He was nicknamed "The Voice of Canada" and also "The Voice of Doom" for his Second World War baritone newscasts on CBC. He had that big voice even at high school where he developed a love of acting.
Lorne Greene was born in Ottawa and raised as an only child after his older brother died in the 1918 flu epidemic. His parents wanted him to be a concert violinist. He had different ideas. He attended Queen's University from 1932 to 1937 and first studied chemical engineering then switched to languages to give himself more time for the drama guild, for which he produced, directed and acted. On graduation he accepted a fellowship to the Neighborhood Playhouse School of the Theatre in New York. When he returned to Canada two years later, he found little scope for actors, especially after the outbreak of the Second World War. The CBC hired him in Ottawa as an announcer and he read the news from 1939-42. It was also about that time he invented a reverse chronometer to assist announcers in timing programs.
Later in the war, he served in the Canadian Armed Forces. When he returned to Canada, he resumed his radio career in shows such as Canadian Cavalcade, Curtain Time and Peerless Parade. He also founded the Lorne Greene Academy of Radio Arts which Leslie Nielsen attended, among notable others, and helped found a repertory group, the Jupiter Theatre. In 1950, with CBC moving into TV, he was hired to host Newsmagazine, which he did for three years until he returned to New York to work on the stage for several years. He also acted at Stratford during that time.
Television was growing and so were Westerns. He made a guest appearance on Wagon Train, was noticed, and that led to his 14-year career as Ben Cartwright, a father figure to a generation of Bonanza viewers.
When Bonanza finally died, he continued in series television, including the role of Commander Adama in Battlestar Galactica; and, back in Canada, Lorne Greene's New Wilderness, which ran from 1982-86. He also sang - one of his songs was the mid-60's hit Ringo.
He was married twice and had three children, Linda, Charles and Gillian.
Written by Jerry Fairbridge - February, 2002
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