Mr. Robertson died in a hospital near his San Diego home on Tuesday, his wife said. He was struggling with lung cancer and pneumonia. Very respected in the industry Dale was a very skilled horse rider, similar to Glenn Ford, who never seemed like they were even on a horse, they were so good at it. He played polo ponies as a child, and only got better at it as the years passed. The star often said that the only reason he acted professionally was to save money to start his own horse farm in Oklahoma, which he eventually did.
The actor appeared in more than 60 films and 430 television episodes. In the movies he was a ruggedly handsome counterpart to leading ladies like Betty Grable, Mitzi Gaynor and Jeanne Crain. On television he had starring roles in popular westerns like “Tales of Wells Fargo,” which appeared from 1957 to 1961; “Iron Horse,” from 1966 to 1968; and “Death Valley Days,” which he hosted from 1968 to 1972.
In 1981 he played an oil wildcatter in early episodes of “Dynasty,” where Aaron Spelling revived his career. The next year he had a recurring role in another nighttime soap opera, “Dallas,” and later in the decade he starred in the short-lived “J. J. Starbuck.”
Mr. Robertson refused to call himself an actor. Rather, he said, he was a personality with a distinctive style, not unlike that of the actor he most admired, John Wayne. “An actor can change himself to fit a part, whereas a personality has to change the part to fit himself,” he said in an interview in 1988. He added, “The personality has to say it his own way.”
Dale was born Dayle Lymoine Robertson in Harrah, Okla., about 30 miles east of Oklahoma City, on July 14, 1923, to Melvin and Varval Robertson. He starred in sports in high school, boxed professionally as a young man and attended the Oklahoma Military Academy. In World War II, he served in the Army in Africa and Europe, was wounded twice and won bronze and silver stars.
Before being sent overseas, Mr. Robertson, then stationed in California, wanted to give a portrait of himself to his mother. He and some buddies went to Hollywood and picked a photographer at random. The photographer liked his picture of Mr. Robertson so much, he blew it up and put in his window. Talent agents started calling.
In “Iron Horse,” he played a man who runs a railroad that he had won in a poker game. In “Death Valley Days,” he followed Ronald Reagan and Robert Taylor as host. In “J. J. Starbuck,” Mr. Robertson was a bereaved billionaire who finds meaning in life by solving complex criminal cases and charging no fee. Mr. Robertson was married four times. In addition to his wife, the former Susan Robbins, whom he married in 1980, he is survived by his daughters, Rochelle Robertson and Rebel Lee, and a granddaughter.
Mr. Robertson never made any bones about his desire to get out of show business one day. He said movies had gotten too sexy for his tastes. He said he got tired of having to hold his stomach in. Mostly, he wanted a ranch. He bought one in Yukon, Okla., about 20 miles west of Oklahoma City.
Mr. Robertson never lost his disdain for Eastern actors, who he thought just played at being cowboys. He said you could spot them by the way they walked around a horse. As for himself, he heeded advice given to him by Will Rogers Jr., son of the Oklahoma humorist.
“Don’t ever take a dramatic lesson,” Mr. Rogers told Mr. Robertson. “They will try to put your voice in a dinner jacket, and people like their hominy and grits in everyday clothes.”
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Written By: Tommy Lightfoot Garrett
Photographs are Courtesy: Aaron Spelling Productions and Everett
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