Lorne Greene said that he played Ben Cartwright as the father he wanted to be for his own children

Greene received hundreds of letters from fans who wanted Ben Cartwright to be their father.

Fan mail for your favorite actor is old news. What real fans are doing nowadays is writing to their favorite actors and asking if they'd be their fathers. That's what Lorne Greene's fans were up to in 1965, anyhow. According to a 1965 interview with the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, hundreds of children would write letters to Greene praising his role as a father in Bonanza. One letter read, "When I grow up. I want you to know, Mr. Cartwright, that I'm going to become a father exactly like you." Another read "If you'd been my father, I wouldn't be here today. My father was a drunk who paid us no attention."

One wife wrote to Greene, "The trouble with my husband, is that he's got the roar of a lion and the courage of a mouse. If he showed one ounce of the gumption you showed on your program last week, I wouldn't be leaving him." A seventeen-year-old girl wrote to Greene, "I truly wish you were my old man. You seem so understanding." Many of these letters weren't necessarily from children who didn't have fathers, but rather, ones who wanted Greene to take their own father's place.

To Greene, the letters were proof that there was an issue at hand. He said, "I've come to the conclusion that the average guy is so busy making a living, providing for his family, that he has little time or energy or love to spend on his children. Confronted by one of them, he usually says, 'Do what your mother wants.' Then he turns back to the evening newspaper or the TV set." Greene also reasoned, "The reason I get so much mail from women and children is that I play the kind of father they always really wanted, a father who is firm and strong and yet is not ashamed or afraid to love. I think that's the crying need in today's world — men who care, men who love, men who place duty before pleasure, men who accept responsibility with pride."

Moreover, it turned out that Greene already had a decent man in mind when he spoke to David Dortort, the show's creator, about Ben Cartwright. He said, "I think that I described to him the sort of father I subconsciously wanted to develop into. And I know for a fact that I patterned my portrayal after my own father. My father wasn't a very big man, but he gave the impression of bigness, and that's what I've tried to do, combine authority with kindness."

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2 Comments

rcboehm 21 days ago
I can't figure out HOW to Vote for Bonanza!! I still enjoy it!!
Runeshaper 27 days ago
My dad is AWESOME and I'm very proud to be his son. Regardless, and especially for those less fortunate with their fathers, Ben Cartwright was a good role model.
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