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Dale Robertson

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Dale Robertson
Robertson as Jim Hardie, 1958
Dayle Lymoine Robertson

(1923-07-14)July 14, 1923
DiedFebruary 27, 2013(2013-02-27) (aged 89)
Years active1948–1994
Spouse(s)Frederica Jacqueline Wilson (1951–1956; divorced); 1 daughter
Mary Murphy (1956–1956; annulled)
Lula Mae Robertson (m. 1959–1977); two daughters [citation needed]
Susan Robbins Robertson (married 1980–2013; his death)[1]

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 television series Tales of Wells Fargo and railroad owner Ben Calhoun in Iron Horse. He often was presented as a deceptively thoughtful but modest Western hero. From 1968 to 1970, Robertson was the fourth and final host of the anthology series Death Valley Days. Described by Time magazine in 1959 as "probably the best horseman on television",[2] for most of his career, Robertson played in Western films and television shows—well over 60 titles in all.

Early life


Born in 1923 to Melvin and Vervel Robertson in Harrah, Oklahoma, Robertson fought as a professional boxer while enrolled in the Oklahoma Military Academy in Claremore.[3]

During this time Columbia Pictures offered to test Robertson for the lead in their film version of Golden Boy, but Robertson turned down the trip to Hollywood for a screen test. He did not want to leave the ponies he was training, nor his home,[4] and the role went to William Holden.

World War II


During World War II, he was commissioned through Officer Candidate School, and served in the U.S. Army's 322nd Combat Engineer Battalion of the 97th Infantry Division in Europe. He was wounded twice and was awarded the Bronze and Silver Star medals.[5]



Early roles


Robertson began his acting career by chance when he was in the army. When he was stationed at San Luis Obispo, California, Robertson's mother asked him to have a portrait taken for her because she did not have one; so he and several other soldiers went to Hollywood to find a photographer. A large copy of his photo was displayed in his mother's living room window.[3] 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.[3]

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. Robertson's first role for Fox was a support part in a Western, Two Flags West (1951). He had a support part in the musical Call Me Mister (1951). He soon advanced to leading roles in films such as Take Care of My Little Girl (1951), where he played Jeanne Crain's love interest, and Golden Girl (1951), where he supported Mitzi Gaynor.



Fox gave Robertson top billing in Return of the Texan (1952). He appeared opposite Anne Baxter in The Outcasts of Poker Flat (1952), and starred in the historical adventure Lydia Bailey (1952).[6]

Robertson was never very cooperative with the press, even shunning the powerful columnist Louella Parsons.[7] 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."[6]

He was one of several Fox names in O. Henry's Full House (1952) and was Betty Grable's love interest in The Farmer Takes a Wife (1953).[8]

RKO borrowed him for Devil's Canyon (1953) with Virginia Mayo and Son of Sinbad, filmed in 1953 but not released for two more years.

He returned to Fox for City of Bad Men (1953) with Crain; The Silver Whip (1954) with Rory Calhoun and Robert Wagner; and The Gambler from Natchez (1954) with Debra Paget.



Robertson went over to United Artists to star in Sitting Bull (1954), and Top of the World (1955), an adventure film.

Robertson did A Day of Fury (1956) for Universal and Dakota Incident (1956) for Republic, then travelled to Britain for High Terrace (1956).


Dale Robertson 1959

Tales of Wells Fargo, his best-remembered series, aired on NBC from 1957 to 1962. Weekly B & W episodes were 30 minutes in length from 1957-1961. The program expanded to an hour and switched to color for its final season in 1961-1962. The show originally was produced by Nat Holt whom Robertson felt he owed his career to for giving him his first leading roles.[9] Robertson used his own horse, Jubilee, throughout the run of the series.[10][11]

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. He was unique among his television contemporaries, stating that he hated the gun he was forced to carry, but saw it as a necessary evil, a "tool of the trade", and kept practicing.

In its cover story on television Westerns, published March 30, 1959, Time 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.[2]

In 1960, Robertson guest-starred as himself in NBC's The Ford Show, starring Tennessee Ernie Ford.[12] In 1962, he similarly appeared and sang a perfect rendition of "High Noon" on the short-lived Western comedy and variety series The Roy Rogers and Dale Evans Show.[13]

1960s work


In 1963, after Tales of Wells Fargo ended its five-year run, he played the lead role in the first of A. C. Lyles' Law of the Lawless. The film was initially set to star Rory Calhoun, but Calhoun came down with pneumonia the night before the production was set to start filming. Dale Robertson, star of the television series, Tales of Wells Fargo, stepped in at six hours' notice.[14] Lyles had acquired the friendship and respect of a galaxy of experienced actors who offered their services to his production.

Robertson filmed a television pilot; about Diamond Jim Brady that was not picked up as a series.

Robertson created United Screen Arts in 1965[15] which released two of his films, The Man from Button Willow (1965, animated) that he did the voice for and The One Eyed Soldiers (1966) which he starred in.

