Saturday, September 12, 2015

In Memoriam: Raymond Burr

So The Romantic Rogue is the first episode in which Lee Miller is officially called Sergeant Brice within the series! I like that Lieutenant Tragg introduces him to Harry West; it’s as though he’s introducing Brice to the audience, as well.

It seems like Brice wasn’t usually introduced in the episodes. I’m trying to recall other times when whichever Lieutenant present introduced him to someone in the guest cast. I believe each Lieutenant introduced him at least once, but I hope there were more occasions than just three!

Last week I was curiously looking up Lee Miller’s credits and I discovered something that I knew I would want to save to talk about today. There was only one occasion listed where he was credited as appearing as himself, in a documentary about Raymond Burr called The Defense Rests. I went to YouTube hoping I’d find it, and I did!

I’m probably a latecomer and everyone else knows about and/or has watched this tribute, but just in case there are those who are not aware: This is the link to Part 1; it was broken up into six segments. I believe each one should either automatically follow the previous one or appear in the sidebar.

Some people may find it a little hard to get through in this day and age, as Bill Cosby is one of the co-hosts, and there are certainly reasons to not find it appealing to watch Bill Cosby these days. But I watched the whole thing and greatly enjoyed and was moved by it.

It came out very soon after Raymond Burr’s sad death on September 12th, 1993. They didn’t spend a lot of time discussing either Perry or Ironside, but they did manage to discuss both series as well as an overview of Raymond’s movie career. All of it was very interesting, but what I enjoyed the most were the parts about Raymond’s life and his personality. Barbara Hale was the other host and she delivered very touching information about Raymond. Also exciting was getting to see people in Raymond’s family.

Lee Miller talks at several different points throughout the production, giving little snippets of adventures he and Raymond had while filming things. The part about the Godzilla movie was particularly intriguing. I had no idea Raymond had appeared in one of those! Lee expressed sadness over Raymond’s passing and said how much he would miss him.

There were definitely things I would have liked to have learned that weren’t mentioned, such as how Raymond and Lee met in the first place (and how Sergeant Brice was cast; I’d like to know if Raymond had anything to do with that!), but overall I really loved the documentary and found it a very touching and poignant tribute while the wounds were still fresh from Raymond’s death. On this, the anniversary of that sad day, I find it fitting to share the documentary and encourage fans to have a look. Even if you’ve seen it before, it’s good to see again and reflect on. It’s an excellent and powerful glimpse into the life of the man we see as Perry Mason and Robert T. Ironside.

It’s hard to believe that Raymond Burr passed away 22 years ago today. It was very sad to lose him, especially so soon after they finished the movie The Killer Kiss. The information told about that experience in the documentary was something I hadn’t heard before. It was very moving how determined Raymond was to film that movie in spite of his illness because the proceeds had already been promised to charities. And it was very bittersweet and sad that Barbara Hale had a premonition that it would be the last movie.

However, as sad as it was to lose this wonderful actor and compassionate man, it can definitely be said that he lived a rich, full life and left valuable legacies behind. How many people were helped by Raymond throughout his life? Perhaps even posthumously by the charity money from the final Perry movie? It is staggering to think of the possible numbers. Raymond did so much good in his life through his charity work, as well as by bringing people joy with his famous and beloved roles on television and in the movies.

It was said in the documentary how much Raymond loved to act. I’m sure he’s continuing that love in the afterlife. Here’s to you, Raymond. Keep on shining. I know that won’t be hard for you to do.

I hope to have another chapter of The Nefarious Necklace up later today in further honor of Raymond Burr. With Della as the central figure, naturally Perry plays quite a big role in this installment. By now I have four chapters posted; the story is moving along very well.


  1. Very well said, Ladybug. I saw that special via Youtube. It's pretty good. Can't believe that it's been that long since he's passed. He was one heck of a talented actor and one really good Perry Mason.

  2. Sorry to say that much of what was in his biography in the tribute is not true, even some things Barbara narrated. Those who wrote the script were assigned it, didn't know him and, and it's clear much of what they put together they got from old stories and articles. (Barbara never fiddles/changes scripts, and I'm sure she just read what they gave her. As close as she was to her friend, she was as much in the dark about some things he'd said over the years (that is, truth or fiction) as others.

    Just one example from many in the tribute--she says he worked as a youngster on a sheep and cattle ranch in New Mexico where he was "physically abused." He never worked on any sheep and cattle ranch in New Mexico where he was "physically abused." That never happened, neither the working there, thus, not the abuse, which was an added detail to the story over the years. Burr said he dropped out of school to support his family during the Depression and worked on a ranch in New Mexico, sometimes saying he was 12 when he dropped out, other times saying this was a summer job when he was 15, etc. It simply didn't happen.

    1. I'll admit I questioned the validity of some of what was said, since it seems like he was such a man of mystery. I just didn't feel the tribute post was the right place for me to express doubt, especially since I don't fully know one way or the other, so I left that alone. Frankly, I don't think we're ever going to know the full truth about his life, no matter how much some people try to research into it. I watched the tribute mainly because I was curious about what Lee Miller would say, not because I necessarily thought everything in it would be true. I'm still pretty skeptical of all biographical attempts concerning Raymond. And even if people expose that some content didn't happen, that still only tells one side of the story.

  3. I understand. Truth is, he led a pretty normal life growing up. For the first 6 years of his life in Canada, he lived with his nuclear family (mom, dad, sister, brother) and lived just a block or two over from loving paternal grandparents and uncles, aunts, and cousins. It was, by all accounts, a close and loving environment for a kid.

    Then, of course, we know his mother went to the Bay Area with her three kids and the father followed from Canada a few months later, but didn't stay. She and the kids did, and there they made their lives. Raymond grew up in Vallejo with his mom and siblings and his maternal grandparents. For a brief time they lived not far away in Berkeley while she attended UC for a short time, thinking she'd get her music degree to teach, but she decided to return to teaching piano and music, giving private lessons. They moved from Berkeley a few miles to Oakland where Raymond and his brother and sister attended school. Then, for a year or so he was in the Civilian Conservation Corp in very Northern California. After that, he began taking classes at the Pasadena Playhouse whenever he could afford them (he briefly worked in San Jose.)

    He lived briefly in LA when he was 23, then in Pasadena. When the war broke out a year later, he crisscrossed the country, working summer stock from Denver to Philly to this to that, and then back again to LA, working in radio and in small theaters, including performing at the Pasadena Playhouse.

    Truth is, there really were no especially unusual events or occurrences in the young actor's life. I suspect that somehow felt to him a "boring story."

    And that is, virtually , the truth of his young life. The most interesting thing about him was, well, his propensity to make up things about himself for a lifetime.

    1. Very interesting. Much the same as some other actors' fairly peaceful and normal upbringing, such as Richard Anderson's.