Thursday, April 17, 2014

Birthday Tribute: Barbara Hale

Perry fans may want to check out tomorrow night’s Love Boat movie on MeTV. Raymond Burr is one of the main guest-stars! He delivers an amazing performance ranging from comedic to dramatic as a gruff, alcoholic theatre teacher. We even get to hear him sing! (He’s quite good, too.)

I happened to see it recently and by accident, as it was on the same disc as the wonderful Richard Anderson episode (which I’m hoping to record some Sunday if it hasn’t aired yet). It was definitely a surprise treat to see Raymond and well worth watching, even if you’re not a Love Boat fan. (Me, I kind of like the wonderful 1970s cheese and adorableness of the show, and how it deals with serious issues in a respectful way, even though at other times the mushiness makes me roll my eyes.)

And for once let’s do this early instead of late! Tomorrow is Barbara Hale’s 92nd birthday! Oh my goodness. It’s so wonderful to still have some of the original Perry cast members alive and well with us, especially as we’re losing more and more of the last remaining Golden Hollywood greats (R.I.P., Mickey Rooney).

This is a lovely fansite for Barbara: I had previously thought that Barbara either had some affiliation with it or that she was aware of it and came to look at the Guestbook comments. The website owner has a notice that says it’s an unofficial fanpage. That doesn’t mean Barbara isn’t aware of it and perhaps sometimes sees the Guestbook comments, however, so it might still be a nice thing to leave a birthday wish for her there. In any case, it’s a very nice place to visit, clearly a labor of love by a devoted fan.

Over the past year I have enjoyed seeing Barbara as Della on the main Perry Mason series as well as finally discovering her revival of the character in the television movies. I really love how the character grows through the years and how Della is depicted as so motherly in the movies. Della has always had that motherly, protective streak, as shown on the series whenever children are present or when she encounters someone else that she develops a certain fondness for (such as the defendant in The Sad Sicilian). And she serves as Perry’s conscience during those times when Perry is getting too swamped with work or too eager for a vacation to take a particular case. On the one hand, I feel sorry for Perry never getting to have a proper vacation. But when the people genuinely need help and Perry is likely the best one to give it, it is nice of Della to be thinking of their problems. Della doesn’t get much vacation/downtime, either. Many are the nights that she works far later than most other secretaries. Once she asks Perry if they will ever be able to leave earlier than midnight. (I think that’s the one with the amusing ending where they keep trying to hurry out the door before the clock stops chiming midnight and they keep having to run back because of forgetting to close the balcony doors or turn off the lights.)

Della is absent from only a handful of Perry episodes. While I often still enjoy them for their plots or favorite guest-stars (or for Hamilton being present, if they’re in-town episodes), Della’s presence is definitely missed. She’s an integral part of the cast, certainly made so by Barbara Hale’s amazing performance.

I still have to wonder why anyone thought a remake of Perry Mason would work so soon after the original stopped airing new episodes. Perhaps if they had waited longer people would have been more accepting, but only seven years later, the comparisons between the two series and their casts were inevitable. The show itself was very good, plot-wise, and I will forever praise Dane Clark and Harry Guardino, but some of the other casting choices bewilder me. Sharon Acker is a fine actress, but she just wasn’t a believable Della Street to me. Perhaps if I see more of those episodes I’ll change my mind, but of course I’ll always feel that Barbara Hale is the quintessential image of Della Street.

Happy Birthday, Barbara Hale! I hope it will be a lovely day spent with your family. The fans remember and love you and I also hope for still many more birthdays for you.


  1. Glad you mentioned the Love Boat appearance. I wasn't sure if our cable co. had MeTv but I just checked and it does so I will try to remember to watch the episode. When I was a teenager, I remember seeing him in the Love Boat and thinking it was sad, the "it" being seeing an actor who had been a star in two major roles for all my life reduced to an appearance on this show. Don't get me wrong. I was like you--I knew the LB was "cheesy" but it was usually fun cheesy, a good ratings producer, but actual stars did not appear on the show as guests, at least not usually. Guest roles were almost always filled by second or third tier character actors or reserved for people who HAD BEEN stars and were now either really, really old and probably had been talked into doing the show for fun (since I don't think appearing on such shows resulted in a lucrative pay day at all) or for actors who HAD BEEN stars but were having no success returning to that status. That's how I felt when I saw Raymond Burr on the show.

