Canadian actor Lorne Greene was born February 12, 1915 in Ottawa, Ontario. Today would have been his 104th birthday. Although he passed on in 1987, we remember him not only as Commander Adama in the TV series Battlestar Galactica and Galactica 1980, but as O’Brien in the 1953 adaptation of George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four.

As a radio announcer, he earned the nickname the Voice of Canada n the 1930s and ’40s. He invented a stopwatch that ran backwards, so radio announcers could tell how much time they had left. Although he was an officer in the Royal Canadian Air Force, he spent most of WWII as the principal newsreader for CBC National News, where his nickname of the Voice of Canada morphed into the Voice of Doom, because he had the sad duty of announcing the names of those lost in the war.

In the 1950s he moved from Canada to Hollywood. He played Saint Peter in The Siver Chalice in 1954. In 1959 he was cast in the role that made him world-famous, Ben Cartwright on Bonanza.

Not many modern geeks remember this, but he was also a recording artist. He did ten albums, mostly of country/western music, in which he spoke as much or more than he sang (as many actors did, usually prodded by their agents). One song, “Ringo,” was a hit single in 1964, on both pop and country charts.

Lorne Greene and his TV sons on Bonanza {image via NBC}
Dan Blocker as Hoss, Michael Landon as Joe, Greene as Ben, and Pernell Roberts as Adam.

Some critics said that Greene merely reprised the role of “Pa” Cartwright as Commander Adama in Battlestar Galactica and Battaleon Chief Joe Rorchek in Code Red .  In all three roles, he played a wise, loving father whose men included his own offspring.

Maren Jensen as Ensign Athena, Lorne Greene as Commander Adama, and Richard Hatch as Captain Apollo { image via Glen A. Larson Productions} Adama’s youngest son, Zac, was killed in the pilot.

Greene was married twice and had three children. His youngest daughter, Gillian Greene, married actor/director/producer Sam Raimi, creator of the Evil Dead series and director of Darkman and the 2002 Spider-Man.

As a radio station, it’s of particular interest to us that was he who founded the Academy of Radio Arts in Toronto. As a SF/F station, we remember fondly his guest appearances on The Hardy Boys/Nancy Drew Mysteries, as a police inspector in Transylvania whose reflection did not appear in mirrors.

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