Lorne Greene
Greene in 1969
Lyon Himan Green

(1915-02-12)12 February 1915
Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
Died11 September 1987(1987-09-11) (aged 72)
Other namesChaim Green
Lorne Hyman Greene
  • Actor
  • musician
  • radio personality
  • singer
Years active1939–1987
  • Rita Hands
    (m. 1938; div. 1960)
  • Nancy Deale
    (m. 1961)
RelativesSam Raimi (son-in-law)

Lorne Hyman Greene[1] OC (born Lyon Himan Green;[2] 12 February 1915 – 11 September 1987) was a Canadian actor, musician, singer and radio personality. His notable television roles include Ben Cartwright on the Western Bonanza and Commander Adama in the original science-fiction television series Battlestar Galactica and Galactica 1980. He also worked on the Canadian television nature documentary series Lorne Greene's New Wilderness and in television commercials.

Early life and career in Canada

Greene was born Lyon Himan Green in Ottawa, Ontario,[2] to Jewish immigrants from the Russian Empire, Dora (née Grinovsky) and Daniel Green, a shoemaker.[3] He was called "Chaim" by his mother, and his name is shown as "Hyman" on his school report cards. In a biography of him, written by his daughter Linda Greene Bennett, she wrote that it was unknown when he began using the name Lorne, nor when he added an "e" to Green.[2]

Greene was the drama instructor at Camp Arowhon, a summer camp in Algonquin Park, Ontario, Canada, where he developed his talents.

Greene began acting while attending Queen's University in Kingston, where he acquired a knack for broadcasting with the Radio Workshop of the university's Drama Guild on the campus radio station CFRC.

He gave up on a career in chemical engineering, and upon graduation, found a job as a radio broadcaster for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC).

During World War II, Greene served as a Flying officer in the Royal Canadian Air Force.

Afterward, he was assigned as the principal newsreader on the CBC National News, with CBC gave him the nickname "The Voice of Canada". However, following Canada's entry into World War II in 1939, his role in delivering distressing war news in sonorous tones with his deep, resonant voice caused many listeners to call him "The Voice of Doom", especially as he was delegated the dreaded list of soldiers killed in the war.

During his radio days, Greene invented a stopwatch which ran backwards (i.e. it would start from a given number and count down to zero);[4] this helped radio announcers gauge how much time was left while speaking.

During his CBC radio career, Greene also narrated documentary films, such as the National Film Board of Canada's Fighting Norway (1943).

Greene left the CBC and became a freelancer after the war when the network ordered staff announcers to turn over a large percentage of any income they earned from film narration. Greene continued to appear on CBC on a freelance basis while becoming the newsreader for private radio station CKEY in Toronto, while also returning to acting work both on stage and in radio plays.[5]

After closing his Academy of Radio Arts in 1952, Greene relocated to the United States. Katharine Cornell cast him twice in her Broadway productions. In 1953, he was cast in The Prescott Proposals. In that same year, she cast him in a verse drama by Christopher Fry, The Dark is Light Enough. Greene likewise began appearing in isolated episodes on live television in the 1950s. In 1953, he was seen in the title role of a one-hour adaptation of Shakespeare's Othello. In 1954, he made his Hollywood debut as Saint Peter in The Silver Chalice and made several more films and appearances on American television.[citation needed] In 1955, he starred in the British Canadian TV series Sailor of Fortune. In 1955, he was Ludwig van Beethoven in an episode of the TV version of You Are There, and also appeared as Marcus Brutus in Julius Caesar at the Stratford Festival.[6] In 1957, Greene played the prosecutor in Peyton Place.

American television

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Greene as Ben Cartwright (1959)
Greene's Ponderosa II House in Mesa, Arizona

The first of his continuing TV roles was as the patriarch Ben "Pa" Cartwright in Bonanza, the first one-hour Western series filmed in colour (1959–1973), making Greene a household name. He garnered the role after his performance as O'Brien in the CBS production of Nineteen Eighty-Four.

In the 1960s, Greene capitalized on his image as Ben Cartwright by recording several albums of country-western/folk songs, which Greene performed in a mixture of spoken word and singing. In 1964, Greene had a number-one single on the music charts with his spoken-word ballad, "Ringo" (which referred to the real-life Old West outlaw Johnny Ringo), and got play time from "Saga of the Ponderosa", which detailed the Cartwright founding of the famous ranch.

