Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Appointment with Dr. Bellows

Few television actors have ever been more closely identified with one role than the late Hayden Rorke (1910-1987) was with befuddled psychiatrist Dr. Alfred Bellows on I Dream of Jeannie. Not to say that this fine character actor didn't have other credits on his resume -- quite the contrary. Originally a stage actor, he went on to perform in numerous films, including such well-remembered features as Pillow Talk, Father's Little Dividend, and Spencer's Mountain. You can also see him on I Love Lucy as a new neighbor who arouses the suspicion of Lucy and Ethel, making them fear that he and his wife plan to overthrow the country.

But it was as Dr. Bellows, the man who tried in vain for five seasons to figure out what made Major Anthony Nelson tick, that he became a recognizable face to TV fans. Just as some viewers seemed to honestly believe that those castaways were stranded on Gilligan's Island, others sought out the actor who played Dr. Bellows for psychiatric help. "I received one letter from a lady in Portland, Oregon," Rorke recalled in a 1967 interview, "who wrote, 'If I should ever need a psychiatrist I shall send you the money, since I can't leave here, and you'll have to come to me.' Another person wrote me three or four times, convinced that if she could meet me, I could solve her problems." As a longtime viewer, I liked that the final episode filmed allowed Dr. Bellows to learn Tony's secret at last, even if it was only in a dream sequence, alas.

Aside from Jeannie, Hayden Rorke was featured in two previous sitcoms, Mr. Adams and Eve (1957-58) and No Time for Sergeants (1964-65). He came out of semi-retirement in the 1980s to reprise his role as Dr. Bellows in the TV-movie reunion, I Dream of Jeannie...Fifteen Years Later. He died of cancer at the age of 76, having survived his longtime partner, director Justus Addiss.

While I'm not sure I would have sought out Dr. Alfred Bellows for therapeutic treatment, I still smile when I think of the gifted actor who played him, and the many hours of entertainment he gave us.

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