134 THE ADVOCATE
VOL. 76 PART 1 JANUARY 2018
Jean Walter, transcribing his dictation. Reportedly, by Gardner’s death in
1970, more than 300 million copies of his books had been sold.
Mason was Gardner’s best-known character. Perry Mason starred in several
movies in the 1930s, a long-running radio series (which became, without
Mason, the television soap opera “The Edge of Night”) and a comic strip.
Most importantly, Mason became the title character of a weekly CBS television
series from 1957 to 1966 (resurrected in a series of made-for-TV movies
produced between 1985 and 1993). The original television series lasted for
In the 1957–1966 television series as well as the 1985–1993 movies, Mason
was played by Raymond Burr, an actor who was born in New Westminster
in 1917. While still a child Burr moved to California. His pre-Mason roles
included the villain in Alfred Hitchcock’s Rear Window. Later, from 1967 to
1975, he played the title role in the NBC television series “Ironside”, another
crime drama. He died in 1993 and is buried in the Fraser Cemetery in New
Gardner, who was closely involved in the television series though he did
not write the scripts (some of which followed plots found in his books),
thought Burr epitomized Mason. “That’s Perry Mason,” he said when Burr
auditioned for the role. Gardner told The Saturday Evening Post in 1959: “It’s
got to a point where people don’t think they’re watching an actor portraying
Perry Mason; they think they’re looking at a bit of real drama—that the television’s
glass is not a screen, that it’s a window.” Burr won two Emmy
Awards for his work, and Gardner commented in 1964: “You’ve got to hand
it to Raymond. He got to be a pretty damn good lawyer.” A CBS attempt to
resurrect a weekly Perry Mason television series (“The New Perry Mason”)
in 1973–1974, without Burr, quickly failed.
Burr himself was not a lawyer, but identified with lawyers and their
causes. He spoke at legal conferences, including for years at conferences
which encouraged traffic regulation and traffic safety. He also appeared in
several films about accident prevention. Apparently during the run of the
show he spoke about 60 times to various bar associations.
More generally, Burr was known for being a loyal friend, for his generosity
and for his charitable work. He also had a variety of hobbies including
the study of seashells, growing orchids and running a vineyard in California.
Burr pursued all three together with long-time companion Robert
In the original television series and later movies, Barbara Hale played
Della Street. In the 1957–1966 series, William Hopper, the son of actress and
gossip columnist Hedda Hopper, played Paul Drake; William Talman was