Inspiring, Brilliant, ‘A Wonderful Soul’

Iconic actor-comedian Orson Bean, who died Friday at 91 in a traffic accident, was the rare performer who could inspire admiration and respect from fans and colleagues across the political divide. In liberal Hollywood, this was no small feat and served as a testament to his artistic talent and generosity of spirit.

Orson Bean was the father of Susie Breitbart, the wife of the late Andrew Breitbart. The actor took it upon himself to become an intellectual mentor to his son-in-law, as well as a kindred spirit. Bean introduced Andrew Breitbart to conservative ideas and the two shared an irreverent sense of humor.

In a lengthy career that spanned TV, radio, movies, and theater, Bean became an audience favorite for his impeccable comic timing and warm, avuncular presence that could turn naughty in an instant. He was a favorite panelist on the long-running game show To Tell the Truth and appeared as a guest on The Tonight Show more than 200 times.

He had a supporting role in the popular CBS drama series Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman,  and a recurring role in ABC’s Desperate Housewives.

During the McCarthy era, Bean was one of many Hollywood figures blacklisted by studios over alleged Communist ties, though he denied ever being a Communist, saying that he attended meetings only because he was dating a member. Later, his political views evolved towards conservatism.

Younger generations came to recognize him from Being John Malkovich, the 1999 metaphysical comedy in which he played the mysterious and sprightly Dr. Lester.

In his later years, Bean contributed articles to Breitbart News and continued acting on stage, including shows at the Pacific Resident Theatre in Venice.

Breitbart News CEO Larry Solov paid personal tribute to his longtime friend on Saturday. Bean is survived by his wife, actress Alley Mills; four children, including Susie Breitbart; and several grandchildren.

Following reports of Bean’s death in Los Angeles, tributes began to pour in from prominent figures across the political spectrum, including Barbra Streisand, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Larry Edler, and Ann Coulter.

Streisand thanked Bean for helping her land her first TV show.

Actress Jane Seymour co-starred with Bean in the popular drama series Dr. Quinn: Medicine Woman. The actress wrote on Instagram that he was “one of the kindest and funniest people I’ve ever known.”

Actor Robert Davi called him a “wonderful soul” and a “tremendous wit.”

Joseph Gordon-Levitt remembered working with Bean on a recent short film.

Filmmaker Phil Lord (The Lego Movie) recalled that Bean was an “encouraging” and “inspiring” mentor, who also was a great neighbor.

Desperate Housewives actress Marcia Cross called him a “joy to work with,” and expressed her sorrow to Bean’s wife, actress Alley Mills. (Bean had a recurring role on Desperate Housewives.)

Actor Adam Baldwin described him as a “brilliant performer and loving family man.”

Actress Jane Lynch also expressed her condolences.

Ann Coulter also paid her respects to Bean.

Radio host Larry Elder described Bean as a “loving father, husband, and great friend.”

Follow David Ng on Twitter @HeyItsDavidNg. Have a tip? Contact me at [email protected]

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