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TV Veteran Orson Bean, 91, Hit and Killed by Car in L.A.

TV Veteran Orson Bean, 91, Hit and Killed by Car in L.A.
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Bean and his wife, Alley Mills, in 2018

Orson Bean, a familiar face on TV from the early '50s on, died Friday when he was struck by two cars while on a walk in L.A.'s Venice neighborhood. He was 91.

The Guardian reports that Bean was first hit by one car, fell, then was fatally run over by another car. Both drivers reportedly stayed on the scene.

The L.A. County Coroner's Office confirmed Bean's death.

Bean was born Dallas Burrows on July 22, 1928, in Burlington, Vermont. Upon graduating high school in 1946, he served in the U.S. military, stationed in post-WWII Japan for a year before pursuing a career as a magician. He made his birth name disappear, choosing his stage name in part as a tribute to filmmaker Orson Welles.

Thanks to his quick wit, Bean's magic act transitioned into stand-up comedy, with a hit debut at NYC's Blue Angel. His impish humor, love of corny punchlines, and mastery of wordplay became major components of his brand.

Bean took up acting, making his TV debut in a production of "Three Letters" on "Goodyear Playhouse" in 1952. Though he later said he lost work for a year after being blacklisted for dating "a cute Communist" girl, he worked steadily, especially on TV, on dozens of successful shows, including "The Phil Silvers Show" (1958), "The Twilight Zone" (1960), "Love, American Style" (1970), "Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman" (1976), "The Love Boat" (1978), "The Facts of Life" (1986-1987), "Murder, She Wrote" (1986 & 1989), "Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman" (146 episodes, 1993-1998), "Ellen" (1998), "Will & Grace" (2000), "How I Met Your Mother" (2007), "Hot in Cleveland" (2011), "Desperate Housewives" (23 episodes, 2009-2012), "Modern Family" (2016), "Superstore" (2018), and an episode of "Grace and Frankie" that aired this year.

He also voiced Bilbo Baggins and Frodo Baggins in the TV movies "The Hobbit" (1977) and "The Return of the King" (1980).

In spite of his many acting credits, Bean may be best remembered for countless appearances on talk shows and, especially, game shows. Throughout his career, he was a frequent guest on "The Ed Sullivan Show" (1952-1955), "The Tonight Show" (1957-1962; 1967-1991), "Password" (1962-1964; 1984-1986), "To Tell the Truth" (1963-1968; 1972-1975; 1990-1991), "Match Game" (1963-1969; 1974-1979), "The Mike Douglas Show" (1964-1973), "The Merv Griffin Show" (1965-1980), and for engaging, racy co-appearances with his wife at the time on "Tattletales" (1974-1976).

He was also accomplished on Broadway, with credits beginning in 1953 with "Stalag 17," and including such hits as "John Murray Anderson's Almanac" (1954), "Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter?" (1955), "Subways Are for Sleeping" (1961; Tony nomination), "Never Too Late" (1962), and "Illya Darling" (1967), his last appearance on the Great White Way.

Though an avid film buff who had been the last surviving founding member of the Laurel & Hardy appreciation society Sons of the Desert, his own film appearances were more limited, but still included "How to Be Very, Very Popular" (1955), "Anatomy of a Murder" (1959), "Innerspace" (1987), and "Being John Malkovich" (1999).

Bean was married three times, to Jacqueline de Sibour, designer Carolyn Maxwell, and "The Wonder Years" actress Alley Mills, who survives him. He is also survived by his daughter Michele from his first marriage; and by sons Max and Ezekiel and daughter Susannah from his marriage to Maxwell. Susannah is the widow of conservative commentator Andrew Breitbart, who also died on a walk — suffering a fatal heart attack in 2012.

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