All I Desire,” “The Golden Blade,” and “Take Me to Town.” He also acted in “The Mississippi Gambler” and “The Man from the Alamo.”
In 1953 Williams suffered a serious accident after falling from a horse that dragged him for more than 200 meters. The accident left a long scar on his right shoulder.
He then left Universal and returned to New York, becoming a freelance actor for Allied Artist and Warner Brothers films. In the mid-1950s, he experienced some highs and lows in his career.
He wondered if he was cut out for the business, but that changed towards the end of the 1950s. In 1957, Walt Disney was casting for the character of “Zorro” in the television series.
They needed an actor that was handsome with fencing skills. Williams was perfect for the role as he had learned fencing from his father, a passionate fencer who had inspired him to take an interest in the sport.
He grew his beard upon resuming his role and took a refresher course with Belgian fencing master Fred Cavens. He also took guitar and horse riding lessons.
After the series ended, Williams moved to Europe to film the 1962 MGM movies “Damon and Pythias” and “Captain Sindbad.” In 1964, he returned to Hollywood to continue his career.
WILLIAMS AND THE “BONANZA” SHOW
Upon his return to Hollywood, he joined the cast of “Bonanza” as Will Cartwright, Ben Cartwright’s nephew. In its fifth season, he joined the show as a replacement for Adam Cartwright, which Pernell Roberts played.
Roberts had admitted that he didn’t like the series and left when the show ranked No. 1. He grew frustrated and restless as he felt that time was rushing by while he didn’t properly display his talents.
While some of his co-stars wanted him to stay, others weren’t thrilled with his attitude and were happy to see him leave. When Williams replaced him, fans hated the idea as Roberts was their favorite character.
Once they included Williams in the “Bonanza” cast, the writers wrote off Roberts’s character to ensure a smooth transition. Williams was introduced as the bad boy of the Cartwright family.
However, after only five episodes, the show asked Roberts to stay for another season, and they had to write off Williams’s character. Even though Williams’s character had potential, they needed to keep only four Cartwrights.
On leaving “Bonanza,” he was cast in the popular science-fiction series “Lost In Space” in 1965. The series aired till 1968, when they canceled it due to low ratings.
Williams decided to retire and enjoy his small fortune made from investments. In 1973, he visited Argentina, and the love fans showed him for his role as “Zorro” was overwhelming.
At the same time, reruns of “Zorro” started airing in Argentina. He later fell in love with the culture and people while making promotional appearances.
In 1983, Williams returned to Los Angeles for his last two television appearances. He reunited with other “Lost In Space” cast members and participated in the “Family Feud” game show against “Batman” and “Gilligan’s Island” cast members.
He then appeared as a guest on “Good Morning America.” That same year, he had a stroke from which he slowly recovered, and he decided to remain in Buenos Aires rather than return to Los Angeles.
In April 1989, while enjoying his retirement in Buenos Aires, Williams, who usually lived alone, was not heard from for a while. After a while, the neighbors had to call the police.
On May 6, 1989, the local police forced entry to his apartment in the central and luxurious neighborhood of La Recoleta, where they found his body.
The police said he had suffered a heart attack and had died about a week earlier. At the time of his death, Williams was 65 years old.
In 2000, Williams became the first local celebrity on the Bronx Walk of Fame in New York City. On August 2, 2001, he was posthumously incorporated into the Hollywood Walk of Fame after petitions from thousands of fans in 2000.
In October 2002, his family and fans dedicated a bench to him in New York’s Central Park. On August 2, 2003, Disney placed a commemorative plaque in the mansion where the “Zorro” series was filmed.