HomeEntertainment‘Bonanza’: How Did Ben Cartwright Actor Lorne Greene Die?

‘Bonanza’: How Did Ben Cartwright Actor Lorne Greene Die?

by Emily Morgan
(Photo by Silver Screen Collection/Getty)

Lorne Greene was a beloved fixture on American television for decades, most notably known for his role as Cartwright family patriarch, Ben Cartwright on “Bonanza.” He became part of many American’s nighttime routines. From 1959 to 1973, viewers committed themselves to keeping up with the Cartwrights until the end of its run.

After a life well-lived in the industry, Greene passed away on Sept. 11, 1987, from respiratory problems at 72. According to Greene’s secretary, his wife and children were with him when he passed. Greene was born Lyon Himan Green on Feb. 12, 1915, in Ottawa, Ontario. After studying acting in New York for two years, he returned home to work in theater and radio.

After becoming an accomplished newscaster in Canada, he returned to the U.S., where he booked half-dozen Hollywood movies before landing his gig on “Bonanza” in 1959. In 1961, after moving to a primetime spot on Sunday nights, the show quickly climbed to the top of the ratings. For three consecutive years, it held the number one spot from 1964 to 1967.

Lorne Greene Attributes Stern Persona On ‘Bonanza’ to Father

Greene’s portrayal of Ben Cartwright was anything but meek. He was relentless in trailing the villains, rigorous in his pursuit of justice, and portrayed what it means to be a firm father. According to Lorne Greene, he garnered inspiration for his character from his father. “I don’t know whether I could ever match my father as a person,” he said. “But as an actor, I try to be like him.”

Before he passed away, Greene once said that his character helped him raise his son. His youngest, Gillian, was raised under the idea that “children bloom with love and wither with dissension and hate.” Greene’s father, a Jewish immigrant and shoemaker from Russia, reared Greene with a firm hand. As a boy, his father went to great lengths to keep him on the right path. His father’s firm yet loving parenting would be the model he used whenever he stepped onto the “Bonanza” set.