‘Bonanza’ Star Lorne Greene’s Work on 1941 Film Helped it Win the First-Ever Oscar in One Category

by Joe Rutland
(Photo by Silver Screen Collection/Getty Images)

Outsiders, we know Lorne Greene made a name for himself on “Bonanza.” But Greene happened to help a film win an Oscar.

This is not just any Oscar, OK. It is the first one in a specific category.

Let’s roll out the red carpet from a 2015 story in Cowboys & Indians and unpack this story.

According to the Western-themed magazine, Greene was a newscaster for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. Besides his news duties, he also narrated documentaries put together by the National Film Board of Canada.

The NFB, as it was called, was responsible for producing short films and feature films. John Grierson, who is known by many as the father of British and Canadian documentaries, produced a number of them.

Greene happened to take on narrator duties for a 1941 film titled “Churchill’s Island.” It was about defending Great Britain during the war and, of course, featured the “Bonanza” star. “Churchill’s Island” won the first Academy Award for Documentary Short Subject.

Lorne Greene was there to tell the story.

‘Bonanza’ Star Earns Monikers Of ‘The Voice of Canada’ and ‘The Voice of Doom’

There’s your tie-in, Outsiders, for legendary “Bonanza” patriarch Ben Cartwright. Greene was a native Canadian.

CBC tags his voice as “The Voice of Canada.” But citizens start calling him “The Voice of Doom” after Canada gets involved in World War II.

Millions hear Greene’s deep voice when he reads the names of Canadian soldiers killed in action.

“Bonanza” became part of Greene’s life in 1959. NBC turns it into the first hour-long Western filmed in color.

Coincidentally, in case an Outsider has never seen the Western at all, Greene’s Ben Cartwright was the father to Hoss Cartwright, “Little Joe” Cartwright, and Adam Cartwright. Dan Blocker played Hoss, Michael Landon played “Little Joe, and Pernell Roberts played Adam. Ironically, it is canceled after 14 seasons on NBC. “Bonanza” makes a lot of money through advertising for the network.

NBC Western Became Second-Longest-Running One In TV History Next to ‘Gunsmoke’

“Bonanza” would become the second-longest-running Western in TV history. Obviously, No. 1 goes to “Gunsmoke” starring James Arness.

Greene did love to find himself in different roles or careers.

“I have had a number of careers in my life,” he says in a radio interview with Fred Pfeiffer in the 1970s. “I believe in changing careers. And I’m at the point now where I’m going to do a little acting.”

“Bonanza” already had wrapped when Greene did the interview.

“But I really don’t want to tie myself down to a television series, as such,” Greene said. “Because then I couldn’t come here. And I enjoy this. I enjoy meeting with people like you, and like you, and the other people here, people who ask questions.”