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Raymond Burr

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Title: Raymond Burr  
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Subject: Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series, Perry Mason, Godzilla, King of the Monsters!, Please Murder Me, Tarzan and the She-Devil
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Raymond Burr

Raymond Burr
From the film Please Murder Me (1956)
Born Raymond William Stacey Burr
(1917-05-21)May 21, 1917
New Westminster, British Columbia, Canada
Died September 12, 1993( 1993-09-12) (aged 76)
Healdsburg, California, U.S.
Occupation Actor
Years active 1940 – 1993
Spouse(s) Isabella Ward (m. 1948–52; divorced)
Partner(s) Robert Benevides (1960–93; his death)

Raymond William Stacey Burr (May 21, 1917 – September 12, 1993) was a Canadian-American actor,[1] primarily known for his title roles in the television dramas Perry Mason and Ironside.[1] He also had prominent involvement in multiple charitable endeavors, such as working on behalf of the United Service Organizations (USO).

His early acting career included roles on Broadway, radio, television and in film,[2] usually as the villain.[3] He won two Emmy Awards in 1959 and 1961[4] for the role of Perry Mason, which he played for nine seasons between 1957 and 1966. His second hit series, Ironside, earned him six Emmy nominations, and two Golden Globe nominations.[4] He is also widely known for his role as Steve Martin in both Godzilla, King of the Monsters! in 1956, which revived his flagging film career, and Godzilla 1985 as well as for being the murderer in the Alfred Hitchcock thriller Rear Window.

After Burr's death from cancer in 1993, his personal life came into question as details of his known biography appeared to be unverifiable.[5][6]

Burr was ranked #44 on TV Guide's 50 Greatest TV Stars of All Time in 1996.[7] Raymond Burr is also the actor with the most dedicated Netflix micro-genres.[8]


  • Early life 1
  • Early career 2
  • Perry Mason and Ironside 3
  • Other work 4
  • Personal life 5
    • Family life 5.1
    • Hobbies 5.2
    • Philanthropy 5.3
  • Illness and death 6
  • Recognition 7
  • Selected filmography 8
  • See also 9
  • References 10
  • Sources 11
  • External links 12

Early life

Burr was born Raymond William Stacey Burr in New Westminster, British Columbia, Canada,[9] to William Johnston Burr (1889–1985), a hardware salesman,[10] and his wife, Minerva Annette (née Smith, 1892–1974), a concert pianist and music teacher.[11] His mother was born in Chicago, Illinois; Burr's ancestry included Northern Irish, English, Scottish, and German.[10][12] After his parents divorced, Burr moved to Vallejo, California,[9] with his mother and younger siblings, Geraldine and James Edmond. He attended a military academy for a while and graduated from Berkeley High School.[13]

In later years, Burr freely invented stories of a happy childhood. He told The Modesto Bee in 1986, for example, that when he was twelve and a half years old, his mother sent him to New Mexico for a year to work as a ranch hand. He was already his full adult height and rather large and "had fallen in with a group of college-aged kids who didn't realize how young Raymond was, and they let him tag along with them in activities and situations far too sophisticated for him to handle."[14] He developed a passion for growing things and, while still a teenager, joined the Civilian Conservation Corps for a year.[14] Throughout his teenage years, he had some acting work, making his stage debut at age 12 with a Vancouver stock company.[9]

Burr may have served in the Coast Guard, but never in the United States Navy as he and his publicists later claimed.[15] He had claimed he was seriously wounded in the stomach during the Battle of Okinawa in the latter stages of World War II.[16] Other invented biographical details include years of college education at a variety of institutions, two marriages and a son who died as a teenager, world travel, an acting tour of the United Kingdom, and success in high school athletics.[17] Such claims were accepted as fact by the press during his lifetime[1][9] and by his first biographer.[18]

Early career

In 1937, Burr began his acting career at the Pasadena Playhouse. In 1941, he landed his first Broadway role in Crazy with the Heat. He became a contract player at RKO studio, playing a film noir villain in Raw Deal (1948). In 1946, he had a regular part in Jack Webb's first radio show, Pat Novak for Hire, playing Webb's nemesis Detective Heilman. Burr appeared in over 60 movies between 1946 and 1957. In 1976, Richard Schickel cited his performance in Pitfall (1948) as a prototype of film noir in contrast with the appealing television characters for which Burr later became famous.[19] He received favorable notice for his role as an aggressive prosecutor in A Place in the Sun (1951), co-starring Elizabeth Taylor, Montgomery Clift and Shelley Winters. Perhaps his best-known film role of the period was that of a suspected murderer in the Alfred Hitchcock classic Rear Window (1954), starring James Stewart and Grace Kelly.[1][9] He played the part of reporter, Steve Martin, in Godzilla, King of the Monsters! (1956).[20]

Burr emerged as a prolific television character actor in the early to mid-1950s. He made his television debut on the April 24, 1952, episode "The Tiger" of Gruen Playhouse on the DuMont TV network. (At about the same time, Burr guest-starred on an episode of The Amazing Mr. Malone on ABC.) This part led to other roles in such programs as Dragnet, Chesterfield Sound Off Time, Four Star Playhouse, Mr. & Mrs. North, Schlitz Playhouse of Stars, The Ford Television Theatre, and Lux Video Theatre.

