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Dale Robertson Dies at 89; Actor Known for Roles in Westerns

By Michael Mullins   |   Thursday, 28 Feb 2013 02:35 PM

Actor Dale Robertson, known for horse-savvy techniques in his western roles, died from complications of lung cancer and pneumonia on Wednesday in San Diego. He was 89.

Over his extensive acting career, which included more than 60 films and 430 television episodes, Robertson often played a thoughtful, modest western hero starring in such television series as "Tales of Wells Fargo," "The Iron Horse," and "Death Valley Days," which aired between the late '50s and early '70s.

The Oklahoma native was a skilled rider at age 10, having become a trainer of polo ponies by his teens.

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The late actor had reportedly said his only reason for becoming a professional actor was to one day have enough money to purchase his own horse farm in Oklahoma, which he eventually did.

Refusing to define himself as an actor, Robertson said he had a personality with a distinctive style similar to that of the actor he most admired, John Wayne, reported the New York Times.

"An actor can change himself to fit a part, whereas a personality has to change the part to fit himself," Robertson said in a 1988 interview. He added, "The personality has to say it his own way."

On the big screen, the ruggedly handsome actor was usually cast with leading ladies like Betty Grable, Mitzi Gaynor, and Jeanne Crain.

In his later years, Robertson starred on such TV dramas as "Dynasty" and "Dallas," making appearances on "Murder She Wrote" by the decade's end among other sitcoms.

Before becoming an actor, Robertson served in the Army during World War II where he fought in Europe.

After the war, Robertson was stationed in California where he remained and eventually wound up taking bit roles early in his career, where he was fortunate enough to befriend famed actor Will Rogers Jr.

Robertson later recounted that Rogers gave the aspiring actor advice early on in his career, telling him, "'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.

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Robertson was married four times and is survived by his daughters, Rochelle Robertson and Rebel Lee, and a granddaughter.

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