March 5, 2012

Small world

Lost in the stories about the untimely death last week of conservative activist Andrew Breitbart was the note that his father-in-law was none other than Orson Bean.

TV viewers of a certain age will have no problem remembering Orson Bean.  He was, for many years, a panelist on To Tell the Truth, and a frequent guest on many other shows, mostly from the Goodson-Todman stable.  You could see him often with Johnny Carson and other talk show hosts, guest-starred on the anthology shows that were so prevalent on TV in the 50s and 60s, and was a regular on shows as disparate as Mary Hartman, Dr. Quinn, and Desperate Housewives.  Some will even remember him as the voice of Bilbo Baggins, and later Frodo, on the Rankin-Bass animated versions of The Hobbit and The Return of the King.  

He was a Broadway star, appearing in the original Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter? and received a Tony nomination for Never Too Late.  He's the author of four books.  And as if that weren't enough, according to Wikipedia he also helped found the Laurel and Hardy fan club Sons of the Desert, and he's a first cousin twice removed of Calvin Coolidge.

He also holds the distinction of having been blacklisted in the entertainment industry not once or twice, but three times - first in the 50s by the right, when he got mixed up with a Communist girlfriend and was targeted for his apperances with leftist groups; then in the 60s by the left, when he supported Richard Nixon as the best hope for ending the Vietnam War; and most recently for his support of California's Prop 8, the amendment that defines marriage as between a man and a woman.  (I refuse to call it the gay marriage ban; you can't ban something that wasn't legal in the first place.) I say that anyone who can fall victim to both the right and the left at various times must be doing something right.

In this clip from a few years ago, he discusses another transformation - that of becoming a Christian.  And I trust it will be that faith that will strengthen and guide both him and his family as they deal with their loss in the coming weeks and months.



  1. I remember his appearances on the Tonight Show with Johnny Carson, telling us of his newborn son, whom he and his wife had named "Max." "It's a good, strong name. MAX. BEAN." And on another appearance, discussing the sound of various languages. "Take 'butterfly.' Pretty word in English, right? In Spanish it's 'mariposa.' You can just see it fluttering by. French, it's 'papillon.'" A pause for effect. "German? It's *schmetterling*'!!"

  2. So...Breitbart's daughter was the mom on THE WONDER YEARS?

    1. Hello Again:

      The mom on Wonder Years was Alley Mills, who's been married to Orson Bean for 20-something years.
      Mr. Breitbart was married to Mr. Bean's daughter from a previous marriage.
      You can sort the rest out for yourself ...

    2. Yes, of course you're right - I knew that, and I don't know what I was thinking when I wrote it. Or, if in fact, I was thinking at all. I’d always thought this was a wonderful tribute.


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