    I do think I remember him singing but other than able to carry a tune, didn't think much else. I will pay greater attention this time.

  2. Sorry for using anonymous also having trouble with google account.The loveboat episode is on youtube>I also felt sad watching it. I read your comments on the double birthday post-fascinating.Would love to know more.Thanks Cindy

    1. Hi there! Glad you enjoyed the comments on that post. What are you referring to that you would like to know more about?

    2. Hi Ladybug I was referring to the show in general and Burr of course.By the way I read your Fan Fiction(Perry Mason) of course and enjoy them.You are a talented writer.

    3. Ahh, I see. I would like to know more about Raymond Burr myself. I wish it wasn't so difficult to determine what's fact and what's fiction about him! That was quite a conversation going on in that post.

      Thank you very much! :)

  3. Checking in again (I'm the first Anonymous), having watched "The Love Boat"
    episode Friday night.

    My comments aren't actually Perry-related so I hope they're okay.

    First, as I said earlier, I wasn't a MeTv watcher, but I have often read comments praising the network. Looking at their line-up, I can see why. The shows take us back to a simpler time, or at least we *think* of our youth, our childhoods, our young adulthoods (whatever the age) as a "simpler" time.

    I actually caught myself smiling throughout much of the episode and tapping my foot to the Love Boat theme gone disco beat. It was pretty corny music, the same melody over and over and over, yet irresistibly fun. The guy who played Joey, the dancer, was very familiar to me. He must have played similar roles throughout that era, but I couldn't recall the actor's name. (His dancing, at least as Joey, certainly couldn't rival Travolta's, could it?)

    I smiled too as I remember that the character of Julie was always a little weird: you could like her for her all-American exuberance, then not like her at all for her sometimes pettiness and selfishness.

    Gopher? Always silly, played by an actor, Fred Grandy, who went on to be a highly respected member of the House of Rep. from Iowa. He gave up acting for his political career, served there for years, then gave up his seat. For the most part, he has kept himself active in public policy, serving on committees and working in think tanks, but I think I remember reading he might return to acting, theater, I think, for a brief stint.

    Isaac? Always smiling. I wonder what he did after the Love Boat. Good dancer!

    The doc? He was cast as the lady's man on the Love Boat, and I could never see him much in that way, but I did like him.

    The captain? He'll still always be Murray Slaughter to me, the best guy in the newsroom to zing Ted Baxter AND Lou Grant, the guy Mary could count on for succinct advice and a shoulder to cry on. Oh, and he was great zinging Sue Ann Nivens too. As good as she was in the Golden Girls, Betty White was NEVER better than she was as Sue Ann.

  4. (continued)

    This Love Boat episode would never fly today, would it, the script, at least?

    Burr's character, the alcoholic Dwyer, was quite funny and gregarious when he was looped. Many people who imbibe too much do indeed grow funny, but I think just about everyone today knows that by the time a person has been drinking long enough to actually have become an alcoholic, he is sullen, morose, caustic, and sometimes violent when drunk.

    Then, there are the fat jokes made by Gopher and Isaac about the doc's love interest, who is ironically named "Bitsy."

    That wouldn't fly today, would it?

    A few things struck me concerning Bitsy: 1) comparing her to millions of Westerners of the 2000s, she seemed rather small for someone meant to be really fat, fat enough to elicit a series of insults from two of the major characters, which tells us just how much we've "grown" in this country and in the Western world. Our perception of "fat" has changed, much to the detriment of our health. By today's "standards," Bitsy wouldn't stand out in a mall as "fat."

    2) The actress who played Bitsy is the one who now plays the maid on Two and Half Men and today she's about 2.5 times the size of her Bitsy character (as Burr as Dwyer was about 2.5 times the size of his first year Perry).

    Weight seems to have played a large part in both their careers, maybe getting them roles, maybe losing them roles. It would be interesting to speak to two actors like that and ask them their opinions of how their weight figured into their careers one way or the other.

    Another observation: I am glad that Burr trimmed his beard for the re-introduction of Perry. (Of course, it fit the character he was playing, a bit shaggy, I guess, maybe suggesting inattention to his person due to his drinking.

