Dale Robertson

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Dale Robertson
Dale Robertson Tales of Wells Fargo 1957.JPG
Robertson as Jim Hardie, 1957
Born Dayle Lymoine Robertson
(1923-07-14)July 14, 1923
Harrah, Oklahoma County
Oklahoma, U.S.
Died February 27, 2013(2013-02-27) (aged 89)
La Jolla, San Diego
California, U.S.
Cause of death Cancer, pneumonia
Alma mater Oklahoma Military Academy
Occupation Actor
Years active 1948-1994
Spouse(s) Frederica Jacqueline Wilson (1951-1956) (divorced) (1 daughter)
Mary Murphy (1956-1957)
Lula Mae (m. 1959-1977, two daughters)[1]
Susan Robbins Robertson (married 1980-2013, his death)[2]
Children Rochelle Robertson (b. 1952)
Rebel Lee [3]
Parent(s) Melvin and Vervel Robertson
Relatives Jade Robertson-Fusco (born 1990) granddaughter

Dayle Lymoine Robertson (July 14, 1923 – February 27, 2013) was an American actor best known for his starring roles on television. He played the roving investigator Jim Hardie in the long-running NBC/ABC hit television series Tales of Wells Fargo, and Ben Calhoun, the owner of an incomplete railroad line in ABC's The Iron Horse. He was often presented as a deceptively thoughtful but modest western hero. From 1968 to 1970, Robertson was the fourth and final host of the syndicated Death Valley Days anthology series.

Early life[edit]

Born in 1923 to Melvin and Vervel Robertson in Harrah in Oklahoma County near Oklahoma City in central Oklahoma, Robertson fought as a professional boxer whilst enrolled in the Oklahoma Military Academy in Claremore.[4] During this time Columbia Pictures offered Robertson the lead in their film version of Golden Boy but Robertson turned down the trip to Hollywood for a screen test as he didn't want to leave the ponies he was training or his home.[5]

During World War II he was commissioned through Officer Candidate School, and served in the United States Army 322nd Combat Engineer Battalion of the 97th Infantry Division in Europe. He was wounded twice and was awarded the Bronze and Silver Star medals.[6]


Robertson began his acting career by chance when he was in the United States Army. Stationed at San Luis Obispo, California, Robertson decided to have a photograph taken for his mother; so he and several other soldiers went to Hollywood to find a photographer. A large copy of his photo was later displayed in the photographer's shop window.[4] He found himself receiving letters from film agents who wished to represent him. After the war, Robertson's war wounds prevented him from resuming his boxing career. He stayed in California to try his hand at acting. Hollywood actor Will Rogers, Jr., gave him this advice: "Don't ever take a dramatic lesson. They will try to put your voice in a dinner jacket, and people like their hominy and grits in everyday clothes." Robertson thereafter avoided formal acting lessons.[4]

Robertson made his film debut in an uncredited role as a policeman in The Boy with Green Hair (1948). Two other uncredited appearances led to featured roles in two Randolph Scott Westerns Fighting Man of the Plains (1949) where he played Jesse James, and The Cariboo Trail (1950). Popular acclaim to Robertson's brief roles led him to be signed to a seven-year contract to 20th Century Fox. He soon advanced to leading roles in films such as Take Care of My Little Girl (1951), Golden Girl (1951) and Lydia Bailey (1952).[7]

Robertson was never very co-operative with the press, even shunning the powerful columnist Louella Parsons.[8] As a result, he won the press' Sour Apple Award for three years running. But then, commented Robertson, "that dang Sinatra had to hit some photographer in the nose and stop me from getting my fourth."[7]

For most of his career, Robertson played in western films and television shows—well over sixty titles in all. His best-remembered series, Tales of Wells Fargo, aired on NBC from 1957 to 1961, when it moved to ABC and expanded to an hour-long program for its final season in 1961-1962. The show was originally produced by Nat Holt whom Robertson felt he owed his career to for giving him his first leading roles.[9] Robertson also did the narration for Tales of Wells Fargo through which he often presented his own commentary on matters of law, morality, and common sense. In its March 30, 1959, cover story on television westerns, Time magazine reported Robertson was 6 feet tall, weighed 180 pounds, and measured 42-34-34. He sometimes made use of his physique in "beefcake" scenes, such as one in 1952's Return of the Texan where he is seen bare-chested and sweaty, repairing a fence.[10]

In 1960, Robertson guest-starred as himself in NBC's The Ford Show, starring Tennessee Ernie Ford.[11] In 1962, he similarly appeared on a short-lived western comedy and variety series, ABC's The Roy Rogers and Dale Evans Show.[12] In 1963, after Tales of Wells Fargo ended its five-year run, he played the lead role in the first of A.C. Lyles' second feature westerns, Law of the Lawless.

Dale Robertson 1959

Robertson created United Screen Arts in 1965[13] which released two of his films, The Man from Button Willow (1965, animated) and The One Eyed Soldiers (1966). Robertson filmed a television pilot about Diamond Jim Brady that was not picked up as a series.

