What Were ‘Bonanza’ Star Lorne Greene’s Biggest Roles Besides Ben Cartwright?

by Joe Rutland

When you think of Lorne Greene, then Bonanza is obviously going to come to mind. Yet what other big roles did this actor play?

We’re going to get into that topic right now, Outsiders. We also will get an assist from IMDb too.

Greene moved beyond playing Ben Cartwright into Commander Adama on Battlestar Galactica in 1978 and Galactica 1980 in 1980.

Now, the Bonanza star also appeared in some other TV series throughout his career. Greene played Wade Griffin in Griff for the 1973-74 season. He also played Battalion Chief Joe Rorchek in the show Code Red, which also just lasted one season in the 1983-84 TV year.

Put him in any role, though, and viewers probably just saw Greene in another role…but still saying to themselves, “Oh, that’s just old Ben Cartwright.”

Anyway, Outsiders, Lorne Greene left an indelible mark on the world of television with his work. The Canadian native brought his style and powerful voice into Bonanza.

He died on Sept. 11, 1987, at 72 years old.

‘Bonanza’ Leading Actor Almost Left NBC Western Drama After 16 Episodes

Alright, Bonanza almost lost Lorne Greene early in its run. Here’s the scoop.

This whole situation gains some light thanks to MeTV. So, what happened with Ben Cartwright? Apparently, Greene got upset that Ben appeared a bit uppity.

In a 1971 article for the Hawaii Tribune-Herald, Greene said, “After the first 16 shows, I went to (producer) David Dortort 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.”

Meh, that didn’t sit well with Greene one bit. Yet Dortort nailed down a solution for the Bonanza leading actor. Writers worked up a script where a deeper side of Ben Cartwright appeared before TV viewers.

Did this suit Greene OK? Yes, it did.

“I said to myself that if the show lasted half a season, beautiful,” Greene said. “If it lasted a full season, beautiful. Three years, beautiful. Twenty years, beautiful.”

The smash-hit Western drama ran between 1959-73 on NBC. It might have reached 20 years because of one character’s popularity…and it wasn’t Greene.

Dan Blocker played “Hoss” Cartwright and was beloved by many. He died in 1972 from complications of gall-bladder surgery. After he died, Bonanza just lost its steam.

Make no mistake, though. People around the world still watch the show in syndication and love seeing all of them in the show. Besides Greene and Blocker, Michael Landon, Pernell Roberts, David Canary, and others were part of the show’s cast. In addition, the show’s opening theme and look still bring excitement to fans.