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Orson Bean (born Dallas Frederick Burrows; July 22, 1928) is an American film, television, and stage actor, as well as a comedian, writer, and producer. He appeared frequently on televised game shows from the 1960s through the 1980s and was a long-time panelist on the television game show To Tell the Truth.

Orson Bean
Orson Bean 1965.JPG
Bean in 1965
Dallas Frederick Burrows

(1928-07-22) July 22, 1928 (age 91)
Burlington, Vermont, United States
OccupationActor, comedian, writer, producer
Years active1952–present
Alley Mills (m. 1993)
, and two others
William Schallert and Orson Bean in "Mr. Bevis", a 1960 episode of
The Twilight Zone

Early lifeEdit

Orson Bean was born in Burlington, Vermont, the son of Marian Ainsworth (née Pollard) and George Frederick Burrows. His father was a founding member of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), a fund-raiser for the Scottsboro Boys' defense, and a 20-year member of the campus police of Harvard College.[1] Among his other relatives is Calvin Coolidge, who was president of the United States at the time of his birth and was his third cousin twice removed.[2] Bean graduated from the Cambridge Rindge and Latin School; and between 1946 and the end of 1947, he served 18 months in the United States Army. While stationed in postwar Japan, he developed and refined a magic act during his off-duty hours.

Following his military service, Bean began working in small venues as a stage magician before transitioning in the early 1950s to stand-up comedy. He studied theatre at HB Studio[3] It was during that time when he stopped using his birth name professionally and adopted the stage name Orson Bean. In an interview on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson in 1974, Bean recounted the source of his new name.[4] He credited its origin to a piano player named Val at "Hurley's Log Cabin", a restaurant and nightclub in Boston, Massachusetts, where he had once performed. According to Bean, every evening before he went on stage at the nightclub, Val would suggest to him a silly name to use when introducing himself to the audience. One night, for example, the piano player suggested "Roger Duck", but the young comedian got very few laughs after using that name in his performance.[4] On another night, however, the musician suggested "Orson Bean", and the comedian received a great response from the audience, a reaction so favorable that it resulted in a job offer that same evening from a local theatrical booking agent. Given his success on that occasion, Bean decided to keep using the odd-sounding but memorable name.[4]

Acting careerEdit

In 1952, Bean made a guest appearance on NBC Radio's weekly hot-jazz series The Chamber Music Society of Lower Basin Street. His vocal mannerisms were ideal for the mock-serious tone of the show, and he became the show's master of ceremonies ("Dr. Orson Bean") for its final season. Bean was a frequent guest on The Tonight Show (with both Jack Paar and Johnny Carson), and appeared on game shows originating from New York. He was a regular panelist on To Tell the Truth in versions from the late 1950s through 1991. On July 5, 1965, his father appeared as a subject of the panel and he had to disqualify himself from participating.[5] He appeared on Super Password and Match Game, among other game shows. He hosted a pilot for a revamped version of Concentration in 1985, which was picked up later on in 1987 as Classic Concentration with Alex Trebek.[citation needed]

Although Bean was placed on the Hollywood blacklist for attending Communist Party meetings while dating a member, he continued to work through the 1950s and 60s.[2] He played the title character in the 1960 Twilight Zone episode "Mr. Bevis". In 1961, for the CBS anthology series The DuPont Show with June Allyson, he starred as John Monroe in "The Secret Life of James Thurber", based on the works of the American humorist James Thurber.

On Broadway he starred in the original cast of Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter? in 1955. Then, in 1961, he was featured in Subways Are for Sleeping, for which he received a Tony Award nomination as Best Featured Actor in a Musical, as well as performing in Never Too Late the following year. In 1964, he produced the Off-Off-Broadway musical Home Movies—which won an Obie Award—and the same year appeared in the Broadway production I Was Dancing.[6] He also voiced and sang the role of Charlie Brown on MGM's original 1966 concept album of the musical You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown[7] and starred in Illya Darling, the 1967 musical adaptation of the film Never on Sunday.

Bean was a regular in both Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman and its spin-off Fernwood 2Nite. He also portrayed the shrewd businessman and storekeeper Loren Bray on the television series Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman throughout its six-year run on CBS in the 1990s. He played John Goodman's homophobic father on the sitcom Normal, Ohio. He played the main characters Bilbo and Frodo Baggins in the 1977 and 1980 Rankin/Bass animated adaptations of J.R.R. Tolkien's The Hobbit, and The Return of the King. He also played Dr. Lester in Spike Jonze's 1999 film, Being John Malkovich.[citation needed]

Bean appeared as a patient in the final two episodes of 7th Heaven's seventh season in 2003. In 2005, Bean appeared in the sitcom Two and a Half Men in an episode titled "Does This Smell Funny to You?", playing a former playboy whose conquests included actresses Tuesday Weld and Anne Francis. He appeared in the 2007 How I Met Your Mother episode "Slapsgiving" as Robin Scherbatsky's 41-year-old boyfriend, Bob. In 2009 he was cast in the recurring role of Roy Bender, a steak salesman, who is Karen McCluskey's love interest on the ABC series Desperate Housewives. At the age of 87, Bean in 2016 appeared in "Playdates", an episode of the American TV sitcom Modern Family. He appeared in a 2017 episode of Teachers (TV Land, season 2, episode 11, "Dosey Don't"). He appeared as the elderly Holocaust survivor in the 2018 film The Equalizer 2.[8]

Personal lifeEdit

An admirer of Laurel and Hardy, Bean, in 1964, served as a founding member of The Sons of the Desert, the international organization devoted to sharing information about the lives of Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy and studying and enjoying their films.

