Parley Baer

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Parley Baer
Baer in a network promotional photo from The Andy Griffith Show
Parley Edward Baer

(1914-08-05)August 5, 1914
DiedNovember 22, 2002(2002-11-22) (aged 88)
Resting placeForest Lawn Memorial Park - Hollywood Hills Cemetery
Years active1940–1997
Ernestine Clarke
(m. 1946; died 2000)
Military career
Allegiance United States
Service/branch United States Army Air Forces
Years of service1942–1946[1]
Rank Captain
Battles/warsWorld War II
Awards Army Presidential Unit Citation
American Campaign Medal
Asiatic–Pacific Campaign Medal
World War II Victory Medal

Parley Edward Baer (August 5, 1914 – November 22, 2002) was an American actor in radio and later in television and film.[2] Despite dozens of appearances in television series and theatrical films, he remains best known as the original "Chester" in the radio version of Gunsmoke, and as the Mayor of Mayberry (Roy Stoner) in The Andy Griffith Show.

Early life, family and education[edit]

Parley Edward Baer was born in Salt Lake City, Utah. He studied drama at the University of Utah.[3]


Baer had a circus background, but he began his radio career at Utah station KSL.


Early in his career, Baer was a circus ringmaster and publicist. He left those roles for military service in World War II. In the 1950s, he had a job training wild animals at Jungleland USA in Thousand Oaks, California. Still later, he served as a docent at the Los Angeles Zoo.[2]


Baer was commissioned as an officer in the United States Army Air Forces during World War II, attaining the rank of Captain.[2] He served from 1942 to 1946 in the Pacific Theater, earning an Army Presidential Unit Citation, the American Campaign Medal, the Asiatic–Pacific Campaign Medal, the World War II Victory Medal and seven service stars.[1][2]


Baer in the 1930s served on radio as director of special events for KSL.[4] His first network show was The Whistler, which was soon followed by appearances on Escape (notably narrating "Wild Jack Rhett" and as the title patriot in an adaptation of Stephen Vincent Benét's "A Tooth for Paul Revere"), Suspense, Tales of the Texas Rangers (as various local sheriffs), Dragnet, The CBS Radio Workshop, Lux Radio Theater, The Six Shooter, and Yours Truly, Johnny Dollar, to name a few.

In 1952, he began playing Chester, the trusty jailhouse assistant to Marshal Matt Dillon on the radio version of Gunsmoke, eventually ad-libbing the character's full name, "Chester Wesley Proudfoot" (later changed to "Chester Goode" in the televised version of the series, which featured Dennis Weaver in the role of Chester). Baer also worked as a voice actor on several other radio shows produced by Norman MacDonnell, performing as Pete the Marshal on the situation comedy The Harold Peary Show, as Doc Clemens on Rogers of the Gazette, and as additional characters on Fort Laramie and The Adventures of Philip Marlowe.

Other recurring roles included Eb the farm hand on Granby's Green Acres (the radio predecessor to television's Green Acres), Gramps on The Truitts, and Rene the manservant on a radio version of The Count of Monte Cristo. His later radio work included playing Reginald Duffield and Uncle Joe Finneman on the Focus on the Family series Adventures in Odyssey in the 1980s and 1990s.

Radio playwright and director Norman Corwin cast Baer as Simon Legree in the 1969 KCET television reading of his 1938 radio play The Plot to Overthrow Christmas.

Films and television[edit]

As an on-camera performer, Baer was recognizable by his distinctive voice, his paunchy appearance, and his balding head. Often he portrayed fussy, bossy, and/or obstinate officials or neighbors. Extended television roles included blustering, by-the-book Mayor Stoner on The Andy Griffith Show, the neighbor Darby on The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet, frequent guest appearances on The Addams Family as insurance man and city commissioner Arthur J. Henson, and in the late 1990s, Miles Dugan on The Young and the Restless. He also appeared as a telephone executive on Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C.

Baer guest-starred in the 1950s on NBC's The Dennis Day Show and It's a Great Life, on CBS's Hey, Jeannie!, on ABC's The Law and Mr. Jones with James Whitmore, on the syndicated crime drama Johnny Midnight with Edmond O'Brien, and on the NBC children's western series, Fury with Peter Graves and Bobby Diamond. He made six guest appearances on Perry Mason during the last five seasons of the CBS legal drama, including the role of Edward Farraday in the 1962 episode, "The Case of the Captain's Coins," and Willard Hupp in the 1963 episode, "The Case of the Bouncing Boomerang".

He also appeared on the ABC sitcom Harrigan and Son, on the ABC/Warner Bros. crime drama, The Roaring 20s, on NBC's crime drama Dan Raven starring Skip Homeier, and on the NBC family drama, National Velvet. Baer was cast twice on Walter Brennan's sitcom, The Real McCoys. He also guest-starred on the CBS sitcoms Dennis the Menace with Jay North, The Tom Ewell Show with Tom Ewell, and Angel, starring Annie Fargé. In the latter, he carried the lead as Dr. Mathews in the single episode "The Dentist", with Maudie Prickett as his dental secretary.