During this time, Burr's distinctive voice also could be heard on network radio, appearing alongside Jack Webb in the short-lived Pat Novak for Hire on ABC radio, as well as in early episodes of NBC's Dragnet.[3] He also made guest appearances on other Los Angeles-based shows, such as Yours Truly, Johnny Dollar and landed a starring role in CBS's Fort Laramie (1956),[21] which depicted 19th-century life at old Fort Laramie.[22] One year later, Burr became a television star as Perry Mason.

Perry Mason and Ironside

In 1956, Burr auditioned for the role of District Attorney Hamilton Burger in Perry Mason, a new courtroom drama based on the highly successful novels written and created by Erle Stanley Gardner that was to air on CBS. William Talman auditioned for the title role. The producers of the show also allowed Burr to read for the title role. When Gardner, who was present at the audition, saw him he declared, "He is Perry Mason."[3] Burr eventually won the role with which he was most closely identified. Talman, as Burger, lost nearly every case he tried against Mason, the defense attorney. Burger defeated Mason twice on the television series; once in "The Case of the Terrified Typist" and again in "The Case of the Deadly Verdict". Also starring in the show were Barbara Hale, an old friend of Burr's, as Della Street, Mason's secretary; B-actor William Hopper as Paul Drake, Mason's private investigator; Ray Collins who played homicide detective Lieutenant Arthur Tragg; Wesley Lau as Lt. Andy Anderson (after Collins left the show); and Richard Anderson as Lt. Steve Drumm.

The series ran from 1957 to 1966, and Burr won Emmy Awards in 1959 and 1961[4] for his performance as Perry Mason. The series has been re-run in syndication ever since. Beginning in 2006, the series has become available on DVD, with each calendar year seeing the release of one season as two separate volumes. The ninth and final season's DVD sets became available in 2013. Though Burr's character is often said never to have lost a case, he did lose two murder cases in early episodes of the series, once when his client misled him and another time when his client was later cleared.[23] In the 1965 episode, "The Case of the 12th Wildcat," Perry was given the distinction as the title character by his client, owner of a professional football team, whom he had just cleared of murder.

In the early 1960s, Burr narrated one film and appeared in several others sponsored by the U.S. Public Health Service. They were designed to educate the public about accident prevention.[24]

Burr moved from CBS to Universal Studios, where he played the title role in the television drama Ironside, which ran on NBC. In the pilot episode, San Francisco Chief of Detectives Robert T. Ironside is wounded by a sniper during an attempt on his life and is left an invalid in a wheelchair. This role gave Burr another hit series, the first crime drama show ever to star a disabled police officer. The show, which ran from 1967 to 1975, earned Burr six Emmy nominations and two Golden Globe nominations.[4] Burr's weight, always an issue for him in getting roles, became a public relations problem when Johnny Carson began making jokes about him during his Tonight Show monologues. Burr refused to appear as Carson's guest from then on and told Us Weekly years later: "I have been asked a number of times to do his show and I won't do it. Because I like NBC. He's doing an NBC show. If I went on I'd have some things to say, not just about the bad jokes he's done about me, but bad jokes he does about everybody who can't fight back because they aren't there. And that wouldn't be good for NBC."[25] In later life his distinctive physique and manner could be used as a reference that would be universally recognized. One journal for librarians published a writer's opinion that "asking persons without cataloging experience to design automated as practical as asking Raymond Burr to pole vault."[26]

NBC failed in two attempts to launch Burr as the star of a new series. In a two-hour television movie format, Mallory: Circumstantial Evidence aired in February 1976 with Burr again in the role of the lawyer who outwits the district attorney. Despite good reviews for Burr, the critical reception was poor and NBC decided against developing it into a series.[27] In 1977, Burr starred in the short-lived TV series Kingston: Confidential as R. B. Kingston, a William Randolph Hearst-esque publishing magnate, owner of numerous newspapers and TV stations, who, in his spare time, solved crimes along with a group of employees. It was a critical failure that was scheduled opposite the extraordinarily popular Charlie's Angels. It was cancelled after thirteen weeks.[28] Burr took on a shorter project next, playing an underworld boss in a six-hour miniseries, 79 Park Avenue[29] One last attempt to launch a series followed on CBS. The two-hour premiere of The Jourdan Chance aroused little interest.[30]

