Raymond Burr

Happy birthday to actor RaymondBurrRaymond Burr, born May 21, 1917 in New Westminster, BC, Canada.  With broad shoulders, heavy eyebrows, and a commanding voice, Raymond Burr became known to legions of fans for his enduring television characters of attorney Perry Mason and detective Robert Ironside.  However, many years of stage and film experience preceded those roles, and fortunately for us, much of it lay in the realm of film noir.  In 1923, Burr’s mother divorced and moved Burr and his siblings to Vallejo, CA.  Burr did some acting as a teenager and starting in 1934, joined several repertory theater groups that toured Canada, Australia, England, and India.  In 1940, Burr made his debut on Broadway and later got his first starring role with the Pasadena Playhouse.  Burr continued appearing on stage both with the Pasadena Playhouse and on Broadway for several years until his first film role for RKO, an uncredited part in Without Reservations (1946), which marked the beginning of a prolific film career.  From 1946 to 1957, Burr appeared in over 50 films, mostly as a supporting actor, and usually as a villain or heavy.  During this period, he was cast in nearly 20 classic noir films: Desperate (1947), I Love Trouble (1948), Sleep, My Love (1948), Ruthless (1948), Raw Deal (1948), Pitfall (1948), Walk a Crooked Mile (1948), Red Light (1949), Abandoned (1949), M (1951), A Place in the Sun (1951), His Kind of Woman (1951), The Whip Hand (1951), FBI Girl (1951), The Blue Gardenia (1953), Rear Window (1954-color), Please Murder Me (1956), A Cry in the Night (1956), and Affair in Havana (1957).  Burr is also remembered for his role as reporter Steven Martin in Godzilla, King of the Monsters! (1956), a character he reprised in two subsequent Godzilla films: Godzilla (1977) and Godzilla 1985 (1984).  During the 1940s and 50s, Burr could also be heard on radio, making guest appearances on shows like Pat Novak for Hire, Dragnet, Yours Truly, Johnny Dollar, and starring in Fort Laramie.  In 1956, Burr was cast in the title role of the television series, Perry Mason (1957-1966).  He had originally auditioned for the part of District Attorney Hamilton Burger, but Gail Patrick Jackson, author of the Perry Mason novels, felt Burr was the ideal choice to play Mason.  The show was a tremendous success, earning Burr two Emmys and making him a household name.  After Perry Mason was cancelled, he continued his television success as the wheelchair-bound detective in Ironside (1967-1975).  Burr made several attempts to launch new series in the late 1970s and early 80s without success, but in 1985, he starred in the television reunion movie Perry Mason Returns, which led to 25 more Perry Mason TV movies from 1986 to 1993.  He also appeared in The Return of Ironside (1993).  Burr was known to be very generous with his money, donating to charities, helping out friends, and sponsoring over 25 foster children.  He also made multiple tours of Korea and Vietnam with the USO during war years.  Burr died of liver cancer in 1993 at age 76.

 

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