In 1973, after the cancellation of Bonanza following a 14-year run, Greene joined Ben Murphy in the ABC crime drama, Griff, about a Los Angeles, California, police officer, Wade "Griff" Griffin, who retires to become a private detective. When it failed to gain sufficient ratings and was cancelled after 13 episodes, Greene thereafter hosted the syndicated nature documentary series Last of the Wild from 1974 to 1975.[7]

In the 1977 miniseries Roots, he played the first master of Kunta Kinte, John Reynolds. Through the 1970s, Greene was the spokesman for Alpo Beef Chunks dog food commercials, one of the possible origins of the phrase "Eating your own dog food".

In 2007, TV Guide listed Ben Cartwright as the nation's second-most popular TV father (behind Cliff Huxtable). Greene was also known for his role as Commander Adama, another patriarchal figure, in the science-fiction television series Battlestar Galactica (1978–1979) and Galactica 1980 (1980). Greene's typecasting as a wise father character continued with the 1981 series Code Red as a fire-department chief, whose command includes his children as subordinates. Greene appeared with his former Bonanza co-star Michael Landon on an episode of Highway to Heaven. Greene also appeared with his former Bonanza co-star Pernell Roberts on a two-part episode of Vega$.

He 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 Betty White.

Back on Canadian television

In the 1980s, Greene devoted his energies to wildlife and environmental issues, including hosting and narrating the CTV's nature series Lorne Greene's New Wilderness, a show which promoted environmental awareness.[8]

Personal life

Greene was married twice, first to Rita Hands of Toronto (1938–1960, divorced). Some reports list the start of their marriage as 1940. They had two children, twins born in 1945: Charles and Belinda Susan. His second wife was Nancy Deale (1961–1987, Greene's death), with whom he had one child, Gillian Dania Greene, who is married to director Sam Raimi.

The Ponderosa II House was built by Greene in 1960 in Mesa, Arizona. It is located at 602 S. Edgewater Drive. It is a replica of the Bonanza set house from the former Ponderosa Ranch in Incline Village, Nevada. It is listed in the Mesa Historic Property Register.[9]


Greene died on 11 September 1987, aged 72, from complications from pneumonia, following ulcer surgery, at Saint Johns' Hospital in Santa Monica, California.[10] He was interred at Hillside Memorial Park Cemetery in Culver City.[11]

Honours and awards

Greene was made an Officer of the Order of Canada on 28 October 1969, "for services to the Performing Arts and to the community."[12]

Greene was awarded an honorary doctor of laws degree by his alma mater, Queen's University, in 1971.[13] He was 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 1974, Greene received the Golden Plate Award of the American Academy of Achievement.[14]

In February 1985, Greene was the Krewe of Bacchus King of Mardi Gras.[15]

In May 2006, Greene became one of the first of four entertainers to ever be honoured by Canada Post by being featured on a 51-cent postage stamp.[16]

Greene was inducted into Canada's Walk of Fame, found on King Street and Simcoe Street in Toronto, in 2015.[17]

Lorne Greene Academy of Radio Arts

Greene founded and was dean of the Lorne Greene Academy of Radio Arts in Toronto in 1945, which trained a number of future broadcasters and actors including Leslie Nielsen, James Doohan, Les Rubie, Gordie Tapp, Fred Davis, Billie Mae Richards, William Davidson, Alfie Scopp, Murray Chercover, Jonathan Frid, Cec Linder, Les Lye, Bill Luxton, Roy Currie. The school was located on Jarvis Street across from what was then the CBC Radio building. Its faculty included many CBC staff such as Mavor Moore, Fletcher Markle, Lister Sinclair, Andrew Allan, and Esse Ljungh, and graduated a total of 381 students in seven years, 90% of whom found work in the industry. Though successful academically, the school continually lost money, resulting in Greene closing the school in 1952, allowing him to sell the building to recoup his losses.[18][19][20][21][22]




Year Album US Label
1961 Robin Hood of El Dorado MGM
1962 Bonanza Ponderosa Party Time RCA
1963 Young at Heart
Christmas on the Ponderosa
1964 Peter and the Wolf
Welcome to the Ponderosa 35
1965 The Man
American West
Have a Happy Holiday 54
1966 Portrait of the West


