Actor Lorne Greene, best known for his role as patriarch Ben Cartwright on the long-running television series "Bonanza," died Friday of a respiratory ailment. He was 72.
Greene, who was admitted to St. John's Hospital and Medical Center in Santa Monica on Aug. 5 with a bleeding ulcer, died shortly after noon, hospital spokesman Arman Markarian said.
Greene developed pneumonia after surgery for a perforated ulcer and died of Adult Respiratory Distress Syndrome caused by prolonged infection, Markarian said.
Greene had been scheduled to reprise his Cartwright role in a television movie, "Bonanza: The Next Generation," scheduled to begin filming Oct. 24, a spokesman for Gaylord Production Co. said.
The Canadian-born actor, whose entertainment career included a variety of television shows and starring roles in three Broadway plays, was best known for his portrayal of Cartwright, patriarch of the Ponderosa ranch, on NBC's "Bonanza."
The popular series ran for nearly 14 seasons, from September, 1959, to January, 1973. For most of the 1960s, "Bonanza," ranked as one of the highest-rated programs on television, placing No. 1 for three seasons between 1964 and 1967.
The show was universally popular and made Greene a familiar face to television audiences in nearly 100 countries.
His deep, resonant voice, which helped shape the character of the strong, fair-minded Cartwright, earned him the title of the "Voice of Canada" during his early radio years as chief newscaster for the Canadian Broadcasting Corp.
Actor and Director
Greene intended to study for a career as a chemical engineer when he enrolled at Queen's University in Canada, but soon became active in dramatic productions both as actor and director.
After studying acting in New York for two years, he returned to Canada to pursue his radio career and his interest in the theater.
He co-founded the Jupiter Theatre in Toronto and also established the Academy of Radio Arts. The 6-foot, 2-inch Greene did not begin acting in earnest until he was 38. He visited New York hoping to interest a producer in one of his inventions, a backward-running stopwatch for use in television, and was hired instead for a role in a "Studio One" production of George Orwell's "1984."
Other Series Roles
After "Bonanza," Greene starred in a short-lived detective series, "Griff," aired in 1973-74, and played Commander Adama in the ABC series "Battlestar Galactica," broadcast in 1978-79.
Greene appeared in a number of movies in the 1950s including "The Silver Chalice," "Tight Spot," "Autumn Leaves," "Peyton Place," "The Hard Man," "Gift of Love," "The Buccaneer" and "The Trap."
After "Bonanza," he appeared in the all-star 1974 disaster epic "Earthquake," and starred in "Tidal Wave," a 1975 movie filmed in Japan.