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Baer in network promotional photo as Mayor Roy Stoner from The Andy Griffith Show
|Born||Parley Edward Baer
August 5, 1914
Salt Lake City, Utah, U.S.
|Died||November 22, 2002
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
|Cause of death||Stroke|
|Resting place||Forest Lawn Memorial Park - Hollywood Hills Cemetery|
|Spouse(s)||Ernestine Clarke Baer (1946–2000; her death; 2 daughters)|
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.
Baer was director of special events at KSL in the 1930s. 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 Benet'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 unofficial deputy to Marshal Matt Dillon on Gunsmoke, eventually ad-libbing the character's full name, “Chester Wesley Proudfoot”. (The character's name was changed to “Chester Goode” in the television series, which featured an entirely different cast.) Baer's portrayal of Chester was generally considered his finest and most memorable role and, as he often said, the one he found most fulfilling. Baer worked on several other radio shows produced by Norman MacDonnell, including the situation comedy The Harold Peary Show (aka Honest Harold) as Pete the Marshal, Rogers of the Gazette (loosely based on the early life of Will Rogers) as Doc Clemens, 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 the 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.
Films and television
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 obnoxious 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 appeared as well on the ABC sitcom Harrigan and Son, on the ABC/Warner Brothers 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, 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.
In 1964, Baer was cast as a sheriff in an episode of Mickey Rooney's short-lived Mickey sitcom. 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, including one Christmas episode entitled "Sisters at Heart" that aired on ABC on December 24, 1970 in which he played the role of Mr. Brockway, the owner of a toy manufacturing firm.
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. Michael Constantine played Pollock. In the story line, a fledgling Denver copes with vandalism and the theft of turkeys, and Greeley is determined to report the truth about the emerging settlement.
Baer made at least 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 voiced Ernie Keebler in the cookie commercials 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 perhaps his greatest theatrical performance, Baer was especially proud of his brief appearance in a little-known 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".
In 1969, Baer gave the eulogy at the funeral of The Andy Griffith Show cast mate Howard McNear. McNear had portrayed Mayberry's Floyd the Barber and Baer had played Mayor Roy Stoner. McNear also portrayed the doctor in the Gunsmoke radio show, often interacting with Baer's character, Chester Proudfoot.
On November 11, 2002, Baer was taken to the Motion Picture & Television Country House and Hospital after a stroke. He died, age 88, 11 days later on November 22. Baer was survived by his daughters, Kim Baer and Dale Sloan, and three grandchildren.
- Harrigan, Tom (November 24, 2002). "Character actor Parley Baer". Santa Cruz Sentinel. p. 21. Retrieved March 27, 2015 – via Newspapers.com.
- Oliver, Myrna (November 24, 2002). "Parley Baer, 88; 64-Year Career Spanned Radio, TV, Movies". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 28 March 2015.
- "Parley Baer Goes Into Lion's Den". The Daily Mail. December 8, 1962. p. 29. Retrieved March 27, 2015 – via Newspapers.com.
- "GE True". Classic Television Archive. Retrieved March 1, 2013.
- Pilato (2001), p. 216.
- Metz (2007), p. 64.
- "The Great Turkey War". Internet Movie Data Base. October 7, 1965. Retrieved August 27, 2015.
- "Ernestine Clarke". The Telegraph. August 26, 2000. Retrieved April 4, 2015 – via Telegraph.co.uk.
- Metz, Walter (2007). Bewitched. Wayne State University Press. ISBN 978-0-8143-3580-2.
- Pilato, Herbie J. (2001). Bewitched Forever: The Immortal Companion to Television's Most Magical Supernatural Situation Comedy (2 ed.). The Summit Publishing Group. ISBN 978-1-930819-07-8.