In 1985, Burr was approached by producers Dean Hargrove and Fred Silverman to star in a made-for-TV movie Perry Mason Returns.[31] Burr recalled in a 1986 interview, "They asked me to do a new 'Godzilla' the same week they asked me to do another Perry Mason, so I did them both."[32] He agreed to do the Mason movie if Barbara Hale returned to reprise her role as Della Street.[33] Hale agreed and when Perry Mason Returns aired in December 1985, her character became the defendant.[31] The rest of the original cast had died, but Hale's real-life son William Katt played the role of Paul Drake, Jr.[31] The movie was so successful Burr made 26 more before his death.[1] Many episodes were filmed in and around Denver, Colorado.[2]

By 1993, when Burr signed with NBC for another season of Mason films, he was using a wheelchair full-time because of his failing health. In his final Perry Mason movie, The Case of the Killer Kiss, which ironically was based on the final 60-minute episode, "The Case of the Final Fadeout," he was shown either sitting or standing while leaning on a table, but only once standing unsupported for a few seconds.[34] Twelve more Mason movies were scheduled before Burr's death, including one scheduled to film the month he died.[35]

In 1993, as he had with the Perry Mason TV movies, Burr decided to do an Ironside reunion movie. In May of that year, The Return of Ironside aired, reuniting the entire original cast of the 1967–1975 series.[36] Burr's illness precluded any further such reunions.[35]

Other work

In 1973, Burr starred in one-hour television drama, Portrait: A Man Whose Name Was John. He portrayed Archbishop Angelo Roncalli, the future Pope John XXIII, as he tried to prevent the forced return of Jewish children from Istanbul to Nazi Germany.[37]

Burr co-starred in such TV films as Eischied: Only The Pretty Girls Die, the miniseries Centennial, and Disaster On The Coastliner (all in 1979), The Curse of King Tut's Tomb and The Night the City Screamed (both 1980), and Peter and Paul (1981). He also had a supporting role in Dennis Hopper's controversial film Out of the Blue (1980) and spoofed his Perry Mason image in Airplane II: The Sequel (1982).

Burr reprised his 1956 role in Godzilla, King of the Monsters! in Godzilla 1985: The Legend Is Reborn.[38] The film won Burr a nomination for a Razzie Award for Worst Supporting Actor.[39] Burr delivered the film's closing lines: "For now, Godzilla – that strangely innocent and tragic monster – has gone to earth. Whether he returns or not, or is never again seen by human eyes, the things he has taught us remain."[40]

Burr also worked as media spokesman for the now-defunct British Columbia-based real estate company Block Bros. in TV, radio, and print ads during the late 1970s and early 1980s.[41]

In 1983, he made a rare stage appearance when he starred in the thriller Underground at the Royal Alexandra Theatre, Toronto and after a UK tour, at the Prince of Wales Theatre, London.[42]

On January 20, 1987, he hosted the television special that later served as the pilot for the long-running series Unsolved Mysteries.[43]

Personal life

Burr married actress Isabella ("Bella") Ward on January 10, 1949. They lived together for less than a year and divorced after four years. Neither remarried.[44] At various times in his career, Burr or his managers offered biographical details that appear spurious or unverifiable. These include marriage to Scottish actress Annette Sutherland, supposedly killed in the same plane crash as

External links

  • Hill, Ona L. (1999). Raymond Burr: A Film, Radio and Television Biography. Jefferson, North Carolina:  
  • Hofler, Robert (2005). The Man Who Invented Rock Hudson: The Pretty Boys and Dirty Deals of Henry Willson.  
  • Starr, Michael Seth (2008). Hiding in Plain Sight: The Secret Life of Raymond Burr.  


