Lorne Greene had to win arguments on the ''Bonanza'' set to make sure that Ben Cartwright lost sometimes

Greene didn't just play Ben Cartwright; he was Ben Cartwright.

If there's anything true about those Cartwright boys, it's that they can scrap with the best of them on Bonanza. Now, the patriarch of the family, Ben Cartwright, wasn't particularly known for starting too many fights, but most of the time, he sure was known for finishing them properly.

For many leading Western men, a rough and tough exterior is almost an expectation. The West is rugged and gritty, and for many writers creating a television series, if a protagonist is going to survive, he'll need to be just as hardy. Moreover, a Western protagonist is a hero, someone for viewers to idolize and cheer for. Sure, it might be a bit contrived, but many viewers are more than willing to suspend their disbelief in the name of entertainment.

However, Lorne Greene, best known for playing Ben Cartwright, wasn't especially interested in being the tough guy. Rather, he was more interested in breathing some reality into Bonanza. According to an interview with the Detroit Free Press, Greene would sometimes take issue with certain scripts in which Ben Cartwright won every fight.

Greene said, "Sometimes I would go to David [Dortort] and I would say, 'Listen, I can't always come out on top. Ben Cartwright is human. He's I, and we've got to make him wrong a couple of times. There must be some episodes in which life defeats him, if only temporarily. I don't want to be a Perry Mason who wins every case."

Greene also recalled saying to Dortort, the series creator, "We've got to humanize the guy, to make him warm, to make him authoritative without being domineering. We've got to make him a loving father who commands respect through the force of his own personality, a good man, a strong man, a decent man."

It's a disposition that Greene knows well. The actor continued, "Over the years, I injected my personality, whatever it is, into Ben Cartwright. Always with the idea of making him a man who combined authority with kindness."

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Runeshaper 4 months ago
I definitely like the idea of a more realistic Ben. You can't win them all!
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