Year Single Chart Positions Album
CAN Country CAN Pop US
US Country US AC
1962 "My Sons My Sons" Bonanza Ponderosa Party Time
1963 "I'm the Same Ole Me" single only
1964 "Ringo" 1 1 21 1 Welcome to the Ponderosa
1965 "The Man" 3 72 The Man
"Ol' Tin Cup" Welcome to the Ponderosa
1966 "Five Card Stud" 112 American West
"Daddy's Little Girl" singles only
"Waco" 50
1969 "It's All in the Game"
1970 "Daddy (I'm Proud to Be Your Son)"
"First Word"
1976 "Spirit of America"

See also


  1. ^ Lorne Hyman Greene per Social Security records, ancestry.com; accessed 6 October 2016.
  2. ^ a b c Bennett, Linda Greene (1 November 2004). My Father's Voice: The Biography of Lorne Greene (Paperback ed.). iUniverse, Inc. p. 254. ISBN 978-0-595-33283-0.
  3. ^ Gareffa, Peter M. (June 1988). Newsmakers 1988. Gale Research. ISBN 9780810322073. Retrieved 27 August 2015. ((cite book)): |work= ignored (help)
  4. ^ "Lorne Greene, TV Patriarch, Is Dead", The New York Times, 12 September 1987.
  5. ^ Macdonald, Wallace (15 September 1952). "The Voice of Doom". Maclean's Magazine. Archived from the original on 14 February 2022. Retrieved 14 February 2022.
  6. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 6 April 2019. Retrieved 6 April 2019.((cite web)): CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  7. ^ Last of the Wild (documentary, hosted by Lorne Greene) At Classic Themes.com
  8. ^ "Bonanza's Canadian Lorne Greene | Bite Size Canada". Tkmorin.wordpress.com. 16 January 2013. Retrieved 6 October 2016.
  9. ^ "Lorne Greene's Ponderosa Replica Up for Sale in Mesa, Arizona". SecondShelters. 23 September 2018. Retrieved 11 March 2020.
  10. ^ Weil, Martin (12 September 1987). "Former 'Bonanza' Star Lorne Greene Dies at 72". The Washington Post. Retrieved 1 April 2019.
  11. ^ "Distinguished Residents of Hillside Memorial Park and Mortuary" (PDF). hillsidememorial.org. Hillside Memorial Park and Mortuary. 2011. p. 42. Retrieved 1 April 2019.
  12. ^ "Order of Canada". Gg.ca. 30 April 2009. Archived from the original on 26 January 2009. Retrieved 9 August 2009.
  13. ^ "Queen's Encyclopedia". Qnc.queensu.ca. 7 November 1995. Archived from the original on 24 April 2009. Retrieved 9 August 2009.
  14. ^ "Golden Plate Awardees of the American Academy of Achievement". www.achievement.org. American Academy of Achievement.
  15. ^ "2010 Krewe of Bacchus New Orleans Mardi Gras Parade Schedule 2010". Mardi Gras Parade Schedule. Retrieved 17 September 2009.
  16. ^ "Lorne Greene – Postage Stamp". Google Search. Retrieved 12 February 2015.
  17. ^ "Canada's Walk of Fame 2015 Inductees". Canadaswalkoffame.com. Retrieved 6 October 2016.
  18. ^ "Sign Offs". 29 July 2021.
  19. ^ 'Greatest experience' entering radio academy. What's on Tapp?: The Gordie Tapp Story. 21 March 2007. ISBN 9781426980664. Retrieved 18 October 2019.
  20. ^ Lorne Greene academy reunion at Royal York: [FIN Edition] Toronto Star; Toronto, Ont. [Toronto, Ont]. 02 Oct 1986: F6.
  21. ^ Clem, Alias Cousin (21 March 2007). What's on Tapp?: The Gordie Tapp Story. Trafford. ISBN 9781426980664.
  22. ^ Macdonald, Wallace (15 September 1952). "The Voice of Doom". Maclean's Magazine. Archived from the original on 14 February 2022. Retrieved 14 February 2022.
  23. ^ "The Nutcracker: A Fantasy on Ice". IMDb.com.
  24. ^ Whitburn, Joel (2011). Top Pop Singles 1955–2010. Record Research, Inc. p. 376. ISBN 978-0-89820-188-8.