  1. ^ a b c d e f  
  2. ^ a b Dougan, Michael (September 16, 1993). "Raymond Burr: A Man of Vast Appetites".  
  3. ^ a b c Raymond Burr U.S Actor. Museum of Broadcast Communications. Updated 2010 Accessed March 25, 2010
  4. ^ a b c d Awards for Raymond Burr (IMDB)
  5. ^ a b c Podolsky, J.D. "The Defense Rests". People. September 27, 1993 Vol. 40, No. 13
  6. ^ a b People/Television;For the Defense. Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. September 21, 1993. Pg. D6. Retrieved March 23, 2010.
  7. ^ "Special Collectors' Issue: 50 Greatest TV Stars of All Time".  
  8. ^
  9. ^ a b c d e f g h  
  10. ^ a b Obituary. Los Angeles Daily News. September 14, 1993. Retrieved March 25, 2010.
  11. ^
  12. ^
  13. ^ Starr, Hiding in Plan Sight, 10-3
  14. ^ a b c The Modesto Bee: Jane Ardmore "Welcome Home to Perry Mason", June 3, 1986, accessed March 26, 2010
  15. ^ Starr, Hiding in Plain Sight, 57–58. The National Personnel Records Center has no record of a Raymond Burr serving in any branch of the U.S. military.
  16. ^  
  17. ^ Starr, Hiding in Plain Sight, 17, 20, 23–4, 40–1
  18. ^ Hill, Raymond Burr, 27, available online. Burr said that he never attended high school, but took courses at Long Beach Junior College, Stanford and the University of California. The Modesto Bee: Jane Ardmore "Welcome Home to Perry Mason", June 3, 1986, accessed March 26, 2010
  19. ^ Richard Schickel, "Rerunning Film Noir," The Wilson Quarterly, vol. 31, no. 3, summer 2007, 43
  20. ^ Internet Movie Database: Godzilla, King of the Monsters! (1956), accessed July 14, 2011
  21. ^ Batz, Bob Radio Buff Savor the Glory Days. Dayton Daily News. April 28, 1991. Retrieved March 27, 2010.
  22. ^ Fort Laramie was produced by the team that brought Gunsmoke to radio and was in a similar adult format. The 41 episodes all featured Raymond Burr as Lee Quince, captain of the cavalry.
  23. ^ a b c d e New York Times: [David Margolick, "At the Bar: Raymond Burr's Perry Mason was fictional, but he was surely relevant and, oh, so competent," September 24, 1993], accessed July 15, 2011
  24. ^ "An Assault on Accidents," American Journal of Nursing, vol. 62, no. 12, December 1962, 68
  25. ^ Starr, Hiding in Plain Sight, 184
  26. ^ Verna Urbanski, "Fear and Loathing in Library Science," Journal of Education for Library and Information Science, vol. 33, no. 1, winter 1992, 59. A character in a 1989 short story refers to Burr as "grossly overweight" in Ironsides. Maxine Chernoff, "Death Swap, Mississippi Review, vol. 18, no. 1, 1989, 77
  27. ^ Internet Movie Database: Mallory: Circumstantial Evidence (TV 1976), accessed July 15, 2011; Starr, Hiding in Plain Sight, 177-8
  28. ^ Internet Movie Database: Kingston: Confidential (TV Series 1976), accessed July 15, 2011; Starr, Hiding in Plain Sight, 178-80
  29. ^ Internet Movie Database: Harold Robbins' 79 Park Avenue (TV mini-series 1977), accessed July 15, 2011; Starr writes that Burr hosted Saturday Night Live in February 1978, but no other sources report this. Starr, Hiding in Plain Sight, 183
  30. ^ Internet Movie Database: The Jordan Chance (TV 1978), accessed July 15, 2011; Starr, Hiding in Plain Sight, 183
  31. ^ a b c Raymond Burr to Return as Perry Mason. Eugene Register. November 30, 1985
  32. ^ "Dougan, Michael, Raymond Burr: Much More than Just Perry Mason. The Telegraph. June 9, 1986. Retrieved March 26, 2006.
  33. ^ Burr Delights in TV Return. Worcester Telegram & Gazette. September 7, 1989 Accessed on March 26, 2010
  34. ^ O'Conner, John J. Review/Television; Case of the Missing Mason. New York Times, May 10, 1994. Retrieved March 26, 2010.
  35. ^ a b c Raymond Burr Reported Seriously Ill at Ranch. The Sunday Gazette. April 27, 1993. Retrieved March 27, 2010.
  36. ^ King, Susan. Ironside Returns to NBC Tuesday. Los Angeles Times, reprinted in the Daily Gazette, May 1, 1993. Retrieved March 26, 2010.
  37. ^ Internet Movie Database: Portrait: A Man Whose Name Was John (TV 1973), accessed July 14, 2011; Starr,Hiding in Plain Sight, 171-2
  38. ^ Internet Movie Database: Godzilla 1985: The Legend Is Reborn (1984), accessed July 14, 2011
  39. ^ John Wilson, The Official Razzie Movie Guide: Enjoying the Best of Hollywood's Worst (Hachette, 2005), Sixth Annual Razzies 1985
  40. ^ Harris, Franklin. Franklin Harris, "Poetry Helps Godzilla in Recovery," March 25, 2010, accessed July 14, 2011
  41. ^ "Headlines from the first 100 issues of REM". Real Estate Magazine. 3 August 2005. Retrieved 2008-08-18. 
  42. ^ British Theatre Guide 1983
  43. ^ The Complete Directory to Prime Time Network and Cable TV Shows, 1946–Present. Ballantine Books. 2003. p. 1256.  
