Saturday, August 30, 2014

In Memoriam, Part 1: William Talman

So today is the day of the two tributes, honoring our district attorney and the second of our police lieutenants, both gone far too soon. I thought I’d post one early in the day and one later, since I don’t really want to combine them.

I’ve been wondering exactly what to say on this one. It’s still so difficult to find the remaining things William Talman has been in, save for some of the ones in which he plays the villain that I haven’t gotten the strength to see yet. I always enjoy his performances, but naturally I lean towards preferring good guys over bad. And it seems I’ve talked so much about William on Perry that there wouldn’t be anything left to be said! I was hoping to be hit with some new angle to follow, but I haven’t yet.

I was surprised, as I mentioned, to actually like book-Hamilton when I read through some of The Caretaker’s Cat. I was expecting an extremely pig-headed person, but at least in this novel, he wasn’t. I was particularly impressed by him saying how he has a horror over the possibility of convicting an innocent person.

That sort of attitude certainly parallels that of Hamilton in the television series. William brought the character to life so beautifully and so humanly, always making sure that he showed his kindness and concern towards witnesses, families of the victims, and even the defendants. He always wanted justice done above all else and was happy to cooperate with Perry as soon as Perry could provide good reason to believe why someone else may have been the killer.

I encountered someone once who complained about Hamilton gloating whenever he had one over on Perry, claiming that in the books he doesn’t do that. I honestly can’t comment there; I don’t know, although I’ve been told by others that he does indeed gloat in the books, too. I suppose it is rather immature, as the person complained, but it is such a part of the television Hamilton and William was so good at it. Many of his comments are downright hilarious, and his expressions, when gloating and especially when he’s exasperated, are just priceless. Some actors are just masters of epic expressions, and William Talman was definitely one of them.

I was surprised by how this person I talked to seemed to prefer the characters to stay the way they are in the books, relationship-wise. She felt that they were overall more distant and she preferred that, I think because she said she wanted the emphasis on the cases. I can’t see myself ever preferring a verse where Perry and Hamilton don’t become friends, when their friendship was the key element that drew me in years ago and it’s one of the keystones of the television series. It grows and develops so much over the nine seasons, as do the characters themselves. As I recall, Hamilton does a lot less of the gloating in later seasons, as he becomes a more mature person. Occasionally he’ll even joke about it, such as at the end of The Shoplifter’s Shoe when he says “Well, Perry, it looks like I was wrong. For once. On this case.” I love that little mischievous smile and how it’s obvious that he and Perry are sharing a laugh.

The significance of the scene totally went over my dad’s head, as he could only say, “This time? He’s wrong all the time!” But I saw the beauty in Hamilton cracking the joke, and that little smile which said he knew it was an ironic joke, and the fact that he was comfortable enough around Perry to actually make the joke and have it understood. Truly, a scene like that never could have happened in season 1, where Perry and Hamilton usually are either aloof and distant or at war—although even then, there are scenes that show a certain respect at times and the budding friendship that will emerge in full bloom later on.

It’s lovely how the actors were such good friends in real-life; William even commented that Raymond was his best friend. And that definitely comes out in the series. When actors have an amazing rapport, there’s no way to stop it from transferring to their characters. And no reason to want it to, either, as it makes everything feel more real and gel better.

Could the Perry and Hamilton dynamic have happened with another actor in William’s place? Yes; there are many talented actors. But no one else could have played the character like William did. And I’m not at all sure that any other performance would have become so incredibly memorable even so many years later. William just fit the part like a glove. He made it his own. And that is why it’s so easy to picture him whenever we think of Hamilton Burger.

I hope that he and Raymond have continued their friendship on the other side. Perhaps they’ve even found some new things to perform in. That would certainly be a treat for anyone luckily enough to see it.

Meanwhile, as we miss wonderful people like William down here, we have many incredible performances to treasure, including every Perry episode in which he appeared. They make for highly enjoyable repeat viewing again and again.

William, we still think about you and love you. And I am thrilled that all the Perry episodes are still around and have even been restored to pristine glory. We’ll be able to share in your adventures as Hamilton Burger for a long time yet.