Orson Bean Biography

(Actor, Comedian, and Host of Game Shows and Talk Shows)

Birthday: July 22, 1928 (Cancer)

Born In: Burlington, Vermont, United States

Orson Bean was an American actor, writer, and producer, best known for his appearances as a character actor in many American films and series. He was born into an upper-middle-class family. He left home when he was 16 years old. He initially aspired to become a magician. After serving in the ‘United States Army’ in Japan for a year, he moved back to the U.S.A. and began his stage career, first as a magician and then as a stand-up comedian. He worked at the New York night club named ‘Blue Angel’ and began his career as a ‘Broadway’ actor and producer. His ‘Off-Off- Broadway’ project titled ‘Home Movies’ received an ‘Obie Award.’ He also kick-started his TV and film career in the early 1950s and came to be known as a character actor. Some of the films he was part of were ‘Anatomy of a Murder,’ ‘Twinky,’ ‘Instant Karma,’ and ‘Being John Malkovich.’ After playing supporting roles in series such as ‘Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman’ and ‘Normal, Ohio,’ he was seen mostly in guest roles in series such as ‘Two and a Half Men’ and ‘How I Met Your Mother.’

Quick Facts

Also Known As: Dallas Frederick Burrows

Died At Age: 91


Spouse/Ex-: Alley Mills (m. 1993), Carolyn Maxwell (m. 1965 - div. 1981), Jacqueline de Sibour (m. 1956 - div. 1962)

father: George Frederick Burrows, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Orson_Bean/

mother: Marian Ainsworth

children: Ezekiel Bean, Max Bean, Michele Bean, Susannah Bean

Born Country: United States

Actors Comedians

Height: 6'0" (183 cm), 6'0" Males

Died on: February 7, 2020

place of death: Los Angeles, California, United States

U.S. State: Vermont

Childhood & Early Life

Orson Bean was born Dallas Frederick Burrows, on July 22, 1928, in Burlington, Vermont, U.S., into the upper-middle-class family of George Burrows and Marian Ainsworth. His father worked in the Vermont police and later served as the chief of the campus police at ‘Harvard University.’ Years before Orson’s birth, his father had also served as a founding member of the ‘American Civil Liberties Union’ (ACLU).

Orson Bean was an extroverted kid and experimented with various things. He was initially fascinated with magic. He learned many tricks and impressed his neighborhood children. He later said that his family was associated with a lot of social causes and that he did not connect with them or find any interest in such work.

His mother committed suicide when he was 16 years old. Following this, he quit school. By then, he had developed a sense of humor and aspired to become a stand-up comedian. Following his graduation from the ‘Rindge Technical School,’ he joined the ‘U.S. Army.’ In the aftermath of World War II in 1946, he was stationed in Japan for a year.

Following the completion of his military service, he moved back to the U.S. Back then, he struggled to be known as a professional magician in Boston and Philadelphia. By the early 1950s, he had left on-stage magic behind and was trying to build a career in acting and writing. This led him to seek a career in stand-up comedy.

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In 1950, Orson Bean earned a regular gig as a stage comedian for the famous New York nightclub named ‘Blue Angel.’ He used a lot of monikers, but "Orson Bean," suggested by a musician friend, while he was performing in a restaurant in Boston, stuck with him. The name turned out to be lucky for him, as he did many stand-up acts for ‘Blue Angel’ between 1950 and 1960, using it.

In 1952, he got a career breakthrough when he made a guest appearance in the radio series titled ‘The Chamber Music Society of Lower Basin Street.’ This gig also brought him the attention of the entire nation, and his talent was appreciated widely.

His stand-up comedy acts on stage opened many other doors, as far as his career was concerned. He was hired to play a pivotal role in the ‘Broadway’ musical titled ‘Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter?’ in the mid-1950s. The ‘Broadway’ play was exceptionally successful, opening further avenues for him. He later appeared in the ‘Broadway’ play titled ‘Subways are for Sleeping,’ which earned him a ‘Tony Award’ nomination.

His success in ‘Broadway’ plays continued as he turned producer with the show titled ‘Home Movies,’ which won him an ‘Obie Award.’ He also served as a chief creator of the ‘Pacific Resident Theatre.’

Orson Bean had already made his TV and film debut in the 1950s. In 1952, he appeared as a performer in the ‘Goodyear Television Playhouse’ and followed it up with ‘Broadway Television Theatre.’ He, however, did not play significant parts in these shows and mostly appeared as one of the many performers in them.

In 1955, he made his big-screen debut, playing the supporting role of ‘Toby Marshall’ in the comedy film ‘How to be Very, Very Popular.’ Following this, he got a breakthrough with the film titled ‘Anatomy of a Murder’ in 1959. The film featured him in the supporting role of ‘Dr. Matthew Smith.’ It went on to become a big critical and commercial hit and later turned into a cult classic.

In the late 1950s, Orson Bean appeared in guest roles in TV series such as ‘The Phil Silvers Show’ and ‘The Millionaire.’ He then played a small role in the TV film ‘Miracle on 34th Street.’

In 1960, he appeared in the pilot episode of the series ‘The Twilight Zone,’ titled ‘Mr. Bevis.’ However, the pilot remained unsold.

He continued to appear on TV after a few hiccups, and in the 1960s, he appeared in many more guest roles, in series such as ‘Naked City’ and ‘Vacation Playhouse’ and the TV film ‘The Star-Wagon.’

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However, during the 1950s and the 1960s, his career could have taken a turn for bigger things had he not been blacklisted by Hollywood. He had been attending communist meetings and had also been dating a communist girl publicly. Hence, many big Hollywood studios and producers refrained from working with him.

However, Orson Bean remained unaffected by this mistreatment and continued to work. While he mostly remained away from films in the 1960s, he resumed his film career in the 1970s, making a comeback with the 1970 film titled ‘Twinky.’ He somehow focused more on his career as a TV actor. After appearing in small roles in series such as ‘Love, American Style’ and ‘Ellery Queen,’ he appeared in a supporting role in the series titled ‘Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman.’

In the mid-1980s, he became more serious about his TV career and appeared in supporting roles in series such as ‘The Facts of Life’ and ‘Murder, She Wrote.’

He made his longest TV appearance in the series titled ‘Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman’ (1993). He was featured as ‘Loren Bray’ in 146 episodes of the series and received rave reviews. He reprised his role in the series titled ‘California.’

He also played significant roles in films such as ‘Being John Malkovich,’ ‘Burning Down the House,’ and ‘Instant Karma.’

In the more recent years, Orson Bean was seen playing guest roles in series such as ‘Two and a Half Men,’ ‘How I Met Your Mother,’ ‘Grace and Frankie,’ and ‘Teachers.’ He also played the supporting role of ‘Roy Bender’ in the series ‘Desperate Housewives.’

He was also one of the favorite guests of host Johnny Carson and appeared on ‘The Tonight Show’ more than 200 times.

Family, Personal Life & Death

Orson Bean had married thrice in his lifetime. He married actor Jacqueline de Sibour in 1956. The couple had one child before they divorced in 1962.

He married actor Carolyn Maxwell in 1965. With his second wife, he had three children, before they divorced in 1981. He then married actor Alley Mills in 1993, and the couple remained married until his death in 2020.

While Orson Bean was a leftist in his younger years, as he aged, he became more of a conservative.

He had also been part of the hippie culture and admitted that he had consumed drugs and had participated in risky sexual activity.

He passed away after a fatal road accident that occurred on February 7, 2020, while he was walking near his house, in Venice Boulevard, Los Angeles. He was 91 years old at the time of his death.

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