Lorne Greene

[Photo: Greene in 1954]  [Photo: Greene as Ben Cartwright] 

Lorne Greene was born in Ottawa, Ontario, on February 12, 1915, to Daniel and Dora Greene. He started acting in high school, and says that "Even then I had a pretty big voice." That voice, and the love of acting would stay with him all his life.

In 1932 Greene went to Queen's University, where he studied languages. He also joined the Drama Guild and spent a great deal of his time acting in, and even directing and producing, their plays. When he graduated he was accepted into the Neighborhood Playhouse School of Theatre in New York City, and went to the United States for the first time.

When he returned to Canada after two years of study, he found that there was little work for actors during World War II. There was, however, a need for newscasters. Greene was hired by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) to read the news every night. It was at this time that his deep baritone voice, reading war news every night, would earn him the title "The Voice of Doom".

In the next few years he would found the Lorne Greene Academy of Radio Arts, and, when CBC moved to television in 1950, host their Newsmagazine programme for three years. He had the occasional dramatic role in a television play, but most of his acting at this time was confined to commercials.

In 1953 Greene went back to the U.S. He acted on stage in New York for several years, although he did return to Canada to perform at Stratford during that time. In the late fifties he began to get some movie roles, and some parts in the growing medium of television. Westerns were extremely popular at that time, and a guest part on Wagon Train led to his being noticed by David Dortort. Dortort was looking at that time for a man to play the father on a new and different western series, called Bonanza.

[Photo: Ben and Sons]
Ben with two of his sons
Ben Carwright, the role that Lorne Greene played for fourteen years on Bonanza, became more than a character to him. Family and friends say that in many ways he became "Pa" Cartwright. He so loved the Ponderosa that he had a replica of the ranch house built for himself, identical right down to the stairway that leads nowhere. He became a father figure to Michael Landon and Dan Blocker, as well as millions of fans. Unlike Pernell Roberts, there was never any question of Greene leaving the show that made him a millionaire. He even made a great number of Bonanza-related appearances at rodeos and talk shows, and to many Lorne Greene is and always will be Ben Cartwright.

After the cancellation of Bonanza Greene continued in series television. He starred in the short-lived Griff in 1973, followed by Battlestar Gallactica, Code Red and finally, back in Canada, Lorne Greene's New Wilderness from 1982-86. During his years on television, Greene found time to do guest roles and movies, as well as record several albums. In 1965 he even had a top hit with the song "Ringo".

Greene was also able to fit his family into his busy work schedule. He was married twice, and had three children. Lorne Greene died, at the age of 72, on September 11, 1987.

[Photo: Greene's grave]

The early years: Dowload a clip of Lorne Greene hosting CBC's Newsmagazine in 1950.

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