Raymond Burr


Actor
Raymond Burr

About

Also Known As
Raymond William Stacey Burr
Birth Place
New Westminster, British Columbia, CA
Born
May 21, 1917
Died
September 12, 1993
Cause of Death
Cancer

Biography

A commanding, heavy-set player, Raymond Burr first made an impression in vicious roles in the Anthony Mann films noir, "Desperate" (1947) and "Raw Deal" (1948). With his dark hair, prominent eyebrows and stern voice, Burr made an ideal villain. An economical actor, he brought an aura of authority to many of his best roles, whether it be the attorney prosecuting Montgomery Clift in "A Pla...

Photos & Videos

Walk a Crooked Mile - Movie Posters
Desperate - Lobby Card Set
The Whip Hand - Lobby Card

Family & Companions

Isabella Ward
Wife
Father, Hugh Russell Lloyd.
Isabella Ward
Wife
Actor. Appeared together in a play at Pasadena Playhouse; married in 1947; marriage annulled after three months.
Robert Benevides
Companion
Clergyman. Pastor of Trinity Church, Davenport, Iowa.
Robert Benevides
Companion
Actor. Also business associate of Burr's; met in 1955 and remained a couple until Burr's 1993 death.

Notes

In an effort to protect his privacy, Burr often told stories to the press that were outright fabrications. To wit, he claiimed to have been married three times: to a Scottish actress named Annette Sutherland who died in a plane crash, to Isabella Ward (to whom he was married for three months in 1947) and to Andrina Laura Morgan who died of cancer. Burr's own family disputes the existance of wives number one and three as well as the son Michael who was said to have died in 1953 at age 10. In addition, Burr claimed to have attended Stanford and Columbia universities when he never formally attended college. He also spun the stories that his family lived in China during his early youth (when in fact they didn't leave Canada until 1923) and that he served in the US Navy as an intelligence officer during WWII, was wounded in 1943 and was awarded the Purple Heart. There is no record of any military service for him.

From 1965 until 1985, Burr maintained a home on one of the Fiji Islands, where he ran a successful copra plantation and cultivated rare orchids.

Biography

A commanding, heavy-set player, Raymond Burr first made an impression in vicious roles in the Anthony Mann films noir, "Desperate" (1947) and "Raw Deal" (1948). With his dark hair, prominent eyebrows and stern voice, Burr made an ideal villain. An economical actor, he brought an aura of authority to many of his best roles, whether it be the attorney prosecuting Montgomery Clift in "A Place in the Sun" (1951) or the white-haired, methodical murderer Lars Thorwald in Alfred Hitchcock's masterful "Rear Window" (1954).

During the course of his career, the Canadian-born actor often spun stories of his early life that made good copy but were complete embellishments of the truth. The eldest son of William Burr, a hardware salesman, and his wife Minerva, a pianist, Burr relocated to California in 1923 with his family. His mother had decided to pursue a career as a musician and went to live at a hotel run by her parents. After she divorced Burr's father, Minerva Burr made her living providing musical accompaniment in silent movie theaters. A pudgy child, Burr was often teased by his classmates and he withdrew from the San Rafael Military Academy rather than face the taunts of his contemporaries. Following a stint as a ditch digger, the newly svelte Burr began to hone his craft at the Pasadena Playhouse and eventually landed on Broadway in 1940 in the short-lived play "Crazy with the Heat." He garnered attention in the period drama "Duke in Darkness" (1944) and was spotted by an agent who arranged a screen test.

Burr was put under contract at RKO (where future co-star Barbara Hale was also beginning her career) and he made his film debut in the Claudette Colbert-John Wayne vehicle "Without Reservations" (1946). While he cut a dashing figure, Burr was quick to discern that he was more suited to character roles, so he gained some weight and lent his physically imposing presence to supporting roles as gangsters and cops for most of the remainder of the decade.

When George Stevens cast him as the prosecutor in "A Place in the Sun," Burr had the opportunity to demonstrate his range and authoritative presence in what can be seen as a precursor to his signature television role. He also shone as the wolfish murder victim of Anne Baxter in "The Blue Gardenia" (1953) which was followed by what is perhaps his best feature performance, "Rear Window." With a shock of white hair, heavyset figure and round glasses, he cut a strong figure as the henpecked husband driven to homicide. (Film historians have subsequently made note of the actor's physical resemblance to producer David O Selznick, with whom Hitchcock had previously worked). That same year, he also had a rare lead role as the authoritative reporter (and only non-Japanese actor) in the American release version of "Godzilla" (1956).

