‘Bonanza’ Star Lorne Greene Was an Early Adopter of Trailblazing Medical Procedure

by Lauren Boisvert

“Bonanza” star Lorne Greene was once an unofficial spokesperson for an ancient Chinese medicinal practice. Acupuncture as a practice is about 3000 years old, but it didn’t become mainstream in America until 1972. Lorne Greene, who had severe back problems, tried out the procedure and was hooked.

In a 1974 issue of People, Greene appeared on the cover with an acupuncture needle being administered to his ear. Inside, the story read, “Lorne Greene’s back pained him so badly he could barely sit still for five minutes in his makeup chair. At night he couldn’t sleep. When a back corset and breathing exercises brought no relief, out of desperation he tried acupuncture.”

Apparently, Greene told People that after his first session, “I got dressed, went home, and waited for the pain to return. It never did.” He advocated for acupuncture for years, and always recommended it to people with pain.

Lorne Greene’s Appearance on ‘Wagon Train’ was an Audition for ‘Bonanza’

Before he was on “Bonanza,” Lorne Greene had a guest starring role on another western TV series. He played the character Christopher Webb who was in love with Vivian Carter. Vivian planned to leave the wagon train to marry, but Webb wanted to marry her. He asked her twice throughout the episode, but he then realized that she was too naïve and they would never work together.

That same year, 1959, “Bonanza” cast him as Ben Cartwright, strict yet fair ranching father on the Ponderosa. His role on “Wagon Train” proved to be an audition of sorts, because his performance caught the attentions of “Bonanza” producers.

Greene’s daughter recalled in his biography what he told her about his time on “Wagon Train.” Christopher Webb was so tough and intimidating, he made the no-nonsense Major Seth Adams cower at his feet. Greene said, “When the moment came, I rose two inches above my normal height, turned up all the decibels and let the dialogue come falling out […] Mr. Bond had also been to acting school and […] was great [at reacting].”

That moment was a clincher for the “Bonanza” executives; Lorne Greene premiered as Ben Cartwright that September. “And that was all I had to do,” Greene said, “except watch him crumple, convincingly dominated.”

Greene’s Voice Helped 1941 Canadian Documentary Win an Oscar

When Lorne Greene was starting out, he was a newscaster in Canada during the war. He quickly gained the moniker “The Voice of Doom” because of the gruesome news he had to deliver. But he also lent his voice to the National Film Board of Canada, narrating documentaries. He narrated a 1941 film titled “Churchill’s Island,” and the film went on to win the first ever Academy Award for Documentary Short Subject.