  44. ^ Starr, Hiding in Plain Sight, 26–30
  45. ^ Starr, Hiding in Plain Sight, 44-5, 113–4. Asked about Michael Evan, Isabella Ward said: "No, I never met him. Because there was no son."
  46. ^ Starr, Hiding in Plain Sighrt, 216
  47. ^ "Raymond Burr, 76, Dies of Cancer", Los Angeles Daily News, September 14, 1993
  48. ^ Starr, Hiding in Plain Sight, 64-5, 67–70; Hofler, The Man Who Invented Rock Hudson,
  49. ^ Suzanne Finstad, Natasha: The Biography of Natalie Wood (Three Rivers Press, 2002), ??
  50. ^ Someone who worked on the set with Burr and Wood thought they had a certain chemistry, but later said, "I think everybody knew about his sexual preferences, but that was just something that was in the motion picture business." Starr, Hiding in Plain Sight, 67-8
  51. ^
  52. ^ a b c d Andrew Mersmann, "Robert Benevides: Raymond Burr Vineyards, Sonoma County, California," April 2008, accessed July 13, 2011
  53. ^ Starr, Hiding in Plain Sight, 102-3, 120
  54. ^ a b Murphy, Mary. "With Raymond Burr During His Final Battle." TV Guide, 25 September 1993, pp. 34–43
  55. ^ "Raymond Burr Vineyards website". Retrieved 2010-03-30. 
  56. ^ Starr, Hiding in Plain Sight, 216-7
  57. ^ Starr, Hiding in Plain Sight, 119; Finstad, Natasha, ??: "It was the most devastating thing when [Natalie Wood] found that Raymond Burr was gay..."
  58. ^ Starr, Hiding in Plain Sight, 100
  59. ^ Starr, Hiding in Plain Sight, 214. See also William J. Mann, Behind the Screen: How Lesbians and Gays Shaped Hollywood, 1910–1969 (Viking, 2001), 313–4. Mann writes that Hedda Hopper received information from an informant in 1963 and wrote to Burr: "Dear Ray, What the hell did you do in Phoenix? If the enclosed letter is correct, this is the first intimation I've had of it." She did not repeat the enclosure's charges, but reassured Burr that if trouble developed he need only "call on the mother of Paul Drake and I will stand up and swear anything for you." Drake was a character on the Perry Mason television series played by Hopper's son William.
  60. ^ Starr, Hiding in Plain Sight, 52-3; Paul Picerni, Steps to Stardom: My Story (Bearmanor Press, 2007), ??
  61. ^
  62. ^ Braund, Kathryn (1997). The New Complete Portuguese Water Dog. Howell Bk.  
  63. ^ Kristine M. Carber (23 February 1997). "Not all attractions in Bay Area cost a small fortune". San Francisco Examiner. Retrieved 2007-01-15. 
  64. ^ a b "Raymond Burr Vineyards History". Retrieved 2010-03-30. 
  65. ^ Starr, Hiding in Plain Sight, 149-53, 167–8, 172, 181, 186; Duke, Lynne (June 12, 2005). "Deep Throat's Daughter, The Kindred Free Spirit". Washington Post. Retrieved March 30, 2010. 
  66. ^ Hill, Raymond Burr, p. 149.
  67. ^ Woodward, A. (2009-06-02). "United Service Organizations". Retrieved 2010-03-30. 
  68. ^ "Raymond Burr's life". Retrieved 2010-03-30. 
  69. ^ a b c "TSM 63285 0610 Newsletter_r" (PDF). Retrieved 2010-03-30. 
  70. ^ "Entertainment". Retrieved 2010-03-30. 
  71. ^ Starr, Hiding in Plain Sight, 197-8
  72. ^ Albert J. Schütz and Tevita Nawadra, "A Refutation of the Notion 'Passive' in Fijian", Oceanic Linguistics, vol. 11, no. 2, winter 1972, 107; Albert J. Schutz, "The Forerunners of the Fijian Dictionary", Journal of the Polynesian Society, vol. 83, no. 4, December 1974, 443
  73. ^ Starr, Hiding in Plain Sight, 53-7
  74. ^ a b Starr, Hiding in Plain Sight, 160-1
  75. ^ Hollywood column by Rick Du Brow for United Press International, appearing in the State Times Advocate of Baton Rouge LA, July 19, 1960, p. 5
  76. ^ Stevenson, Jennifer. Raymond Burr Dies of Cancer. St. Petersburg Times. September 14, 1993. Accessed on march 27,2010
  77. ^ Southland Briefly. Daily News of Los Angeles. October 2, 1993. Retrieved March 27, 2010.
  78. ^ Starr, Hiding in Plain Sight, 216.
  79. ^ Starr, Hiding in Plain Sight, 216-8.
  80. ^ "Legal Fight Erupts over Burr's Estate". Gainesville Sun. February 14, 1994. Retrieved March 27, 2010. 
  81. ^ Walsh, Ed (June 26, 2008). "Burr, in the closet during TV career, comes to life in new book". Bay Area Reporter. Retrieved July 13, 2011. 
  82. ^ "Raymond Burr". Hollywood Walk of Fame:. Retrieved July 13, 2011. 
  83. ^ "Canadians in Hollywood: The Sequel". Canada Post. June 30, 2008. Retrieved July 13, 2011. 
  84. ^ "The Stars Align at the 12th Annual Canada's Walk of Fame". Canada's Walk of Fame. 2009-06-16. Retrieved 2009-06-16. 
  85. ^ "The Raymond Burr Memorial Garden". Bailey-Matthews Shell Museum. Retrieved July 13, 2011. 
  86. ^ "Raymond Burr Exhibit Renovation Complete". Bailey-Matthews Shell Museum. Retrieved August 31, 2012. 
  87. ^ "Raymond Burr Performing Arts Centre". 


