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September 11: Bonanza’s “Pa”

September 10, 2016

uv96hatg4yc89vhcLorne Greene (Lyon Himan Green), who became one of television’s most familiar faces by playing Ben Cartwright (“Pa”) on the NBC family Western series Bonanza from 1959 to1973, was born in Ottawa on this date in 1915. During World War II, Green served in the Canadian air force and became a newsreader on the CBC National News. Nicknamed “The Voice of Canada,” he was popularly called “The Voice of Doom” because he was the one who read the lists of soldiers killed. After several years on the stage and television and in film, Greene landed his role of a lifetime, which also enabled him to record several albums of country-western songs. Bonanza’s 431 episodes made it second only to CBS’s Gunsmoke as the longest-running TV Western. The show was set in Nevada in the 1860s, on the Cartwright’s Ponderosa Ranch. The family consisted of the thrice-widowed Pa and his three sons (each from a different mother). One episode, “Look to the Stars,” #90, in 1962, dealt with a Jewish family — see it below.

Bonanza was the first series that was week-to-week about a family and the troubles it went through. Bonanza was a period drama that attempted to confront contemporary social issues. That was very difficult to do on television. Most shows that tried to do it failed because the sponsors didn’t like it.”--Stephen Battaglio, TV Guide