Lorne Greene, who as patriarch Ben Cartwright on "Bonanza" became a worldwide image of firm but gentle fatherhood, died today in Santa Monica of complications from surgery, his secretary said. He was 72.
Greene died at Saint John's Hospital, where he underwent abdominal surgery on Aug. 19 for a perforated ulcer. While recovering from the surgery, he developed pneumonia, requiring at times an oxygen tank to help him breathe.
"He died this morning," said Roxanne Lawrence, his secretary at New Wilderness Productions. Hospital officials said he died at 12:14 p.m.
Greene's wife and children were at his side when he died.
Just last weekend, Greene's condition improved and he was moved out of the intensive care unit into a private room. But on Thursday, he suffered a setback and was returned to the intensive care unit.
Tried Other Roles
A barrel-chested man with white hair and bushy black eyebrows, Greene made stabs at different television roles late in his career, playing a detective in "Griff," a space commander in "Battlestar Galactica" and a fire chief in "Code Red."
But the native of Canada remained most closely tied to his image as a widower in the old West, riding herd on a trio of headstrong sons--Adam, Hoss and Little Joe--played by Pernell Roberts, Dan Blocker and Michael Landon.
The series made him a multimillionaire and he invested in real estate and ran a string of thoroughbred horses at Santa Anita and Del Mar race tracks in Southern California.
Greene also became known in recent years for a series of dog food commercials for television.
He also appeared on a number of television variety shows and recorded such hit records as "Ringo," "Destiny" and "Five Card Stud" in which he talked rather than sang to the music. "Ringo," about a renegade cowboy, was on the charts for 12 weeks in 1964.