Actor Orson Bean was tragically killed in a traffic accident at the age of 91. He was crossing the street in front of a theater where his wife, actress Alley Mills (Norma Arnold in The Wonder Years) was performing.
The police are calling it an accident. Mr. Bean was jaywalking and was struck by two cars. Both drivers remained on the scene. He was was born Dallas Frederick Burrows on July 22, 1928 in Burlington, Vermont. He died February 7, 2020 in Venice Beach, California.
Orson Bean had over one hundred TV and movie credits, as well as nightclub and theater appearances. He began his career as a magician and a comedian. Nightclub successes led to the theater. He made his Broadway debut in 1954. Two years earlier he had appeared on television for the first time: in Goodyear Playhouse in 1952.
It wasn’t until the mid-fifties he began appearing on television on a regular basis. Entertainment historian Trav S. D. asked “Anyway, who was Orson Bean? That was a question we asked even back when we theoretically knew who he was. In the ’70s we knew him as a TV personality, a panelist on such games shows as To Tell the Truth and Match Game, and a guest on The Tonight Show, and so forth. He was pleasant and funny, but who was he? What did he do? Why was he booked?”
He was the voice of Bilbo Baggins in the Rankin-Bass version of The Hobbit in 1977, and the voice of Frodo in The Return of the King (1980). He was also the voice of Hank aka “Sir Boss” in the animated version of A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court (1970). He will be remembered as shopkeeper Loren Bray in Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman, which starred English actress Jane Seymour (Serina in Battlestar Galactica). He played James Bevis in the Twilight Zone episode, “Mr. Bevis.”
His movie roles included Jeremy Sticher in Just My Imagination, Dr. Lester in Being John Malkovich, and Lydia’s Editor in InnerSpace. His final role was as Robert in Froth and Bubble, which is currently in post-production.
He was blacklisted in the early 1950s, being somewhat outspoken about his political views. His father was a founding member of the American Civil Liberties Union. He later claimed it was because he “had a cute Communist girlfriend.” He stopped working in television for roughly a year and instead concentrated on his Broadway career.
He was married three times and had four children. He was married to actress Rain Winslow, from 1956 to 1962, the mother of his daughter Michele. He was married to actress Carolyn Maxwell (Elizabeth in Black Mirror) from 1965 to 1981, the mother of his sons Max and Ezekiel and his daughter Susannah, and married to actress Alley Mills (Marjorie Quinn in Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman) from 1993 to 2020. He was nominated for a Tony Award in 1961 for Subways Are For Sleeping. He was also an author, and wrote four books.
Susan Macdonald is the author of the children’s book “R is for Renaissance Faire”, as well as short stories in “Alternative Truths”, “Swords and Sorceress #30”, “Supernatural Colorado”, “Barbarian Crowns”, “Cat Tails””Under Western Stars”, and “Knee-High Drummond and the Durango Kid”. Her articles have appeared on SCIFI.radio’s web site, in The Inquisitr, and in The Millington Star. She enjoys Renaissance Faires (see book above), science fiction conventions, Highland Games, and Native American pow-wows.