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Cowboy actor Dale Robertson dead at 89

By Alan Duke, CNN
March 7, 2013 -- Updated 1633 GMT (0033 HKT)
Actor Dale Robertson is best remembered for his portrayal of Jim Hardie in the TV series Tales of Wells Fargo.
Actor Dale Robertson is best remembered for his portrayal of Jim Hardie in the TV series Tales of Wells Fargo.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Robertson's acting career began after a movie scout saw his photo
  • He was diagnosed with Stage 4 cancer last week while being treated for pneumonia
  • Cowboy roles were not a stretch for Robertson, who grew up on Oklahoma ranch
  • "He was in Hollywood when it was great," his wife says

Los Angeles (CNN) -- Dale Robertson, whose horse expertise, Oklahoma roots and handsome looks helped him win cowboy roles in 1950s and '60s, has died at age 89, his wife said Thursday.

Robertson was diagnosed with Stage 4 cancer just last week while being treated for pneumonia at Scripps Memorial Hospital in La Jolla, California, Susan Robertson said. He died Tuesday.

"He always said he lived two or three lifetimes," she said. "He was in Hollywood when it was great."

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Robertson's acting career began after a movie scout saw a photo of him in a Hollywood photo shop's display window. He had the portrait taken to send to his mother while he was stationed at an Army post in California, according to his official biography.

He acted in several uncredited movie roles in 1948 after he left the Army, leading to his role as the outlaw Jesse James in "Fighting Man of the Plains" in 1949.

Robertson starred in the TV Western series "Tales of Wells Fargo" from 1957 through 1962, riding a horse named Jubilee.

During the last hours of his life, as he lay in a hospital bed, his wife comforted Robertson by whispering thoughts of what awaited him in the afterlife.

"I told him that Jubilee and Chief (his favorite dog) would be waiting to greet him," his wife told CNN.

The role of a cowboy was not a stretch for Robertson, who grew up on an Oklahoma horse ranch. He and his wife raised horses in Oklahoma until moving to a San Diego suburb last summer, Susan Robertson said.

Robertson never sought formal acting training, based on advice that he should keep his own personality, according to his biography.

In the 1966 TV series "Iron Horse," Robertson played a character who won a railway in a high-stakes poker game.

He hosted, along with Ronald Reagan, episodes of "Death Valley Days" during the 1960s.

Film roles, also mostly Westerns, included "Devil's Canyon," "Sitting Bull," and "Dakota Incident."

In the 1980s, Robertson was a regular on the first season of "Dynasty," and acted in episodes of "The Love Boat," "Murder, She Wrote" and "Dallas."

His last role came in two episodes of the TV series "Harts of the West" in 1993.

The final 15 years of Robertson's life were spent in ill health, partly because of wounds suffered while serving in a tank crew in North Africa and Europe during World War II, his wife said.

His wife called for an ambulance to take him to the hospital because of pain last week, she said.

Doctors were treating him for pneumonia when tests revealed he had lung cancer that had spread to his brain, bones, liver and lymph nodes, she said.

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