Legendary actor/comedian Orson Bean, the father-in-law of Andrew Breitbart, was struck by a car and killed Friday night in Los Angeles. He was 91. Bean and his wife, actress Alley Mills, were walking to the Pacific Resident Theatre in Venice when the accident occurred.
Bean was a regular on the 1950’s game show “To Tell The Truth,” appeared on The Tonight Show more than 200 times, and had recurring roles in “Murder, She Wrote,” “Desperate Housewives,” and played Loren Bray for five years on “Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman.” He also appeared in numerous films, most notably Being John Malkovich. He was a working actor up until about a week before his death; he and Mills co-starred in the play “Bad Habits” at the Ruskin Theater in Santa Monica. He also appeared in 2018’s Equalizer 2.
Bean and Mills, who is best known for her role as Mrs. Arnold in “The Wonder Years,” had been married for 27 years. In 2018 the two wrote and starred in an autobiographical stage show “Alright Then,” showcasing their love story.
Final 4 shows of Alright Then Extension thru April 15! Critics and audience agree ALRIGHT THEN is not to be missed! Orson Bean and Alley Mills light up the stage with their auto-biographical show, dir by @1hundredflames https://t.co/p2Yp2uJ7yB #LAthtr pic.twitter.com/dIpjKmp7HF
— Pacific Resident Theatre (@PacificResThtr) April 9, 2018
From the LA Times review:
He’s 89, with snowy hair; she’s 22 years younger and radiantly blond. Bean acknowledges that when they’re out together, he’ll occasionally notice a passerby studying them, wondering, “How the hell did he get her?” From the happiness they radiate, however, we can see how ridiculous such preconceptions are.
A quarter-century into their marriage, Bean and Mills are eager to show us how happy and thankful they are. Watch and learn.
While Bean’s work entertained generations of Americans, his impact on our country’s political landscape is perhaps his greatest legacy. It’s not a stretch to claim that Orson Bean is, in a large way, responsible for the rise of conservative media since he was the man who sparked Andrew Breitbart’s conversion to conservatism. Andrew’s best friend was Max Bean, Orson’s son. Max introduced him to his sister, Susie, and the rest was history. Andrew writes in his book Righteous Indignation:
One day I asked [my father-in-law Orson Bean] why he had Rush Limbaugh’s book The Way Things Ought to Be on his shelf. I asked him, “Why would you have a book by this guy?”
And Orson said, “Have you ever listened to him?”
I said yes, of course, even though I never had. I was convinced to the core of my being that Rush Limbaugh was a Nazi, anti-black, anti-Jewish, and anti–all things decent. Without berating me for disagreeing with him, Orson simply suggested that I listen to him again.
While I was listening to Jim Rome and Howard Stern, the intensity of the 1992 election cycle warranted that I switch the frequency over to hearing about the horse race.
This is where my rendezvous with destiny begins.
In the film Hating Breitbart, Andrew talks about the influence Bean had on his work.
“When I started dating my wife in 1992, I kind of got a two-fer package with Orson Bean….He’s the ultimate raconteur, and he’s a man of conscience.
“Pretty much everything that I do or have done has somehow been polished and/or improved by having the tutelage of Orson but also having the psychological nurturing, you know, of Orson over the last 20 years.”
Later in the clip, Bean describes how he introduced Andrew to conservatism via Rush Limbaugh – throwing in a gratuitous (but funny and true) slam against leftist colleges.
“He came into the house fawning all over me because I was his intended’s father, and he picked up a book and said, ‘You’ve got a book by Rush Limbaugh?’ I said, ‘Take it home and read it.’
“He called me up a few days later and said, ‘Wow, that’s really interesting.’ He was a — he had been to college, you see, so he was a big lefty.”
As Andrew Breitbart’s career skyrocketed, Bean was there with him. Bean spoke at Tea Party rallies in the early days of the movement and appeared on talk radio and TV shows such as the sorely-missed Red Eye. On one episode, Gutfeld’s slightly racy introduction just sets up the conversation to come:
My next guest is the showbiz legend who did everything from “The Tonight Show” to the mom on “The Wonder Years.” And he’s been in more movies and TV shows than —
Gutfeld then laughs, unable to continue.
I’m sorry. I’m so sorry. I should have run that by you first. I wrote it and then I was like… I emailed your son-in-law and he said it was fine.
Some might view the inclusion of that intro in a memorial piece as a tad inappropriate. Were it not such a legendary comedian being remembered, that might be true. Stephen Kruiser, a close friend of Breitbart’s who had met Bean numerous times, shared a story at our sister site PJ Media about Bean’s remarks at Breitbart’s funeral:
Bean brought the house down at Andrew’s funeral with a joke far-too salacious for me to repeat here. I mention it just because I remembered how in awe I then was watching him. There were hundreds of people at the funeral and, because it was Andrew who was being memorialized, most of the eulogists had funny stories to share.
Orson Bean began his comments by mentioning that he had already sought and gotten approval from the rabbi to tell the joke. It was a joke that Bean said Andrew used to say was “existential” because the punchline was a bit non-linear. Whenever Breitbart brought his friends around to Bean’s house, he would cajole him until he told the joke.
The setup was dirty and the punchline was filthy. While it may seem inappropriate to phrase it like this in the context of a funeral, it’s the way my people talk: in comedic terms, the joke killed.
Bean was blacklisted from Hollywood in the 1950s simply for being interested in a girl who happened to be a communist. Later in his life, his outspoken conservatism kept him from a seat at the Cool Kids’ Table once again. As Larry Solov wrote at Breitbart, Bean was an example of having the courage to “live your truth,” as the New-Agers term it.
Orson was one of the few who was blacklisted in Hollywood twice – once by conservatives and once by liberals – although he insists he was never a communist, he was just trying to screw a young woman who was one!
Rest in peace, Mr. Bean. Please tell Andrew we all miss him desperately.