In 1961, Baer guest-starred on Marilyn Maxwell's short-lived ABC drama series, Bus Stop. On April 13, 1962, he appeared, along with Frank Ferguson and Royal Dano in ABC's crime drama Target: The Corruptors in the episode "Journey into Mourning". He was cast as hotel owner Mr. Kringelein in the 1962 film, Gypsy, opposite Natalie Wood and Rosalind Russell.

In 1963, Baer appeared with Charles Aidman and Karl Swenson in the three-part episode "Security Risk", a story of international blackmail and intrigue, on the CBS anthology series, GE True, hosted by Jack Webb.[citation needed]

In 1964, Baer was cast as a sheriff in an episode of Mickey Rooney's short-lived Mickey sitcom, and as a scientist in an Outer Limits episode, "Behold, Eck!" He was seen in four episodes of Hogan's Heroes and eight episodes of Bewitched in various roles as advertising clients of McMann and Tate.

Baer was cast as Horace Greeley, who came to Colorado in 1859 in the Pikes Peak Gold Rush, in the 1965 episode "The Great Turkey War" of the syndicated series, Death Valley Days.[5]

In 1967, Baer appeared as General Whitfield on the I Dream of Jeannie episode, "Fly Me to the Moon".

Baer made two appearances on Petticoat Junction. In the 1966 episode, "Jury at the Shady Rest", he was Bailiff Tucker. Then, in the 1969 episode, "The Glen Tinker Caper", he was Judge Madison.

Later guest appearances included Three for the Road, Three's Company (as a cooking competition judge), The San Pedro Beach Bums, The A-Team, Star Trek: Voyager, The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, The Dukes of Hazzard, Night Court, Newhart, Little House on the Prairie, The Golden Girls, Hazel, and Mad About You. He also played the role of the minister who married J. R. and Sue Ellen Ewing for their second marriage on Dallas. He also made guest appearances on F Troop.

Baer's film roles included parts in several live-action Disney features, including Follow Me, Boys! (again as a mayor), The Ugly Dachshund, and Those Calloways. He also appeared in Two on a Guillotine and Dave (as the Senate majority leader). Baer had a featured role in the 1958 war drama The Young Lions, portraying a German officer and friend of Marlon Brando.

Baer was especially proud of his brief appearance in the film, White Dog, a powerful story about racism. Baer plays a character seen at first as a kindly grandfather, only to reveal himself as a hateful bigot who has trained the title character to attack black skin. Baer remarked, "Often racism, like true evil, presents itself with a smile and a handshake".

Some 10 years earlier, Baer played a closet racist in a Christmas episode of Bewitched. The episode "Sisters at Heart" aired on ABC on December 24, 1970, in which he played the role of Mr. Brockway, the owner of a toy-manufacturing firm.[6][7]


Baer voiced Ernie Keebler in the cookie commercials[2] before he suffered a stroke in 1997 which affected both speech and movement. He recovered sufficiently to make a handful of appearances at old-time radio conventions in his later years. In the 1980s he dressed in old-time garb as "Mr. S", one of the company founders, in commercials for S&W Fine Foods.

Personal life and death[edit]

In 1946, Baer met and married circus aerialist and bareback rider Ernestine Clarke. They were together for 54 years until her death on August 5, 2000, in Tarzana, California.[2][8]

Baer was a long-term member of St. Nicholas Episcopal Church in Encino, California, where he served in many capacities, including head usher.

In 1969, Baer gave the eulogy at the funeral of The Andy Griffith Show castmate Howard McNear. McNear had portrayed Mayberry's Floyd the Barber and Baer had played Mayor Roy Stoner. McNear also portrayed Doc Adams in the radio version of Gunsmoke, often interacting with Baer's character, Chester Proudfoot.

On November 11, 2002, following another stroke, Baer was taken to the Motion Picture & Television Country House and Hospital. Eleven days later, at the age of 88, he died there.[3]


Listen to[edit]


  1. ^ a b Baer, Parley Edward, Capt – USAAF Veteran Retrieved June 23, 2021.
  2. ^ a b c d e f Harrigan, Tom (November 24, 2002). "Character actor Parley Baer". Santa Cruz Sentinel. p. 21. Retrieved March 27, 2015 – via open access
  3. ^ a b Oliver, Myrna (November 24, 2002). "Parley Baer, 88; 64-Year Career Spanned Radio, TV, Movies". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 28 March 2015.
  4. ^ "Parley Baer Goes Into Lion's Den". Daily Mail. December 8, 1962. p. 29. Retrieved March 27, 2015 – via open access
  5. ^ "The Great Turkey War". IMDb. October 7, 1965. Retrieved August 27, 2015.
  6. ^ Pilato (2001), p. 216.
  7. ^ Metz (2007), p. 64.
  8. ^ "Ernestine Clarke". The Telegraph. August 26, 2000. Retrieved April 4, 2015 – via open access


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