Veteran actor and comedian Orson Bean has died after he was reportedly struck by two vehicles in Venice, California. According to LAPD Capt. Brian Wendling, a pedestrian attempting to cross the street had been “clipped” by a passing car, knocking him down on the road. Although witnesses tried to warn the driver of another oncoming vehicle to slow down, the second car struck Bean, afflicting him with fatal injuries. Officers did not identify the pedestrian by name, but a friend of Bean’s, who was present when the accident happened, confirmed that Bean was the victim of the accident. Bean’s wife was also reported by witnesses to be at the scene.
A Burlington, Vermont native, Bean was born as Dallas Frederick Burrows on July 22, 1928. After serving in the U.S. Army as a young man, Bean sought to entertain and began working as a stage magician and stand-up comedian. During this time, he began introducing himself on stage with unusual, made-up names, one night joking that his name was “Orson Bean.” Because the memorable name drew lots of laughter from the crowd, it stuck with the comedian, and he would then refer to himself as Orson Bean for the rest of his career.
By the mid ’50s, Bean was working as an actor and performer in television and movies, launching a career with dozens upon dozens of appearances on the big and small screens. One of his most memorable early roles includes playing the title character in the episode “Mr. Bevis” of the classic sci-fi anthology series The Twilight Zone. He also provided the voice of Bilbo Baggins in the animated version of The Hobbit from 1977, along with its 1980 sequel The Return of the King. Certainly, one of his most famous television roles came in the ’90s when he starred as Loren Bray on Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman.
Another one of Bean’s most popular roles came in 1999 when he appeared in the Spike Jonze movie Being John Malkovich as Dr. Lester. For his performance, Bean was nominated with his fellow cast members for Outstanding Cast in a Motion Picture at the 2000 Screen Actors Guild Awards. In more recent years, Bean’s work included another recurring role in the TV series Desperate Housewives as Roy Bender. Up until the end, Bean continued to work as an actor, most recently appearing in the newest season of the Netflix series Grace and Frankie.
Bean entertained on television frequently as himself as well. He appeared on The Tonight Show a whopping 128 times and was a particular favorite comedian of former host Johnny Carson. Bean would also appear on a variety of game shows from the ’60s through the ’80s, most notably on the popular game show To Tell the Truth where he served as a long-time panelist. He was also often seen on talk shows like The Ed Sullivan Show and The Mike Douglas Show.
Bean’s survivors include his wife, actress Alley Mills, with whom he’d been married to for 27 years. He also had four children – Michele, Max, Susannah, and Ezekiel – from his previous marriages to Jacqueline de Sibour and Carolyn Maxwell. We offer our condolences to Bean’s family at this difficult time. A legend of the screen and the stage, Bean was a bona fide entertainer in every sense and he is very loved and missed. RIP. This news comes to us from ABC.