The following year, Burr underwent a sea-change which for the remainder of his career typed him completely differently, to the enjoyment of millions of TV fans. Although Efrem Zimbalist Jr and Fred MacMurray were reportedly strong contenders for the part, Burr was tapped to play the crafty attorney "Perry Mason" on the most famous courtroom drama in TV history. With Barbara Hale as his devoted girl Friday, Della Street, William Hopper as his intrepid sidekick and William Talman as the prosecutor who seemingly never won a case, Burr displayed a combination of impassive underplaying and flashy theatrics as he demolished witnesses, sprung surprises and exhaled heavily while patrolling the courtroom. While the legend is that Burr's Mason never lost a case, he did in one episode and the resultant public outcry led to the permanent shelving of that episode. After nine seasons and two Emmy Awards, the actor retired the character and looked for new opportunities.

Many in Hollywood thought Burr was typecast as Mason; even his own agent reportedly told him to consider retiring as no one could envision him as another character. In those days it was rare for an actor to be able to create one signature role, but Burr was fortunate to find a successful follow-up in the persona of "Ironside" (NBC, 1967-75), the wheel-chair bound police chief. The aging star directed his special task force on crime with a more subdued yet still authoritative hand, skillfully suggesting a swallowed rage at his confinement. While he continued to work, he was unable to recapture the magic in subsequent attempts at series TV. Burr continued to appear in prestige TV productions like the NBC miniseries "Centennial" (1978-79) and the occasional feature (e.g., the ill-advised "Godzilla 1985") and lent his unique vocal talents as a narrator for TV specials and documentaries. In 1985, Burr revisited his signature role in "Perry Mason Returns" (for NBC) and went on to headline two dozen more TV-movies. Still feisty, but now white-haired and bearded, he remained a potent force in the courtroom. Just prior to his 1993 death from cancer, he also headlined "The Return of Ironside" (NBC) and had completed filming of what became his swan song, "The Case of the Killer Kiss."

Filmography

 

Cast (Feature Film)

