On today’s date in 1959, Canadian actor Lorne Greene became a household name when the western drama Bonanza aired on television for the first time.
Bonanza was the first western broadcast in colour. The series ran for 14 years and helped launched the acting careers of Greene, who played Pa Cartwright, and actors Michael Landon, Dan Blocker and Pernell Roberts.
Greene was born Lyon Himan “Chaim” Greene on Feb. 12, 1915, in Ottawa, Ont. He began acting while attending Kingston, Ont.’s Queen’s University and after graduation found a job in radio broadcasting. His rich, deep, authoritarian voice quickly propelled him to prominence as Canada’s top newscaster.
He left Canada in the early 1950s for a film career in Hollywood, Calif., and soon began appearing regularly in television, films and on the radio. His greatest successes came in two television series, the long-running western Bonanza, in which he played the patriarch of a wealthy frontier family, and the science fiction series Battlestar Galactica.
In 1969, he was appointed as an Officer of the Order of Canada for his services to the performing arts and community.
2006 ACTORS STAMPS
Greene was amongst four Canadian actors honoured in a stamp series released by Canada Post in 2006.
Launched on May 26, the four stamps honour the lives and achievements of four Canadians who made a lasting impression in Hollywood; in addition to Greene, the honourees include John Candy, Mary Pickford and Fay Wray.
The CBC’s “Voice of Canada” during the Second World War and “Pa” to Bonanza fans, Greene was the white-haired, resonant-voiced, patriarchal actor who never gave up his Canadian citizenship.
For Greene’s son Charles, the stamp was a source of great pride for a man who he described as having a strong affinity to his Canadian roots.
“I am extremely pleased by Canada Post’s recognition of my father’s unique contribution to radio, film and television in Canada and around the world. My father would have been proud and grateful. He always took pride in being Canadian, working for many Canadian causes and on Canadian film and television projects until the end of his life.”
During his work on Bonanza and other TV projects, Greene found time to do guest roles and movies as well as record several albums. In 1964, he even had a top hit with the song Ringo.
He died of pneumonia at the age of 72 following heart surgery on Sept. 11, 1987, in Santa Monica, Calif.