This is an online encyclopedia of personalities of Old Time Radio. It is designed for educational and entertainment purposes.

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Friday, October 03, 2008

Lorne Greene (1915-87)

Lyon Chaim Green was born February 12, 1915, in Ottawa, Ontario. His parents were Russian Jewish immigrants to Canada, Daniel and Dora Green. He attended Lisgar Collegiate Institute (a public high school), where he earned his diploma in 1932. He then attended Queens University in Kingston, where he majored in chemical engineering. He was also involved drama and worked at the school radio station, CFRC. An excellent student, his professors had the idea that the young man was going to be a wonderful chemical engineer. But he changed majors in the middle of his college career and took a degree in languages so he could spend more time with drama activities.

When he graduated from Queens in 1937, rather than go into engineering, he went in for broadcasting, he spent some time in New York City to get some honest to goodness
drama training. Unfortunately, being at the deepest depths of the Depression, there were no jobs and he was not a US citizen. So he went back to Canada.

He walked into the CBC (Canadian Broadcasting Company) studios in Ottawa and was hired on the spot, thanks to his, low booming voice, even as a young adult.

In 1938 he married Rita Hands; they would have two children, twins born in 1945 named Susan and Charles.

In 1939, he became the principal newsreader for CBC's national evening news broadcasts. It was also this time he became known as Lorne Greene, which was based on his birth name. Having an unusual deep, rich voice, when they heard his voice, they said they had to have him. The Canadian Broadcasting Company billed him as the Voice of Canada. To most Canadians listening to the radio in 1939-42, he became known as the Voice of Doom, because when they heard his voice, it was normally tragic news about the war in Europe.He also narrated a number of documentary films for schools.

From late 1942 to early 1945 Lorne served as a flying officer in the Royal Canadian Air Force.When he returned from military service he went in more for acting. He began acting on the radio and worked in television as soon as it became available. Lorne helped establish the Academy of Radio Arts (founded as the Lorne Greene School of Broadcasting) and the Jupiter Theatre (1951).

In 1953, he made the move to California to try his luck at Hollywood acting. He got a lot of acting work on television and his booming voice also helped him to get work as narrator for more of those school documentary films,when times were lean.

The biggest break in his life was when he was cast as Ben Cartwright in the dramatic western series, Bonanza. Debuting in 1959 on NBC, it would be the defining role of his life. Lorne would go on to do animal shows and dog food commercials, but he would always be Ben Cartwright, the owner of the Ponderosa Ranch for those of us who watched him every week through September 1973. This was one of the greatest family television shows of all time.

Lorne Greene died September 11, 1987, following heart surgery in Santa Monica, California. He was 72 years old. Married twice, first to Rita Hands (1938-60) and then to Nancy Deale (1961-87), he was the father of three children. Green is buried at Hillside Memorial Park in Culver City, California.

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