In the 1966–67 season, Robertson starred in Scalplock another television pilot released as a movie that became Iron Horse, in which his character wins an incomplete railroad line in a poker game and then decides to manage the company.[3]

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 Reagan. The series would come to its end, after 19 years on the air, with Robertson's 26 episodes as host. In rebroadcasts, Death Valley Days (often known as Trails West at the time), featured Ray Milland in the role of revised host.

Robertson guest-starred on the November 17, 1969, episode of The Dean Martin Show.

Later career


In 1970 he had the lead playing a US Army Major in the Japanese film Aru heishi no kake.

Robertson guest-starred as himself in the episode "Little Orphan Airplane" of The Six Million Dollar Man in 1974.

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 Dynasty, playing Walter Lankershim, a character who disappeared after the first season.

In 1983, Robertson made Big John, another television pilot, where he played a Georgia sheriff who becomes a New York Police Department detective.[16] In 1987, he starred as the title character on J.J. Starbuck. Robertson also played Frank Crutcher in five episodes of the TV series Dallas during the 1982–83 season.

In December 1993 and January 1994, Robertson appeared in two episodes of Harts of the West in the role of Zeke Terrell.[17] During an appearance on The Tonight Show, Robertson said he was of Cherokee ancestry. He joked, "I am the tribe's West Coast distributor."

Robertson played a central part in two episodes of Murder, She Wrote with Angela Lansbury but 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.[18]

In the last few years before his death, Robertson hosted a radio program called Little Known Facts, which was broadcast on 400 radio stations.



In his later years, Robertson and his wife, Susan Robbins, who married in 1980, lived on his ranch in Yukon, Oklahoma, where it was reported he owned 235 horses at one time, with five mares foaling grand champions. Due to his declining health, he relocated to the San Diego area in what would be his final months, passing away at Scripps Memorial Hospital in La Jolla, California, on February 27, 2013, from lung cancer and pneumonia.[19][20]

TV and filmography


Radio appearances

Year Program Episode/source
1952 Lux Radio Theatre Take Care of My Little Girl[22]


  1. ^ "Dale Robertson to Wed Victorian". The Victoria Advocate. November 11, 1959. Retrieved July 6, 2017.
  2. ^ a b "The Six-Gun Galahad". Time. March 30, 1959. Archived from the original on February 14, 2008.
  3. ^ a b c d Paregien Sr., Stan, Dale Robertson profile at www.fortunecity.com Archived October 13, 2008, at the Wayback Machine (accessed May 26, 2010)
  4. ^ http://www.oklahomaheritage.com/Portals/0/PDF's/HOF%20bios/Robertson,%20Dale%20L..pdf [bare URL PDF]
  5. ^ Van Harl, Major. "Dale Robertson: Actor & Wounded Combat Veteran". chuckhawks.com. Retrieved July 6, 2017.
  6. ^ a b "Dale Robertson obituary". The Guardian. February 28, 2013. Retrieved July 6, 2017.
  7. ^ Marshall, Peter Backstage with the Original Hollywood Square Thomas Nelson Inc, July 17, 2002
  8. ^ Thomas M Pryor (March 31, 1952). "Guild Says Hughes Was Seeking Deal". The New York Times. ProQuest 112514411.
  9. ^ Magers, Boyd. "Tales of Wells Fargo". westernclippings.com. Retrieved July 6, 2017.
  10. ^ Mullins, Jesse, Jr. (August 2002). Good Guys Finish First. Active Interest Media, Inc. pp. 54–57.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  11. ^ Robertson, Susan (April 12, 2019). Bucking Hollywood. Page Publishing Inc. ISBN 978-1-64424-801-0.
  12. ^ "Show # 140 March 3, 1960". ernieford.com. Retrieved October 28, 2022.
  13. ^ "Dale Robertson - "High Noon" (1962)". YouTube. July 18, 2016. Retrieved October 28, 2022.
  14. ^ p. 41: Dale Substitutes in The Pittsburgh Press - July 7, 1963.
  15. ^ p. 34: Billboard, August 21, 1965.
  16. ^ p. 30: Terrace, Vincent. Encyclopedia of Television Pilots, 1937–2012, McFarland, February 26, 2013.
  17. ^ Full cast and crew of Harts of the West at the IMDb
  18. ^ Young, Teresa Cox (September 10, 1999). "Cowboy life rides high at awards show; Symposium saddles up with tribute to heritage". lubbockonline.com. Retrieved July 6, 2017.
  19. ^ Martin, Douglas (February 27, 2013). "Dale Robertson, a Horse-Savvy Actor in Westerns, Is Dead at 89". The New York Times. Retrieved June 7, 2024.
  20. ^ "Actor Dale Robertson cries in California hospital". The Sacramento Bee. February 27, 2013. Archived from the original on March 2, 2013.
  21. ^ "Law of the Lawless". IMDb. May 13, 1964. Retrieved August 15, 2017.
  22. ^ Kirby, Walter (February 3, 1952). "Better Radio Programs for the Week". The Decatur Daily Review. The Decatur Daily Review. p. 40. Retrieved June 3, 2015 – via Newspapers.com. Open access icon