In 1966 he helped found the 15th Street School in New York City. A primary school using the radical democratic free school Summerhill as a model.[9] Bean wrote an autobiographical account about his life-changing experience with the orgone therapy developed by Austrian-born psychoanalyst Wilhelm Reich. Published in 1971, the account is titled Me and the Orgone: The True Story of One Man's Sexual Awakening.[10]


He has been married three times. His first marriage was in 1956 to actress Jacqueline de Sibour, whose stage name was Rain Winslow and who was the daughter of the French nobleman and pilot Vicomte Jacques de Sibour and his wife, Violette B. Selfridge (daughter of American-born British department-store magnate Harry Gordon Selfridge).[11][12][13] Before their divorce in 1962, Bean and Jacqueline had one child, Michele.[14]

In 1965, he married actress and fashion designer Carolyn Maxwell with whom he had three children: Max, Susannah, and Ezekiel.[15] The couple divorced in 1981. Their daughter Susannah married conservative commentator Andrew Breitbart (died 2012) in 1997. Bean's third wife is actress Alley Mills, 23 years his junior. They married in 1993, and live in Los Angeles.[14]

Selected filmographyEdit

Year Film Role Notes
1952 Broadway Television Theatre Robert Bennett / Erwin Trowbridge 2 episodes
1952 Westinghouse Studio One Harvey B. Hines Episode: "The Square Peg"
1954 Robert Montgomery Presents Episode: "It Happened in Paris"
1954 Westinghouse Studio One Joey Episode: "Joey"
1955 The Best of Broadway Mortimer Brewster Episode: "Arsenic and Old Lace"
1955 The Elgin Hour Arthur Episode: "San Francisco Fracas"
1955 How to Be Very, Very Popular Toby Marshall
1956 Omnibus Episode: "The Best Year in the Whole History of the World"
1956 Westinghouse Studio One Charlie Digger Episode: "A Christmas Surprise"
1957 Kraft Television Theatre Episode: "A Travel from Brussels"
1957 Playhouse 90 Jack Chesney Episode: "Charley's Aunt"
1958 The Phil Silvers Show Episode: "Bilko's Insurance Company"
1958 The Millionaire Newman Johnson Episode: "The Newman Johnson Story"
1959 Anatomy of a Murder Dr. Matthew Smith
1959 Miracle on 34th Street Dr. William Sawyer
1960 The Twilight Zone James B.W. Bevis Episode: "Mr. Bevis"
1961 The DuPont Show with June Allyson John Monroe Episode: "The Secret Life of James Turber"
1962 Naked City Arnold Platt Episode: "To Walk Like a Lion"
1954–1963 The United States Steel Hour Dennis Kavanaugh / Eddie West / Lester 3 episodes
1964 Vacation Playhouse Episode: "The Bean Show"
1966 The Star-Wagon Stephen Minch
1970 A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court Hank / Sir Boss (voice)
1970 Twinky Hal
1970 Love, American Style Episode: "Love and the Co-ed Dorm/Love and the Optimist/Love and the Teacher"
1970 NET Playhouse Multiple Roles Episode: "Helen Hayes Remembers"
1975 Ellery Queen Warren Wright Episode: "The Adventure of the Chinese Dog"
1977 Forever Fernwood Reverend Brim
1977 The Hobbit Bilbo Baggins
1978 Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman Reverend Brim Unknown episodes 1977–1978
1978 The Love Boat Artie D' Angelo Episode: "Heads or Tails/Little People, The/Mona of the Movies"
1980 The Return of the King Frodo Baggins/Bilbo Baggins
1982 Forty Deuce Mr. Roper
1982 One Life to Live Harrison Logan 1 episode
1984 Garfield in the Rough Billy Rabbit
1984 The Fall Guy Jason Klemer Episode: October 31
1986–1987 The Facts of Life Oliver Thompson 3 episodes
1986–1989 Murder, She Wrote Ebeneezer McEnery 2 episodes
1987 Innerspace Lydia's Editor
1990 Instant Karma Dr. Berlin
1990 Tiny Toon Adventures Gepetto Episode: "Fairy Tales for the 90's"
1991 Chance of a Lifetime Fred
1992 Final Judgement Monsignor Corelli
1992 Just My Imagination Jeremy Stitcher
1993–1998 Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman Loren Bray 146 episodes
1997 California Loren Bray
1998 Diagnosis: Murder Lewis Sweeney Episode: "Obsession: Part 1"
1999 Thanks Burnaby Fitzhugh Episode: "Spring"
1999 Being John Malkovich Dr. Lester
1999 Unbowed Purdy
2000 Manhattan, AZ Lew Goldberg 2 episodes
2000 Ally McBeal Marty Episode: "In Search of Pygmies"
2000 The King of Queens Carl Tepper Episode: "Surprise Artie"
2000 Family Law Archbishop Phillips Episode: "Possession Is Nine Tenths of the Law"
2000 Will & Grace Professor Joseph Dudley Episode: "There But for the Grace of Grace"
2000 Normal, Ohio William 'Bill' Gamble, Sr. 7 episodes
2001 Burning Down the House Sy
2001 The Gristle Mr. Bowen
2002 Becker Mr. Bennet Episode: "Piece Talks"
2002 Frank McKlusky, C.I. Mr Gafty
2003 7th Heaven Patient / Mr. Hampton Impersonator 2 episodes
2004 Behind the Camera: The Unauthorized Story of 'Charlie's Angels' John Forsythe
2004 Soccer Dog: European Cup Mayor Milton Gallagher
2004 Cacophony Ferruccio
2004 Cold Case Harland Sealey Episode: "Red Glare"
2005 Two and a Half Men Norman Episode: "Does This Smell Funny to You?"
2006 Alien Autopsy Homeless Man
2006 Commander in Chief Bill Harrison Episode: "The Price You Pay"
2007 Mattie Fresno and the Holoflux Universe Raff Buddemeyer
2007 The Closer Donald Baxter Episode: "The Round File"
2007 The Minor Accomplishments of Jackie Woodman Chick Episode: "Good Times and Great Oldies"
2007 Women's Murder Club Harold Grant Episode: "Grannies, Guns and Love Mints"
2007 How I Met Your Mother Bob Episode: "Slapsgiving"
2009 Oranges Dennis
2009 Safe Harbor Judge
2009–2012 Desperate Housewives Roy Bender Recurring role, 23 episodes
2011 Hot in Cleveland Dan Episode: "Funeral Crashers"
2012 Love for Christmas aka A Golden Christmas Mr. Cole
2014 Mistresses Episode: "Rebuild"
2016 Modern Family Marty Episode: "Playdates"
2016 The Guest Book Edgar Episode: "Story Eight"
2016 The Bold and the Beautiful Howard 2 episodes
2016 Another Period Laverne Fusselforth V 2 episodes
2017 Teachers Jerry Episode: "Dosey Don't"
2018 The Equalizer 2 Sam Rubinstein
2018 Superstore Dr. Fogler Episode: "Delivery Day"


