Cowboy actor Dale Robertson dies at 89

Dale Robertson as Jim Hardie in Tales of Wells Fargo, from 1957.
Dale Robertson as Jim Hardie in Tales of Wells Fargo, from 1957.

Hollywood is mourning the passing of renowned western actor Dale Robertson, who died in San Diego on February 27 from lung cancer and pneumonia.

He died at Scripps Memorial Hospital in La Jolla within San Diego, California

The tall and ruggedly handsome Robertson began his acting career by chance when he was in the United States Army. In Europe during World War II he was  wounded twice and received Bronze and Silver Star medals.

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. He found himself receiving letters from film agents who wished to represent him. After the war, Robertson stayed in California.

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.

Robertson was a skilled horse rider, and often said the only reason he became an actor was to save up to start a horse farm in Oklahoma, which he later did, breeding polo ponies and racehorses.

During his acting career, he appeared in more than 60 films and 430 TV episodes.

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.

He developed, owned and starred in the “Wells Fargo” series, playing Jim Hardie, a troubleshooter for the stagecoach company. To make the character distinctive, he had the otherwise right-handed Hardie draw his gun and shoot left-handed.

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. The next year, he had a recurring role in another glitzy nighttime soap opera, Dallas. Later in the decade, he starred as the title character in the short-lived NBC crime drama J.J. Starbuck. 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.

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 Cowboy Hall of Fame in Oklahoma City.

In 1960, Robertson guest starred as himself in NBC’s The Ford Show, starring Tennessee Ernie Ford. In 1962, he similarly appeared on a short-lived western comedy and variety series, ABC’s The Roy Rogers and Dale Evans Show. 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.

Robertson created United Screen Arts in 1965 which released two of his films, The Man from Button Willow (1965, animated) and One Eyed Soldiers (1966).

Robertson was married four times and is survived by his wife, Susan Robbins, whom he married in 1980. He is also survived by his two daughters, Rochelle Robertson and Rebel Lee, and a granddaughter.


Dale Robertson (Dayle Lymoine Robertson), born 14 July 1923; died 27 February 2013


5 thoughts on “Cowboy actor Dale Robertson dies at 89

  • March 3, 2013 at 4:18 am

    Always one of my favorites…R.I.P. Dale

  • April 9, 2013 at 7:00 am

    What a huck of a man, sooo handsome!!!

  • April 7, 2017 at 4:56 am

    A True American Hero And A Tv Western Icon…. Rest In Peace My Friend ……

  • November 6, 2017 at 4:41 pm

    I can’t stop watching Wells Fargo–Dale combined toughness and a good heart in the show–and his way of talking was unique–and like Death Valley Days, portrayed real western characters in many episodes for us to research.

  • August 25, 2020 at 12:34 pm

    I loved watching Dale Robertson in movies and tv shows. I understand he was from Harrah, Oklahoma.


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