Sunday, May 21, 2017

A Pictorial Tribute for Raymond Burr's Centennial

It was 100 years ago today that Raymond Burr was born in New Westminster, British Columbia. Today he is best known as criminal defence lawyer Perry Mason from the TV show of the same name, but his career not only included other TV shows, but many movies as well. Curiously, before he was cast as Perry Mason, Raymond Burr more often than not played villains. In fact, his most famous role besides Perry Mason may well be that of suspected killer  Lars Thorwald in Rear Window (1954). Here is a look back at his career in pictures.

Raymond Burr's first significant role was that of Jeff Torrance in the 1946 film San Quentin. Here he is with Lawrence Tierney and Carol Forman.

Today we tend to think of Raymond Burr as starring in crime thrillers, film noirs, and a few sci-fi B-movies, but he did make other sorts of pictures. Here he is with Errol Flynn in The Adventures of Don Juan (1948)

While he generally played bad guys, Raymond Burr did play good guys sometimes early in his career. He even played a lawyer before Perry Mason. In A Place in the Sun (1951) he played District Attorney  R. Frank Marlowe. Here he is with Montgomery Clift. 

 In The Blue Gardenia (1953) Raymond Burr played womanising artist Harry Prebble. Here he is with Anne Baxter.

Possibly Raymond Burr's most famous role besides Perry Mason, that of the menacing Lars Thorwald in Rear Window

One of Raymond Burr's earliest good guy roles, that of American reporter Steve Martin in Godzilla, King of the Monsters (1956). Godzilla, King of the Monsters was essentially the Japanese film Gojira (1954) re-edited for American audiences. In addition to eliminating many scenes (and thus changing the tone of the whole movie), new footage was made with Raymond Burr. This was done for essentially two reasons. First, reporter Steve Martin could explain what was happening for American audiences, allowing for less dubbing in the film. Second, it would add an American star who would be somewhat familiar to audiences in the United States. Raymond Burr would reprise the role nearly 30 years later in Godzilla 1985

It was in 1957 that Raymond Burr began a nine year run in his most famous role, that of defence attorney Perry Mason in the TV show Perry Mason. The character of Perry Mason had begun life in novels by Erle Stanley Gardner. By the time the TV show had debuted, the character had already appeared in six feature films and a radio show that ran for 12 years on CBS. Although Raymond Burr is now the actor most identified with Perry Mason, he was not the only actor considered for the part.  Richard Carlson, Mike Connors, Richard Egan, William Holden, and Efrem Zimbalist Jr., were all considered, and even Fred MacMurray was reportedly in negotiations with CBS for the role. While producer Gail Patrick had been impressed with Raymond Burr's performance as the district attorney in A Place in the Sun (1951), there were concerns about his weight. Raymond Burr went on a diet and did a second screen test for the role. In the end, he was chosen out of around 50 other actors trying for the part. 

Raymond Burr followed Perry Mason with another successful TV show, Ironside. Ironside featured Mr. Burr as Robert T. Ironside, a former San Francisco Chief of Detectives who became a consultant for the police department after he was paralysed from the waist down. Ironside proved quite successful, running for eight seasons.

Following Ironside, Raymond Burr appeared in such films as Out of the Blue (1980), Airplane II: The Sequel (1982), and Godzilla 1985. He reprised his role as Perry Mason in the TV reunion Perry Mason Returns in 1985. It was followed by 25 more TV movies starring Raymond Burr as Perry Mason. Perhaps fittingly, Perry Mason would be the final role he ever played. He last appeared in the TV movie Perry Mason: The Case of the Killer Kiss (1993). Having died on September 12 1993, it aired over two months after his death, on November 29 1993.

1 comment:

Caftan Woman said...

Lovely tribute. I adore Raymond Burr. He is featured in many of my favourite movie, TV, and stage memories. I saw him in a play called Underground, a mystery set on the London tube, when it played in Toronto at the Royal Alexandra Theatre in 1983. Co-stars included Don Mitchell and Don Galloway.