Producer and personal manager Jack Bean, who guided the career of his wife Mitzi Gaynor to stardom in motion pictures, television musical specials and Las Vegas, died of pneumonia Dec. 4 at the couple’s Beverly Hills home. He was 84.
Bean displayed his show business savvy at age 14 in his native Minneapolis when he approached the Benny Carter Band to allow him to book a Saturday night dance event, which sold out. The event initiated a series of such bookings of known personalities in Minneapolis until he enlisted in the U.S. Army at l9, serving in the Battle of the Bulge during WWII.
His sergeant learned of his show business acumen and enlisted him for the Special Services division, in which Bean organized and oversaw numerous USO tours.
Upon completion of his military duties, Bean headed for New York, where he became a manager for the Joe Mooney Quartet, then headed West to earn his master’s degree in psychology at USC. He began a new career in social services, working with mentally ill war veterans, utilizing his show business interests to entice such superstars of the day as Charles Laughton and Orson Welles to perform for patients as part of the vets’ therapy.
Such activities took him back to show business, where he landed a spot as an agent for singer Ella Fitzgerald and others at Music Corp. of America. He then met Gaynor, under contract to 20th Century Fox and already the star of pictures like “Golden Girl.” The actress asked Bean to become her agent, beginning a relationship that turned into a 52-year marriage as well as a firm professional partnership.
Bean fought for the young singer-actress to star in the film version of “South Pacific,” the biggest hit musical of the time, which became one of her biggest films, a major box office blockbuster and, to this day, at more than five years, the longest-running motion picture in London.
Leaving MCA, Bean partnered with Bob Rose in Bean/Rose Public Relations, introducing Wishbone Salad Dressing, initiating the pattern of product placement in films by placing Hamilton watches on the arm of such high-profile figures as Jack Benny. Amid servicing such commercial accounts as Maytag appliances, he continued to guide Gaynor’s career.
When the pair formed Green Isle Inc., Bean produced the “Mitzi Gaynor Show” theatrical act, booking it in theatres and public appearances throughout the country and later producing l0 multi-Emmy Award-winning musical specials starring Gaynor for NBC and CBS.
For the past several years, Bean has been producing the Mitzi Gaynor lecture series and personal appearance tours and was in the midst of developing a new act to tour the country.
In addition to Gaynor, Bean is survived by a daughter. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the Professional Dancers Society, P.O. Box 15605, Beverly Hills, CA 90209.