See also

Year Film Role Notes
1946 San Quentin Jeff Torrance
1947 Desperate Walt Radak
1948 Sleep, My Love Detective Sgt. Strake
Pitfall MacDonald
Raw Deal Rick Coyle
Walk a Crooked Mile Krebs
Adventures of Don Juan Capt. Alvarez
1949 Black Magic Alexandre Dumas, Jr.
Red Light Nick Cherney
Abandoned Kerric
1950 Borderline Pete Ritchie
Key to the City Les Taggart
Love Happy Alphonse Zoto
1951 The Whip Hand Steve Loonis
A Place in the Sun District Attorney R. Frank Marlow
His Kind of Woman Nick Ferraro
New Mexico Private Anderson
Bride of the Gorilla Barney Chavez
1952 Meet Danny Wilson Nick Driscoll alias Joe Martell
Mara Maru Brock Benedict
Horizons West Cord Hardin
1953 The Blue Gardenia Harry Prebble
The Bandits of Corsica Jonatto
Serpent of the Nile Mark Antony
Tarzan and the She-Devil Vargo
1954 Casanova's Big Night Bragadin
Gorilla at Large Cy Miller
Rear Window Lars Thorwald
1955 You're Never Too Young Noonan
Count Three and Pray Yancey Huggins
1956 Godzilla, King of the Monsters! Steve Martin
Great Day in the Morning Jumbo Means
The Brass Legend Tris Hatten
A Cry in the Night (film) Harold Loftus
Please Murder Me Attorney Craig Carlson
1957 Crime of Passion Police Inspector Anthony "Tony" Pope
Ride the High Iron Publicity agent Ziggy Moline
1960 Desire in the Dust Col. Ben Marquand
1968 P.J. aka New Face in Hell William Orbison
1977 The Amazing World of Psychic Phenomena host of documentary
1980 The Curse of King Tut's Tomb Jonash Sebastian
The Return Dr. Kramer
Out of the Blue Dr. Brean
1982 Airplane II: The Sequel Judge D.C. Simonton
1985 Godzilla 1985 Steve Martin
1991 Delirious Carter Hedison
Year Title Role Notes
1957–1966 Perry Mason Perry Mason 271 episodes
1967–1975 Ironside Robert T. Ironside; Charlton Duffy "Death By The Numbers" 194 episodes
1972 The Bold Ones: The New Doctors Robert T. Ironside 1 episode
1977 Kingston: Confidential R.B. Kingston 13 episodes
1979 The Love Boat Malcolm Dwyer 2 episodes
Centennial Herman Bockweiss 12 episodes
Eischied Police Commissioner 2 episodes
The Misadventures of Sheriff Lobo The Godfather 1 episode
1979 Love's Savage Fury Lyle Taggart Sr. Television movie
1981 Peter and Paul Herod Agrippa I Television movie
1985–1993 Perry Mason television movies Perry Mason 26 movies
1993 The Return of Ironside Robert T. Ironside Television movie

Selected filmography

The Raymond Burr Performing Arts Centre in New Westminster, British Columbia, opened in October 2000, near a city block bearing the Burr family name, and closed in 2006. Originally a movie theatre, under ownership of the Famous Players chain (as the Columbia Theatre), it was an intimate, 238-seat theater. Initial plans included expanding the venue to a 650-seat regional performing arts facility. When in operation, it was the custom to have a picture of Raymond Burr included somewhere on each set, with the first toast on the opening night of every production always dedicated to his memory. The Centre was commonly referred to as the "Burr Theatre," or simply as "the Burr". It is owned by the City of New Westminster, which placed it for sale on 15 June 2009.[87]

A circular garden at the entrance to the Bailey-Matthews Shell Museum in Florida honors Burr, who was a shell collector as well as a benefactor and fund-raiser for the museum.[85] In August 2012, a renovated exhibit about Raymond Burr with information about him as an actor, a benefactor and a shell collector, opened in the museum's Great Hall of Shells.[86]

Burr received the 2009 Canadian Legends Award and a star on Canada's Walk of Fame in Toronto. The induction ceremony was held on September 12, 2009.[84]

In 2008, Canada Post issued a postage stamp in its "Canadians in Hollywood" series featuring Burr.[83]

Burr has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6656 Hollywood Blvd.[82]

The Thomas M. Cooley Law School in Lansing, Michigan, awards the Raymond Burr Award for Excellence in Criminal Law.[23]

Burr won the Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actor – Drama Series twice, in 1959 and 1961, for his performance as Perry Mason. He was also nominated a further seven times, once for Mason and six times for Ironside. For the latter role, he was also nominated twice for the Golden Globe Award for Best Actor – Television Series Drama.


