Few actors are so closely linked to a character than Raymond Burr as Perry Mason. This long-running TV series (1957-1966) was built upon Eric Standley Gardner’s novels about a brilliant defense lawyer and his Tripple-A staff, that solved far to many crimes with off-the-wall witnesses and razor-sharp cross-examinations.
It was the first mystery series to feature chalk outlines to mark the spots where bodies were found. Filmed almost exclusively in the Los Angeles area, Raymond Burr had Gardner’s seal of approval in the role.
Perry’s cases were usually Alamo slam-dunk wins by way of pivotal witness confessions, solicited by his surgeon-like cross-examination or with last-minute, key evidence brought into the courtroom by private investigator Paul Drake (William Hopper).
Della Street (Barbara Hale), Perry’s faithful main-squeeze secretary, was always at his side in the courtroom where hapless Hamilton Burger (William Tallman) was the Los Angeles District Attorney who never seemed to win anything.
As for the myth that Perry Mason never lost, well, there were two episodes where it did happen … but you’ll have to watch the reruns to find out. The show was revived in 1973-74, with other actors in the familiar roles (Monte Markham as Mason), and then again with the some of the original cast, in a string of feature length TV films from 1985 until Raymond Burr’s death in 1993.
Officially, Raymond Burr died of liver cancer. But many suspect it may have been really caused by his wearing to many over-sized grey suits and gulping down dozens of delicious onion-mustard topped hot dogs at a sitting!
Well that was Della Street’s job!