Requiescat In Pace: Orson Bean

Veteran actor Orson Bean has died at age 91.  It is a testament to the active life that he led that it took two cars accidentally striking him to take him out of this world.  Usually cast in comedic roles, Bean always lent every role he led a depth that filled out the most two-dimensional of parts.  Politically he followed a wild ride from Left to Right.  Blacklisted during the McCarthy era because, in his words, he had a cute Communist girl friend and tagged along to party meetings with her, he eventually became the Father-in-law of the late, great Andrew Breitbart.  Here is a portion of an interview he gave in 2007:

 

“Aside from the inconvenience of having a career ruined, being blacklisted in the ‘50s was kind of cool,” Orson recalled over watered-down dark rum pina coladas poolside at Club Med.

 

“You were doing ‘the right thing.’ Hot, left-wing girls admired you. You hadn’t ‘named names.’ The New York Times was on your side. And you knew it would pass. Things always do in America. The glory of this country is that it’s a centrist nation. The pendulum swings just so far to the left, then it swings back to the right. You have to have lived a long life to experience this. It has a calming effect.”

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“When the blacklist hit, I saw actors walk across the street to avoid me. The doorman at 485 Madison Avenue (former CBS headquarters) turned his back as I walked by. But I never felt hated by the ring-wing blacklisters. They just felt we were terribly wrong,” he said.

“These days, the left doesn’t just disagree with right-wingers – they hate them. People actually shudder when I tell them I’m a Republican. I should have to carry a bell and yell, ‘unclean.’ It doesn’t bother me, though. I’ve been on both ends. Being hated is like voodoo. It only works if you feel hated. And I just won’t. I know it will pass.”

Go here to read the rest.

Like many comics, there were dark periods in life.  Searching for a way to to be permanently happy he found Christ:

As he succeeded in show business from New York to Hollywood, Bean recalled having made a vow that, “I will be happy some day.” He said he had plenty of highs due to great sex, drugs, rock and roll, fame, and even some politics. “It all worked for awhile” to make him happy, Bean said, but then “it just stopped working and became nothing.”

That’s when he tried prayer, with a nudge from a stranger.

It was at a 12-step program where he asked someone, “what should I do?”

Bean said the man told him to thank God every morning and evening on his knees, and that could help him find happiness. Though he felt silly the first time, Bean said he got down on his knees in the evening and said, “if there’s anybody up there, thank you for the day.” He did that again the next morning. 

“Little by little it stopped feeling foolish. I began to feel if my prayer was being heard… that whatever or whoever loved me,” Bean said.  

Bean would go on to read C.S. Lewis’ Mere Christianity before telling himself, “I’ll buy that Jesus is the son of God.”

“And my life has gotten better and better,” Bean said. “That little prayer was what did it for me.”

Go here to read the rest.

 

A life long fan of Laurel and Hardy, Bean was one of the founders of The Sons of the Desert, the international Laurel and Hardy fan club.  May he soon be playing with them on a triple bill in the Kingdom of Love Eternal.

 

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4 Comments

  1. He first came to my attention as Bilbo Baggins in the 1977 cartoon version of the Hobbit. That movie induced me to read all of Tolkien’s works and later his friend C.S. Lewis’ works. Thanks Mr. Bean! RIP.

  2. Except for the CS Lewis part, my story – it was a Franciscan Friar at Greymoor who persuaded me – that and a fear of returning to heroin:

    It was at a 12-step program where he asked someone, “what should I do?”

    Bean said the man told him to thank God every morning and evening on his knees, and that could help him find happiness. Though he felt silly the first time, Bean said he got down on his knees in the evening and said, “if there’s anybody up there, thank you for the day.” He did that again the next morning.

    “Little by little it stopped feeling foolish. I began to feel if my prayer was being heard… that whatever or whoever loved me,” Bean said.

    Bean would go on to read C.S. Lewis’ Mere Christianity before telling himself, “I’ll buy that Jesus is the son of God.”

    “And my life has gotten better and better,” Bean said. “That little prayer was what did it for me.”

  3. Like John, I first heard about him when I saw his name in the credits for the 1977 The Hobbit. Since that also is what launched me into the world of Tolkien, I will forever have a soft spot for it and everyone associated with it. I knew him better for the odd spot he played, such as his take in Anatomy of a Murder. RIP

  4. What an interesting, improbable life. Bean also bought into the hippie craziness of the ’60’s and lived in a commune for a while. His son-in-law, Brietbart, was converted to conservatism when he picked up and read a book by Rush Limbaugh that he found on Bean’s bookshelf. Yet another reminder this week of the great influence of Limbaugh.

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