‘Bonanza’: Ben Cartwright Actor Lorne Greene Once Said Show Wasn’T A ‘Great Dramatic Vehicle’


Don’t expect to read anything from actor Lorne Greene comparing Bonanza to Macbeth or some other Shakespearean play.

Greene, who plays patriarch Ben Cartwright on the Ponderosa in Bonanza, spoke a little bit during a 1967 interview about viewing his popular TV show.

“I do not consider Bonanza a great dramatic vehicle,” Greene said. When pressed further, the Canadian-born actor calls his show an entertainment feature that can engage a person’s mind. It can do it occasionally, just occasionally.

“What does it mean to me?” Greene asks out loud. “Does it fulfill me as an actor? Did Othello fulfill (Lawrence) Olivier as an actor?”

Greene, who died in 1987, probably asked himself the same questions while playing Commander Adama on Battlestar Galactica in 1978-79 and Galactica 1980 in 1980.

‘Bonanza’ Star Known In Canada As ‘Voice of Doom’

While televisions around the world continue to show Bonanza, there was a time in Lorne Greene’s career where Canadians trusted his voice.

Greene worked for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) between 1939-42. He was a news broadcaster, sharing events around World War II with his fellow Canadians. A lot of the news was sad to report, thereby giving listeners not a lot of hope.

Many of them called Greene the “Voice of Doom” because he seemed to simply share too much sad news with them all the time. Others also called Greene the “Voice of Canada.”

Greene found his way onto the radio after coming back home from New York City. He went there to find acting jobs, but once the war started those dried up pretty quickly.


Obviously, the radio work didn’t turn into something long-term for him. Greene started playing Ben Cartwright in 1959 on NBC’s Bonanza, a role he would hold onto until the show’s cancellation in 1973. It brought him great fame and fortune, too, which he turned into building up real estate acquisitions.

Greene Sees Closeness Resembles Biblical Dynamics

When trying to explain the closeness between all members of the Cartwright family, Greene said these dynamics date back to biblical times.

It was his belief that people who regularly watched Bonanza found great comfort in these types of relationships.

“A big reason for this show’s popularity,” Greene said, according to the LA Times, “is the strength and warmth of the family. The father-son relationship is the strongest there is. It’s been the basis of drama all the way back to the Bible. Notice, Abraham wasn’t told to sacrifice a daughter.”

For example, you can see Ben Cartwright often be able to ease any hot-headed behavior taking place with his sons. You can see it in the interactions between him and Little Joe, played by Michael Landon, Hoss, played by Dan Blocker, and Adam, played by Pernell Roberts.

Ben Cartwright had a high code of honor. He displayed it each week on Bonanza.