‘Bonanza’: Lorne Greene’s Favorite Wife on the Show Was Likely Inga Swenson

by Samantha Whidden

His Bonanza character Ben was notably married three times, but it seems actor Lorne Greene liked Inga Swenson’s Inger Cartwright the most.

According to MeTV, the Bonanza star spoke about Swenson being selected to portray the role. He told The Birmingham News in 1963. “Inga is such a wonderful girl. I wonder why do we have to get rid of her?”

The Bonanza actress also spoke about preferring stage acting to other forms of acting. This is due to the act that she can act with her eyelashes. She also said she knew she wanted to be an actor when she was only eight years old. She wrote in her diary, “I think I’m going to be an actress” acting a local director told her he can “see it” in her eyes. 

Swenson also spoke about the acting roles she received prior to Bonanza. “Let’s face it. I’m not easy to cast. They can’t dress me up in a tailored suit and high heels to play a secretary.”

When she was cast in Bonanza as Hoss’ mom, the Clarion-Ledger wrote in 1975 that Swenson has a “fresh-faced, clear-eyed” look of someone who just came in from feeding the chickens. Despite her popularity behind the scenes, Swenson only ended up doing two episodes of Bonanza. “It’s a sequel. But in this one, they’re going to kill me off,” she stated about her second episode on the hit Western series. 

Lorne Greene Reportedly Tried to Quit ‘Bonanza’ After Only 16 Episodes 

Although he was on Bonanza from 1959 to 1973, Lorne Greene tried to quit the series after only 16 episodes. 

MeTV reports that Greene admitted to wanting to depart from Bonanza after growing bored of his character, Ben Cartwright. He told the Hawaii Tribune-Herald in 1971, “After the first 16 shows, I went to David Dotort [the producer] and I said I wanted out. We had done 16 shows, and all I was saying was ‘Get off my land’ and quoting the Bible. Which was how the part was written then.”

In order to keep him on, Greene said that the Bonanza producer had writers come up with some episodes that gave his character more depth. “So they wrote a show for me. And from then on, it has been fine.”

Greene also stated that if the show lasted half a season, it was beautiful. “If it lasted a full season, beautiful. Three years, beautiful. Twenty years, beautiful.”

Greene also reportedly told The Boston Globe, however, that he was in for the long haul with Bonanza. “I made up my mind at the beginning that whether it lasted two weeks or 100 years, I would stick with it. And I intend to.”