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SYFY WIRE obituary

Rankin/Bass' Bilbo Baggins, Orson Bean, dies at 91

By Donnie Lederer
Orson Bean

The voice of Rankin/Bass’ Bilbo Baggins, Orson Bean, passed away Friday in Los Angeles. He was 91.

The Los Angeles County coroner’s office confirmed to the Associated Press that Bean’s death is under investigation as a “traffic-related fatality.” Bean was walking in Venice Friday night when he was struck by a vehicle and fell, only to be hit by a second car. He is survived by his wife of 27 years, actress Alley Mills, and his four children.

Born July 22, 1928, Bean was a star of the small and big screen. He served as a guest host for Johnny Carson on The Tonight Show over 100 times, and from 1993-1998 starred as shopkeeper Loren Bay on CBS’ Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman. He is also one of the first actors to portray a hobbit, as he voiced both Bilbo and Frodo Baggins in the Rankin/Bass animated TV films The Hobbit and The Return of the King in the late 1970s. Before Elijah Wood or Martin Freeman, Tolkien fans had Bean as the voice in their head while re-reading the novels.

On the big screen, he portrayed Dr. Lester in Spike Jonze’s Being John Malkovich. He led a group of older adults in a plot to extend their lives by entering the mind of actor John Malkovich.

Writers and actors took to Twitter today to offer their condolences to Bean’s family and legacy.