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Orson Bean on God, America, and Yesterday's Hollywood that Embraced Both

Orson Bean on God, America, and Yesterday's Hollywood that Embraced Both

God, America, and a Hollywood that once embraced both saved Orson Bean’s life and helped him find meaning in it. 

Bean, the actor who is also the late Andrew Breitbart’s father-in-law, appeared on a special Sirius XM Patriot Forum interview on the Fourth of July weekend, which aired on Breitbart News Sunday on Sirius XM Patriot channel 125. Bean had a conversation with Breitbart News Executive Chairman Stephen K. Bannon about his World War II military experiences in Japan and his career in show business that saw him rub elbows with Bob Hope, Marlon Brando, Jack Paar, Johnny Carson, and many others.

He said without the Hollywood of yesterday that embraced patriotism and was never ashamed of it, he would have been forlorn and lost. And without God, Bean may never have found happiness even with all of his professional and personal successes.  

Bean said he came from a “dysfunctional household” with an alcoholic father and a mother who committed suicide. But Hollywood movies back then gave him “a sense of America” and “what good guys were.” They gave him hope, and the movies he loved showed him that “right was right and wrong was wrong” and that “right prevailed.”

“It saved my life,” he simply said, of the movies that let him know that despite his turbulent household, “okay, it’s going to turn out okay.” He credited “the Jews who came from Russia and formed Hollywood” for loving America “and the opportunity they were presented with” in this country, which was “reflected in their movies.”

Bean said that patriotism “was in their DNA” and the scripts they approved. 

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.”

Bean said that he had enough money and had always put fame in perspective. He said he always wanted to be famous enough so that a head waiter would give him a good table but not so famous that he could not have a private life. But finding God was what ultimately gave his life meaning and him happiness.

On a previous edition of Breitbart News Sunday, Bean spoke about his experiences guest-hosting the The Tonight Show “over a hundred times as a substitute for Jack Paar and Johnny Carson” while also being a guest on the program 96 times. He “recalled a time when Americans were united by a common popular culture because everyone watched the same programs on the same three networks” while the late-night hosts “booked ‘raconteurs who told tales and were interesting’ and guests weren’t just ‘plugging the latest movies.'” Bean said that even religious and culturally conservative films that are not very good do well financially, and he emphasized that Hollywood and America would be better off if Hollywood were more capitalistic instead of hell-bent on pushing a liberal agenda that gleefully mocks conservatives and people of faith. 

Democrats once embraced that common culture — and God — as well. Bean marched for Franklin Delano Roosevelt and thought that was the only president one could vote for. But like Ronald Reagan, who was also an actor who campaigned for Roosevelt, Bean became more conservative over the years even in Hollywood because the America and Democratic party he knew was leaving him.  

“I don’t think I changed,” Bean said. “I think everything changed around me.”

Andrew Breitbart, his son-in-law, knew perhaps better than anyone how much culture was upstream from politics. He spent his life fighting for a culture that embraced America and patriotism, which used to be bipartisan. Today, 60% of so-called “Solid Liberals,” 69% of whom are white and 41% of whom are under the age of 40, are not proud to be Americans, according to a comprehensive Pew Research survey.

Bean said Breitbart resonated with so many people because he was fighting to right that culture, which he said is decaying, with optimism and joy. And he did it in an unconventionally fresh and unique way that warranted Breitbart’s name to be a trademarked, one-of-a-kind brand. Bean said it was Breitbart’s larger-than-life spirit that makes people come up to him to this day with tears in their eyes, saying, “you’re Andrew Breitbart’s father-in-law!”

Breitbart, who once was a fierce liberal, may never have been a conservative or built the foundation for his media empire had he not seen a Rush Limbaugh book in Bean’s library. 

“Take it home and read it, Andrew,” Bean recalled telling his son-in-law.

And the rest is history. 

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