Perry Mason: The Case of the Killer Kiss (1993)
The Return Of Ironside (1993)
Robert T Ironside
Perry Mason: Case of the Skin Deep Scandal (1993)
Perry Mason: The Case of the Telltale Talk Show Host (1993)
Perry Mason: Case of the Heartbroken Bride (1992)
Perry Mason: The Case of the Reckless Romeo (1992)
Perry Mason: The Case of the Fatal Framing (1992)
Perry Mason: The Case of the Glass Coffin (1991)
Perry Mason: The Case of the Ruthless Reporter (1991)
Kootenai Brown (1991)
Perry Mason: Case of the Fatal Fashion (1991)
Delirious (1991)
Perry Mason: The Case of the Maligned Mobster (1991)
Perry Mason: The Case of the Silenced Singer (1990)
Perry Mason: The Case of the Poisoned Pen (1990)
Perry Mason: The Case of the Desperate Deception (1990)
Perry Mason: The Case of the Defiant Daughter (1990)
Perry Mason: The Case of the All-Star Assassin (1989)
Perry Mason: The Case of the Lethal Lesson (1989)
Perry Mason: Case of the Musical Murder (1989)
Perry Mason: The Case of the Avenging Ace (1988)
Perry Mason: The Case of the Lady in the Lake (1988)
Perry Mason: The Case of the Scandalous Scoundrel (1987)
Perry Mason: The Case of the Lost Love (1987)
Perry Mason: The Case of the Sinister Spirit (1987)
Perry Mason: The Case of the Murdered Madam (1987)
Perry Mason: The Case of the Notorious Nun (1986)
Perry Mason: The Case of the Shooting Star (1986)
Godzilla (1985)
Steve Martin
Perry Mason Returns (1985)
Airplane II: The Sequel (1982)
Out of the Blue (1982)
Dr Brean
The Night the City Screamed (1980)
The Thirteenth Day: The Story Of Esther (1979)
Narration
Disaster On The Coastliner (1979)
Love's Savage Fury (1979)
The Jordan Chance (1978)
Frank Jordan
Tomorrow Never Comes (1978)
Mallory: Circumstantial Evidence (1976)
Kingston: The Power Play (1976)
The Priest Killer (1971)
Chief Robert T Ironside
P. J. (1968)
William Orbison
Desire in the Dust (1960)
Col. Ben Marquand
Ride the High Iron (1957)
Ziggy Moline
Affair in Havana (1957)
Mal Mallabee
Crime of Passion (1957)
Tony Pope
Secret of Treasure Mountain (1956)
Cash Larsen
Please Murder Me (1956)
Craig Carlson
Godzilla, King of the Monsters! (1956)
Steve Martin
The Brass Legend (1956)
Tris Hatten
A Cry in the Night (1956)
Harold Loftus
Great Day in the Morning (1956)
Jumbo Means
Count Three and Pray (1955)
Yancy Huggins
A Man Alone (1955)
Stanley
They Were So Young (1955)
Jaime Coltos
You're Never Too Young (1955)
Noonan
Gorilla at Large (1954)
Cyrus Miller
Khyber Patrol (1954)
Ahmed
Thunder Pass (1954)
Tulsa
Passion (1954)
Capt. Rodriguez
The Immortal City (1954)
Narrated by
Rear Window (1954)
Lars Thorwald
Casanova's Big Night (1954)
Bragadin
Bandits of Corsica (1953)
Baron Cesare Jonatto
The Blue Gardenia (1953)
Harry Prebble
Tarzan and the She-Devil (1953)
Vargo
Serpent of the Nile (1953)
Marc Antony
Fort Algiers (1953)
Amir
Horizons West (1952)
Cord Hardin
Meet Danny Wilson (1952)
Nick Driscoll
Mara Maru (1952)
The Magic Carpet (1951)
Boreg
M (1951)
Pottsy
New Mexico (1951)
Pvt. Anderson
A Place in the Sun (1951)
District Attorney R. Frank Marlowe
The Whip Hand (1951)
Steve Loomis
His Kind of Woman (1951)
Nick Ferraro
Bride of the Gorilla (1951)
Barney Chavez
F.B.I. Girl (1951)
Blake
Love Happy (1950)
Alphonse Zoto
Unmasked (1950)
Roger Lewis
Borderline (1950)
Pete Richie
Key to the City (1950)
Les Taggart
Black Magic (1949)
Dumas, Jr.
Bride of Vengeance (1949)
Michelotto
Abandoned (1949)
Kerric
Red Light (1949)
Nick Cherney
Adventures of Don Juan (1949)
Captain Alvarez
Fighting Father Dunne (1948)
Prosecuting attorney
Sleep, My Love (1948)
Sgt. Strake
Station West (1948)
Mark Bristow
Ruthless (1948)
Pete Vendig
Walk a Crooked Mile (1948)
Krebs
Pitfall (1948)
J. B. MacDonald
Raw Deal (1948)
Rick Coyle
I Love Trouble (1948)
Herb
Code of the West (1947)
Boyd Carter
Desperate (1947)
Walt Radak
San Quentin (1946)
Jeff Torrance
Without Reservations (1946)
Paul Gill

Cast (Special)

Surviving Salvation (1992)
Narration
Night of 100 Stars III (1990)
The Case of the Courtroom Legend (1989)
55th Annual King Orange Jamboree Parade (1988)
Cape Horn: Waters of the Wind (1986)
Narrator
Cousteau: Hati, Waters Of Sorrow (1986)
Narration
The 38th Annual Emmy Awards (1986)
Performer
NBC's 60th Anniversary Celebration (1986)
The Curse of King Tut's Tomb (1980)
Jonash Sabastian
Keep U.S. Beautiful (1973)
Host
Jack Benny With Guest Stars (1959)
Guest

Cast (TV Mini-Series)

Grass Roots (1992)
Judge Boggs
Peter and Paul (1981)
The Bastard (1978)
Narrator
Harold Robbins' "79 Park Avenue" (1977)

Life Events

1923

Moved to California so mother could pursue career in music; father disliked living there and returned to Canada after parents' divorce; lived with maternal grandparents who owned and operated a hotel in Vallejo

1940

Broadway debut in "Crazy with the Heat"

1944

Had modest success in the Broadway play "Duke in Darkness"; spotted by agent who signed him and arranged a screen test