Burr bequeathed his estate to Robert Benevides and excluded all relatives, including a sister, nieces, and nephews. His will was challenged by a niece and nephew, Minerva and James, the children of his late brother, James E. Burr, without success.[79] The tabloids estimated that the estate was worth $32 million, but Benevides' attorney, John Hopkins, said that was an overestimate.[80][81]

Because Burr had not revealed his homosexuality during his lifetime, initial press accounts gave it sensational treatment. The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported that People magazine was preparing a story on Burr's "secret life" and asked, "Are the inevitable rumors true?"[5][6] Burr's Ironside co-star, Don Galloway, when asked about Burr's sexual orientation, told People, "I don't know. I never discussed with Raymond his sexuality." The Sunday Mail invented a feminine Burr "wearing a pink frilly apron and doing the ironing. He fussed around like the woman of the house."[78]

R. William Ide III, president of the American Bar Association, paid tribute to the way Burr's Perry Mason presented lawyers "in a professional and dignified manner" and helped "to educate many people who previously had not had access to the justice system." Though lawyers once complained of the character's implausibly perfect track record, Ide complimented Burr because he "strove for such authenticity in his courtroom characterizations that we regard his passing as though we lost one of our own."[23] The New York Times added that Mason "made the presumption of innocence real...[and] also made lawyers look good.[23] Not long before Burr died, Mason was named second after F. Lee Bailey in a poll that asked Americans to name the attorney, fictional or not, they most admired.[23]

Burr was interred with his parents at Fraser Cemetery, New Westminster, British Columbia, Canada. On October 1, 1993, a gathering of about 600 family members and friends of Burr mourned him at a memorial service at the Pasadena Playhouse in Pasadena, California.[77] The private memorial was attended by Robert Benevides, Barbara Hale, Don Galloway, Don Mitchell, Barbara Anderson, Elizabeth Baur, Dean Hargrove, William R. Moses, and Christian I. Nyby II.

During the filming of his last Perry Mason movie in the spring of 1993, Raymond Burr fell ill. A Viacom spokesperson told the media that the illness might be related to the malignant kidney that Burr had removed that February.[35] It was determined that the cancer had spread to his liver and was at that point inoperable.[76] Burr threw several "goodbye parties" before his death on September 12, 1993, at his Sonoma County, California, ranch near Healdsburg.[9] He was 76 years old.

Illness and death

Burr had a reputation in Hollywood as a thoughtful, generous man years before much of his more-visible philanthropic work. In 1960, Ray Collins, who portrayed Lt. Arthur Tragg on the original Perry Mason series, and who was by that time often ill and unable to remember all the lines he was supposed to speak, stated, "There is nothing but kindness from our star, Ray Burr. Part of his life is dedicated to us, and that's no bull. If there's anything the matter with any of us, he comes around before anyone else and does what he can to help. He's a great star — in the old tradition."[75]

Burr made repeated trips on behalf of the Greenland, Baffinland, Newfoundland and Labrador.[73] Returning from Vietnam in 1965, he made a speaking tour of the U.S. to advocate an intensified war effort. As the war became more controversial, he modified his tone, called for more attention to the sacrifice of the troops, and said, "My only position on the war is that I wish it were over."[74] In October 1967, NBC aired Raymond Burr Visits Vietnam, a documentary of one of his visits that received mixed reviews, ranging from "The impressions he came up with are neither weighty nor particularly revealing" (Chicago Tribune) to "His questions...were intelligent and elicited some interesting replies." (Los Angeles Times).[74]

Burr raised money for the Bailey-Matthews Shell Museum in Sanibel, Florida, and also donated a considerable collection of Fijian cowries and cones from his island in the Fijis.[69] In 1993, Sonoma State University awarded Burr an honorary doctorate.[70] He supported medical and education institutions in Denver, and in 1993, the University of Colorado awarded him an honorary doctorate for his acting work.[71] Burr also founded financed the American Fijian Foundation that funded academic research, including efforts to develop a dictionary of the language.[72]

A view of the Bailey-Matthews National Shell Museum in Sanibel, Florida, with the Raymond Burr Memorial Garden in the foreground, December 2011

