HomeEntertainment‘Bonanza’: Lorne Greene Said His Portrayal of Ben Cartwright Was Him Acting Like His Father

‘Bonanza’: Lorne Greene Said His Portrayal of Ben Cartwright Was Him Acting Like His Father

by Matthew Wilson
Photo credit: Walt Disney Television via Getty Images

Lorne Greene starred as Ben Cartwright, a father living out in the Old West with his sons, for 14 seasons on the hit TV show “Bonanza.”

The TV series followed the trials and tribulations of the Cartwright family. Greene played the family’s patriarch, a wise but stern figure in his sons’ lives. In an interview with the New York Post, Greene revealed that he based the character on his own real-life father.

“I don’t know whether I could ever match my father as a person,” Greene told the outlet. “But as an actor I try to be like him.”

Greene’s father, Daniel, was an authoritative figure in his life. He often tried to keep Greene from trouble even if the actor was a bit mischievous as a child. Greene’s father had an impact on him. And later when he had to play an on-screen dad, the actor knew just what persona he wanted to conjure up. Every time the cameras rolled, Greene became his own father.

Lorne Greene And His Father

When Greene was 13-years-old, his father caught him in a lie. The future actor skipped school and came home early when he had a test he hadn’t studied for. But his father was at home waiting on him.

“One day when mother was away, I cut an exam I hadn’t studied for and came home, thinking my father would be at work,” Greene said. “But there he was! He asked me why I’d come home. It was a beautiful sunny day, but the only reason I could think of was ‘to get my umbrella.’ He said casually, ‘Oh… well, maybe you’d better take your rubbers, too, so you won’t get your feet wet.’ Then, very subtly, he insisted on giving me a lift to school, and when we got there he said, ‘I’ll walk in with you.’ ”

Greene’s father drove him back up to the school. His father and the principal had a talk where Greene’s father discovered that Greene had faked sick notes from his mother. His father became upset by the news, and Greene decided to never pull a similar stunt again in his life.

“All I remember is my father’s eyes saying to me, ‘What kind of a delinquent have I brought into this world?’ From that moment on I became a reformed character,” Greene said. “He never mentioned that incident again and he didn’t tell my mother because he knew it would hurt her.”