    However, the beard is also related to weight. In seeing him in a few things without the beard at that time in his life, I am certain he re-grew it because it framed and made his face look more slender, hid some things. The Perry beard was neat and trim, although at times it was fuller than at others. I am not a lover of beards on men, but in his case, I think it worked what with his size.

    I felt he did a good job with the character (even IF alcoholics aren't funny and jolly), and I didn't feel as sad as I did originally since seeing him this time wasn't contemporaneous, I guess.

    Forgive my ramblings. I just wanted to check back in with my thoughts on the show, which, in the end, I actually enjoyed as glimpse back in time and as a reminder of my youth.

    1. Cindy here again-I don't consider your posts rambling>I find them imformative and fascinating.I liked his beard in Perry Mason.It did alot for him.If you've watched Disaster on a Coastliner his face was quite bloated so facial hair was very complimenting.

    2. Thanks for checking in again! :) I enjoyed reading all of your comments on the series/episode.

      That's very interesting on what some of the actors are doing today. I had no idea about Fred Grandy or the Bitsy actress.

      I agree with your comments on the character's weight; she really didn't seem that much overweight at all. The fat jokes and Raymond's portrayal of an alcoholic are definitely things from a by-gone era.

      I'm glad you ended up enjoying the episode and Raymond's character, in spite of the inaccuracies!

  5. Cindy,
    I often feel as if I am rambling all over the place so thanks for saying I don't!

    Yes, I did see him in Disaster on a Coastliner and also in a sequel to the Airplane movies as well as in a tv special in which he played King Herod. all of which, I do believe, were made around 1979-1980 or so. I hardly recognized him and was actually shocked at his appearance. I feared for his life because he had already had one heart attack during the Ironside years, around 1974 or so. I certainly agree with you that the beard made for a much more attractive countenance. I used to pull for him to lose weight for his own sake, but it simply wasn't to be. Maybe he stopped caring about losing it. I don't know.

    Lucky Ladybug,

    Thank you for giving your readers a heads up about that Love Boat episode. I surely would have missed it otherwise. Also, looks as if I have discovered that my cable bill is more palatable because now I realized I have MeTv, with some good old fashioned tv programming!

    1. I'll have to look up Raymond in all of those roles. :) I wasn't aware of any of them. (Except Ironside, of course.)

      You're welcome! I'm glad you enjoyed it, and that you've discovered you can now watch MeTV!

  6. Disaster on a Coastliner is on youtube and they just posted his A&E biography which I found interesting.He was so talented but seemed to have an extremely hard time professionally after Ironside ended.He struggled with his weight and his mothers death hit him very hard,
    What a nice site you have here Ladybug.

    1. Oh neat! Thanks; I'll definitely have to look into those. YouTube is a great treasure trove of rare things.

      Poor Raymond. That's sad. I like that he must have been close to his mother, though.

      Thank you so much! :)

    2. Yes and his younger brother, who also lived in LA and had many young children, died only a year and a half after their mother passed, died before his last child was even born. I believe he was only in his mid 50s.

    3. Oh wow, how tragic. It's always so sad when someone dies that young.

  7. I had just read an article about that.He died in July 1975.I saw a picture of his brother as an adult and he was quite slender.He was of the same build as his father.

    1. Could you maybe point me to that article, a link perhaps?

  8. Sure-it only gives the dates and has some pictures but here it is:I was curious as to the cause of death because as you say he was only 54 but that wasn't listed.

  9. I don't know if you've seen this picture of Raymond and his brother taken during his Perry Mason years.

    1. Find a Grave--thanks. I didn't know that site had listings for non-celebrities. How nice it is for people who wish to put up remembrances.

      Pinterest photo-

      - Looks very familiar. I saw photos of him and his brother a few times in magazines oodles and oodles and oodles of years ago but frankly I don't remember much of anything about them other than in one his brother wore a uniform . That must be the same one we see there on Pinterest. In the others, I think his brother was in regular clothes and there were some other people with them but I don't know who. It was a long time ago.
      I see a resemblance between them from the upper lip down.

      Thanks for the link.

  10. You're very welcome sorry it wasn't more substantive. I've read your comments about his charlie rose interview.I didn't see the interview since it was gone by then.I found your observations captivating and very astute.Thanks-Cindy