1945

Hired by RKO as a contract player; first met Barbara Hale (date approximate)

1946

Film debut in "Without Reservations", a comedy starring Claudette Colbert and John Wayne

1951

Portrayed the prosecuting attorney in "A PLace in the Sun"

1954

Played perhaps most famous feature film role as the wife killer in Alfred Hitchcock's "Rear Window"

1956

Played first leading roles in films in "Please Murder Me", "The Secret of Treasure Mountain" and the US release version of "Godzilla"

1957

Portrayed a cop investigating a "Crime of Passion"

1957

Had signature role of the successful defense attorney in the popular CBS courtroom drama "Perry Mason"; won two Emmy Awards

1960

Last feature film for eight years, "Desire in the Dust"

1965

Purchased own resort island in Fiji

1968

Returned to feature films with a role in "P.J."

1977

Played editor R B Kingston on the short-lived NBC drama series, "Kingston: Confidential"

1978

Returned to feature films after a ten-year absence with a role in "Tomorrow Never Comes"

1985

Reprised the role of Perry Mason in the first of more than two dozen TV-movies, "Perry Mason Returns" (NBC)

1985

Reprised role in the remake/sequel "Godzilla 1985/Gojira"

1991

Last feature films, "Delirious" and "Kootenai Brown"

1993

Reprised the role of Robert T Ironside on the TV-movie, "The Return of Ironside"

1993

Finished location work on the Perry Mason mystery TV-movie, "The Case of the Killer Kiss" one month prior to his death

Photo Collections

Walk a Crooked Mile - Movie Posters
Walk a Crooked Mile - Movie Posters
Desperate - Lobby Card Set
Here is a set of Lobby Cards from Desperate (1947), starring Steve Brodie and Audrey Long and directed by Anthony Mann. Lobby Cards were 11" x 14" posters that came in sets of 8. As the name implies, they were most often displayed in movie theater lobbies, to advertise current or coming attractions.
The Whip Hand - Lobby Card
Here is a Lobby Card from RKO's The Whip Hand (1951), directed by William Cameron Menzies. Lobby Cards were 11" x 14" posters that came in sets of 8. As the name implies, they were most often displayed in movie theater lobbies, to advertise current or coming attractions.

Videos

Movie Clip

Godzilla, King Of The Monsters (1956) - Fabulous Discovery Dr. Yamane (Takashi Shimura), with daughter Emiko (Momoko Kochi) now leading the expedition on Odo Island, American reporter Steve (Raymond Burr) and sidekick Iwanaga (Frank Iwanaga) observing, as the star makes his first appearance, in Godzilla, King Of The Monsters, 1956, edited from the original 1954 Japanese feature.
His Kind Of Woman (1951) - Where Do Old Gangsters Go To Die? Opening is narrated by Charles McGraw who will soon appear as gang henchman Thompson, introducing Raymond Burr as exiled gangster Ferraro (modeled on Lucky Luciano), who calls Corle (Paul Frees), John Mylong their third party, John Farrow directing, in His Kind Of Woman, starring Robert Mitchum and Jane Russell.
Cry In The Night, A (1956) - What's There To Worry About? The voice is Brian Donlevy, who soon appears as a gritty cop, and Natalie Wood, fresh from Rebel Without A Cause, as "Liz," Richard Anderson her beau and Raymond Burr, then known for Rear Window, in the bushes, in the crime thriller A Cry In The Dark, 1956.
Cry In The Night, A (1956) - No Use Screaming At once considerate and brutal, Raymond Burr as maybe mentally-ill Harold has abducted under-age Liz (Natalie Wood) after not-meaning-to knock out her boyfriend at the local lover’s lane, moving to his hide-out, early in A Cry In The Night, 1956, from producer Alan Ladd’s Jaguar Productions and frequent partner, director Frank Tuttle.
Cry In The Night, A (1956) - They'll Never Find Us Engaging something like the Stockholm Syndrome, abducted Liz (Natalie Wood) learns much about her captor (Raymond Burr) at an abandoned warehouse, the movie very buzzy because of a rumored romance between the two actors, in A Cry In The Night, 1956.
Desperate (1947) - We Were Gonna Celebrate Two consecutive high points for Audrey Long as innocent Ann, expecting to celebrate her four-month anniversary with war-hero truck-driver husband Steve (Steve Brodie), who was an unwilling participant in a robbery gone wrong, now on the run, early in director Anthony Mann’s Desperate, 1947.
Desperate (1947) - Some Junk For The County Fair The kindly sheriff who was about to take fugitives Steve and Ann (Steve Brodie, Audrey Long) into custody conveniently crashed into a tree, so they move on to their next conveyance, and a famous shot from director Anthony Mann with George E. Diskant’s camera, headed for her family farm, in Desperate, 1947.
Desperate (1947) - It's An Easy Job Ann (Audrey Long) with neighbor (Carol Forman) considers telling trucker husband Steve (Steve Brodie) she's pregnant, he arrives, calls Reynolds (William Challeee), secretly representing thug Walt (Raymond Burr), early in Anthony Mann's Desperate, 1947.
Godzilla, King Of The Monsters (1956) - No Tomorrow Raymond Burr is both the narrator and the American reporter Steve Martin, coming-to amid the rubble of Tokyo, entering the flashback and opening the original American release of Godzilla, King Of The Monsters, 1956, re-edited from Ishiro Honda's Gojira, 1954.
Godzilla, King Of The Monsters (1956) - Tokyo Has No Defense Relatively safe in a newsroom, American reporter Steve (Raymond Burr) sets up his tape recorder, maybe for posterity, as the monster gets down to business in Tokyo, in the original U.S. version of Godzilla, King Of The Monsters, 1956.
Red Light (1949) - Two Brothers Reunited Nick (Raymond Burr) and Rocky (Henry Morgan) are the prison projectionists, their newsreel introducing Torno (George Raft) greeting his priest brother Jess (Arthur Franz), early in Roy Del Ruth's Red Light, 1949.
Red Light (1949) - I Got No Hard Feelings Vengeful businessman Torno (George Raft) finds paroled embezzler Nick (Raymond Burr) at the bowling alley, looking for his brother's killer, in Roy Del Ruth's Red Light, 1949.