Burr was a well-known philanthropist.[66][67][68][69] He gave enormous sums of money, including his salaries from the Perry Mason movies, to charity. He was also known for sharing his wealth with friends. He sponsored 26 foster children through the Sacramento, California.[69]


In 1965, Burr purchased the Naitauba, a 4,000 acres (16 km2) island in Fiji, rich in seashells. There, he and Benevides oversaw the raising of copra (coconut meat) and cattle, as well as orchids.[52][64] Burr planned to retire there permanently. However, medical problems made that impossible and he sold the property in 1983.[65]

Together Burr and Benevides cultivated Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, and Port grapes, as well as orchids, at Burr's farmland holdings in Sonoma County, California. After Burr's death, Benevides named the property after Burr. The land is still in production and is known as the Raymond Burr Vineyards.

He developed his interest in cultivating and hybridizing orchids into a business with Benevides. Over 20 years, their company, Sea God Nurseries, had nurseries in Fiji, Hawaii, the Azores, and California, and was responsible for adding more than 1,500 new orchids to the worldwide catalog.[52] Burr named one of them "Barbara Hale Orchid" after his Perry Mason costar.[63][64]

Raymond Burr Vineyards

Burr had many hobbies over the course of his life: cultivating orchids, collecting wine, art, stamps, and seashells. He was very fond of cooking.[9] As a dedicated seashell collector, his financial support and gift of cowries and cones from Fiji helped to create the Bailey-Matthews National Shell Museum in Sanibel, Florida.[61] He was also interested in flying, sailing, and fishing. According to A&E Biography, Burr was an avid reader with a retentive memory. He was also among the earliest importers and breeders of Portuguese Water Dogs in the United States.[62]


A 2007 memoir by actor Paul Picerni described several experiences with Burr on the set of Mara Maru, when he felt Burr expressed sexual interest in him. He wrote, "I saw him staring at me. With his big blue eyes. And with this strange expression on his face. For the first time in my life, I felt like a DAME. Then it hit me: He'd been giving me all this bullshit about his wife and his two kids in London, when in fact he was gay, and he was makin' a move on me!" He remembered Burr "was a great guy and very subtle in his homosexuality."[60]

Art Marks, a producer of Perry Mason, recalled Burr's talk of wives and children: "I know he was just putting on a show....That was my gut feeling. I think the wives and the loving women, the Natalie Wood thing, were a bit of a cover."[58] In 2006, Dean Hargrove, who worked on Perry Mason Returns, said: "I had always assumed that Raymond was gay, because he had a relationship with Robert Benevides for a very long time. Whether or not he had relationships with women, I had no idea. I did know that I had trouble keeping track of whether he was married or not in these stories. Raymond had the ability to mythologize himself, to some extent, and some of his stories about his past...tended to grow as time went by."[59]

It was an open secret...that he was gay. He had a companion who was with him all the time. That was a time in Hollywood history when homosexuality was not countenanced. Ray was not a romantic star by any means, but he was a very popular figure...if it was revealed at that time in Hollywood history [that he was gay] it would have been very difficult for him to continue.

Later accounts of Burr's life explain that he hid his homosexuality to protect his career. In 2000, AP reporter Bob Thomas recalled the situation:[52][57]

In the mid-1950s, Burr met Robert Benevides (born February 9, 1930, in Visalia, California)[51] a young actor and Korean War veteran, on the set of Perry Mason. According to Benevides, they became a couple around 1960. Benevides gave up acting in 1963[52][53] and later became a production consultant for 21 of the Perry Mason TV movies.[54] Together they owned and operated an orchid business and then a vineyard,[55] in the Dry Creek Valley. They were partners until Burr's death in 1993.[54] Burr left Benevides his entire estate, including "all my jewelry, clothing, books, works of art,...and other items of a personal nature."[56]

Family life

In the late 1950s, Burr was rumored to be romantically involved with Natalie Wood.[5] Wood's agent sent her on public dates so she could be noticed by directors and producers and so that the men she dated could present themselves in public as heterosexuals. The dates also helped to disguise Wood's intimate relationship with Robert Wagner, whom she later married.[48] Burr felt enough attraction to Wood to resent Warner Bros.' decision to promote her attachment to Tab Hunter instead. Robert Benevides later said: "He was a little bitter about it. He was really in love with her, I guess."[49][50]

[47][9] As with Burr's claims to have served in the U.S. military, many of these fictions were believed and widely reported.[46] His publicist knew that Burr worked in Hollywood throughout the year he said he was touring with his son.[1] magazine that when he realized his son was dying, he took him on a one-year tour of the United States. He said, "Before my boy left, before his time was gone, I wanted him to see the beauty of his country and its people."Parade As late as 1991, Burr told [45]

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