On January 16, 1973, Bonanza airs its last episode on NBC. Canadian Lorne Greene played the patriarch of the clan, Ben Cartwright, in the show.
Born Lyon Hyman Green on February 12, 1915 in Ottawa, Ontario, he became a Canadian icon. In his biography, the author, his daughter Linda Green Bennett, stated that it was not known when he began using “Lorne”, nor when he added an “e” to Green.
He began acting while he was attending Queen University, in Kingston, Ontario, where he acquired a knack for broadcasting with the Radio Workshop of the university’s Drama Guild on the campus radio station. His voice quickly propelled him to prominence as one of Canada’s top newscasters.
Before his role on Bonanza, Green was best known as a reporter; he was the CBC’s main announcer during World War II. Because of his voice, he was nicknamed The Voice of Doom, especially when reporting the war’s gloomy events. He also appropriated the nickname The Voice of Canada by CBC.
An on-air mistake during one of his broadcast was, “Western farmers are expecting their biggest crap in years.” Funny.
During his radio days, Greene invented a stopwatch that ran backwards. Its purpose was to help radio announcers gauge how much time they had available while speaking. His patent was the source of some wealth in the pre-computer era of filming.
He also narrated documentary films, such as the National Film Board of Canada‘s Fighting Norway (1943). In 1957 Greene played the role of the prosecutor in the movie Peyton Place.
In 1959 he starred in the infamous TV show Bonanza, until the show’s cancellation in 1973, after a 14-year successful run.
Post-Bonanza, Greene became known for his role as Commander Adama, another patriarchal figure, in the science fiction feature film and television series Battlestar Galactica (1978–1979) and Galactica 1980 (1980).
In the 1960s, Greene recorded several albums of country-western/folk songs, which he performed in a mixture of spoken word and singing. In 1964, Greene had a #1 single on the music charts with his spoken-word ballad, “Ringo“.
In the 1980s, Greene devoted his energies to wildlife and environmental issues. He was the host and narrator of the nature series, Lorne Greene’s New Wilderness, a show which promoted environmental awareness. He also appeared in the HBO mockumentary The Canadian Conspiracy, about the supposed subversion of the United States by Canadian-born media personalities. For nearly a decade, Greene co-hosted the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade on NBC, with co-star Betty White. He is also fondly remembered as the founder of Toronto’s Academy of Radio Arts (originally called the Lorne Greene School of Broadcasting).
He was made an Officer of the Order of Canada on October 28, 1969, “For services to the Performing Arts and to the community.” He was awarded an honorary Doctor of Laws degree by his alma mater, Queen’s University, in 1971. Greene wa the 1987 recipient of the Earle Grey Award for Lifetime Achievement at the Canadian Gemini Awards. He has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 1559 N. Vine Street.
In May 2006, Greene became one of the first four entertainers to ever be honoured by Canada Post by being featured on a 51-cent postage stamp. It was part of its honouring of ” Canadians in Hollywood” series; Others honoured were John Candy, Fay Wray and Mary Pickford.
He became best friends with Canadian John Colicos (December 10, 1928 – March 6, 2000). Together they did a 1952 Canadian radio performance of Joseph Conrad’s novel, “Heart of Darkness“. In addition, Colicos played the evil character Count Baltar in the original incarnation of Battlestar Gallactica (1978).
To learn more about this great Canadian icon, start where I did: Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lorne_Greene), Bonanza: Scenery of the Ponderosa (http://ponderosascenery.homestead.com/files/castbios/ben.html), The Internet Movie DataBase (http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0001296/bio), and TV and Media Trivia Tribute (http://www.triviatribute.com/lornegreene.html).
- This Was Television On January 16 (thiswastv.com)