Trailer

Family

William Burr
Father
Survived him.
William Burr
Father
Hardware salesman. Born c. 1889; married Burr's mother in 1914; abandoned family when they moved to California in 1923; divorced; remarried Minerva Burr in 1955; died at age 96 in 1985.
Minerva Burr
Mother
Actor.
Minerva Burr
Mother
Pianist, music teacher. Born on April 2, 1892; originally from Chicago; moved to Canada with family where she met William Burr whom she married in 1914; persuaded husband to move to California in 1923 so she could pursue a career in music; divorced when husband wanted to return to Canada; remarried former husband in 1955; died of cancer in January 1974 at age 81.
Geraldine Burr Fuller
Sister
Married and divorced a total of three times.
Geraldine Burr Fuller
Sister
Younger.
James Edmond Burr
Brother
Father, John Silkin.
James Edmond Burr
Brother
Younger; deceased.

Companions

Isabella Ward
Wife
Father, Hugh Russell Lloyd.
Isabella Ward
Wife
Actor. Appeared together in a play at Pasadena Playhouse; married in 1947; marriage annulled after three months.
Robert Benevides
Companion
Clergyman. Pastor of Trinity Church, Davenport, Iowa.
Robert Benevides
Companion
Actor. Also business associate of Burr's; met in 1955 and remained a couple until Burr's 1993 death.

Bibliography

Notes

In an effort to protect his privacy, Burr often told stories to the press that were outright fabrications. To wit, he claiimed to have been married three times: to a Scottish actress named Annette Sutherland who died in a plane crash, to Isabella Ward (to whom he was married for three months in 1947) and to Andrina Laura Morgan who died of cancer. Burr's own family disputes the existance of wives number one and three as well as the son Michael who was said to have died in 1953 at age 10. In addition, Burr claimed to have attended Stanford and Columbia universities when he never formally attended college. He also spun the stories that his family lived in China during his early youth (when in fact they didn't leave Canada until 1923) and that he served in the US Navy as an intelligence officer during WWII, was wounded in 1943 and was awarded the Purple Heart. There is no record of any military service for him.

From 1965 until 1985, Burr maintained a home on one of the Fiji Islands, where he ran a successful copra plantation and cultivated rare orchids.

In the 1980s, he established the Raymond Burr Vineyards in Sonoma County, California.