  • Me and the Orgone (1972) ISBN 0-9679670-1-5
  • Too Much Is Not Enough (1988) ISBN 0-8184-0465-5
  • 25 Ways to Cook a Mouse for the Gourmet Cat (1994) ISBN 1-55972-199-5
  • M@il for Mikey (2007)


  • At the Hungry i (1959 Fantasy UFAN 7009), comedy
  • You're A Good Man, Charlie Brown (as Charlie Brown, 1966), comedy[16]
  • I Ate the Baloney (1969 Columbia CS 9743), comedy


  1. ^ "George Burrows, 89, an A.C.L.U. Founder". The New York Times. April 15, 1989. Retrieved April 10, 2010.
  2. ^ a b "Orson Bean Talks New Play, Being Blacklisted in the 1950s (Q&A)".
  3. ^ HB Studio Alumni
  4. ^ a b c Interview with Orson Bean, "Johnny Carson 1974 05 10 Jack Palance", The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson, first telecast on NBC on May 10, 1974; copy of full episode of the late-night talk show posted by Elfreda Arredondo on YouTube, a subsidiary of Alphabet Inc., Mountain View, California. Retrieved September 30, 2017.
  5. ^ "To Tell the Truth – Orson's Dad".
  6. ^ "Orson Bean". Retrieved April 8, 2018. Italic or bold markup not allowed in: |website= (help)
  7. ^ You're A Good Man, Charlie Brown [Original concept Album] (1966) - Clark Gesner,
  8. ^ "Equalizer 2 Cast".
  9. ^ "15th Street School". Library of Congress, Washington, D.C. 20540 USA. Retrieved March 18, 2019.
  10. ^ Bean, Orson (1971). Me and the Orgone: The True Story of One Man's Sexual Awakening. American College of Orgonomy Press. ISBN 978-0967967011.
  11. ^ Grafic Magazine, The Chicago Sunday Tribune, January 25, 1953.
  12. ^ "Actress Wed to Orson Bean", The New York Times, August 21, 1956.
  13. ^ "Frederick T. Bedford Is Dead; Industrialist and Yachtsman, 85", The New York Times, May 9, 1963.
  14. ^ a b "Orson Bean". Retrieved April 8, 2018. Italic or bold markup not allowed in: |website= (help)
  15. ^ "Designer Will Create Style to Suit Wearer", The New York Times, April 22, 1964.
  16. ^ You're A Good Man, Charlie Brown [Original concept Album] (1966) - Clark Gesner ,

External linksEdit