In the 1966-67 season, Robertson starred in Scalplock another television pilot released as a movie that became ABC's The Iron Horse, in which his character wins an incomplete railroad line in a poker game and then decides to manage the company.[4] In 1968, he succeeded Robert Taylor as the host of Death Valley Days, a role formerly held by Stanley Andrews and future U.S. President Ronald W. Reagan. In rebroadcasts, Death Valley Days is often known as Trails West, with Ray Milland in the role of revised host.

Robertson guest-starred on the Nov. 17, 1969 episode of The Dean Martin Show musical comedy variety series.

He portrayed legendary FBI agent Melvin Purvis in two made-for-television movies, Melvin Purvis: G-Man (1974) and The Kansas City Massacre (1975).

In 1981, Robertson was in the original starring cast of ABC's popular night-time soap opera, Dynasty, playing Walter Lankershim, a character who disappeared after the first season. In 1985, it was revealed in the story line that the character had died off screen.

In 1983, Robertson made another television pilot Big John where he played a Georgia Sheriff who becomes a New York Police Department detective.[14] In 1987, he starred as the title character on the NBC crime drama, J.J. Starbuck. Robertson also appeared in the TV series Dallas, during the 1982 season. His character was Frank Crutcher, who appeared in about a half dozen episodes. In December 1993 and January 1994, Robertson appeared in two episodes of the CBS comedy/western Harts of the West in the role of "Zeke Terrell," the brother of series co-star Lloyd Bridges.[15] During an appearance on The Tonight Show, Robertson said he was of Cherokee ancestry. He joked, "I am the tribe's West Coast distributor."

Though Robertson played a central part in two episodes of CBS's Murder, She Wrote series with Angela Lansbury, he was not credited in either appearance.

He received the Golden Boot Award in 1985, has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, and is also in the Hall of Great Western Performers and the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma City.

In 1999, Robertson won the award for film and television from the American Cowboy Culture Association in Lubbock, Texas.[16]


"Upon our first meeting Henry Hathaway walked up and warned me that he might scream and holler at his actors but that it was all for the good of the movie and that he truly meant nothing by it. I told him that I had a hard fast rule that any director that berated me in front of the cast would have his teeth knocked out. We became friends after that.
[17][18] -On his first day of working with director Henry Hathaway on O. Henry's Full House


In his later years, Robertson and his wife, the former Susan Robbins, whom he married in 1980, had lived on his ranch in Yukon, Oklahoma. He died at Scripps Memorial Hospital in La Jolla within San Diego, California, on February 27, 2013, from lung cancer and pneumonia. He was 89 and had a daughter and a granddaughter.[19][20]


Radio appearances[edit]

Year Program Episode/source
1952 Lux Radio Theatre Take Care of My Little Girl[21]


  1. ^ http://www.nndb.com/people/562/000110232/
  2. ^ https://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=861&dat=19591111&id=e8FHAAAAIBAJ&sjid=T4AMAAAAIBAJ&pg=4270,2123176&hl=en
  3. ^ https://www.nytimes.com/2013/02/28/arts/television/dale-robertson-actor-dies-at-89.html?_r=0
  4. ^ a b c d Paregien Sr., Stan, Dale Robertson profile at www.fortunecity.com (accessed May 26, 2010)
  5. ^ http://www.oklahomaheritage.com/Portals/0/PDF's/HOF%20bios/Robertson,%20Dale%20L..pdf
  6. ^ http://www.chuckhawks.com/combat_vet.htm
  7. ^ a b https://www.theguardian.com/film/2013/feb/28/dale-robertson
  8. ^ Marshall, Peter Backstage with the Original Hollywood Square Thomas Nelson Inc, 17 Jul 2002
  9. ^ http://www.westernclippings.com/remember/talesofwellsfargo_doyouremember.shtml
  10. ^ Time, March 30, 1959, cover story
  11. ^ "The Ford Show Guest Star Guide". ernieford.com. Retrieved November 23, 2010. 
  12. ^ The Roy Rogers and Dale Evans Show, Movies Unlimited (accessed May 26, 2010)
  13. ^ p.34 Billboard 21 Aug 1965
  14. ^ p.30 Terrace, Vincent Encyclopedia of Television Pilots, 1937-2012 McFarland, 26 Feb 2013
  15. ^ Full cast and crew of Harts of the West at the Internet Movie Database
  16. ^ "Teresa Cox Young, Cowboy life rides high at awards show: Symposium saddles up with tribute to heritage, September 10, 1999". Lubbock Avalanche-Journal. Retrieved September 5, 2013. 
  17. ^ http://www.thedigitalbits.com/columns/view-from-the-cheap-seats/dale-robertson-rip
  18. ^ p.82 Roberts, Jerry Mitchum: In His Own Words Limelight Editions, 2000
  19. ^ "Dale Robertson, a Horse-Savvy Actor in Westerns, Is Dead at 89". The New York Times. February 27, 2013. 
  20. ^ "Actor Dale Robertson dies in California hospital". The Sacramento Bee. February 27, 2013. Archived from the original on 2013-03-02. 
  21. ^ Kirby, Walter (February 3, 1952). "Better Radio Programs for the Week". The Decatur Daily Review. p. 40. Retrieved June 3, 2015 – via Newspapers.com.  open access publication – free to read

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