Raymond William Stacy Burr's Dedication to Hard Work and Charity
Harry Smith narrates, and Jerry Orbach hosts from a television courthouse set the premier of this episode, concentrating upon the life and career of actor Raymond Burr, from his 1917 birth, in British Columbia, Canada, through his contract acting years at RKO-Radio Pictures, and his fame as the star of two long-running television series, "Perry Mason" and "Ironside."
Mother, Minerva Burr, a concert pianist and music teacher from Chicago, Illinois, and father, William Burr, a hardware salesman originally from County Cork, Ireland, relocate to British Columbia, before welcoming Raymond and his younger sister and brother.
While Minerva serves as church organist, she also plays the piano in a theater during showings of Silent films, which young Raymond attends, impressing upon him aspirations of film acting.
During the 1920's, Minerva decides that opportunities for performing concerts may improve for her in the area around San Francisco, and so she convinces William to relocate the family to California, which William does not prefer over British Columbia, and so he returns alone. The parents eventually divorce, but get along well with their children, and then decide to remarry some 33 years later.
Because his grandmothers have doted over Raymond with extra meal servings, the child has become robust enough to be bullied mercilessly by classmates upon his enrollment in San Raphael Military School. During those years of the Great Depression, Minerva permits him to transfer into public schooling, from which Raymond withdraws at age 17, to work for the Civilian Conservation Corps and doesn't attend college.
But Raymond Burr does travel south, to Pasadena Playhouse, at which his first starring role, "Crazy with the Heat" (1941) is said to flop and to fold within the matter of a week's time, but better for Raymond's career would be the Play "The Duke in Darkness" (1944), which runs about three weeks longer than his first.
RKO-Radio Pictures offers Raymond a film contract (circa 1946), assigning him roles of heavies and villains to a wide degree, as he begins his film career of some sixty credited roles.
And in 1956, Raymond Burr receives an offer to star in a television series to break from his "bad guy" roles, by reprising the hero of Erle Stanley Gardner's defense lawyer, "Perry Mason," which has been portrayed by three actors during films of the 1930's, but now Raymond has the opportunity to redefine the character with a style all his own for the next nine seasons (1957-66), to make Raymond Burr a star at long last.
Immediately after the series runs its course, Raymond's own agent tells him that he'll probably never again work in Hollywood as anything but Perry Mason because he has now become too associated with that role. But Raymond is cast the next season as disabled detective Robert "Ironside" in a new television series lasting another eight seasons (1967-75).
What this episode loses in production value for not identifying very many clips nor co-stars it gains in its discussion of Raymond Burr's private life, which to a large degree has gone unspoken during the high points of his enduring career, which extends into many television movies from here.
Raymond and his partner, actor Robert Benevides, purchase a private remote island in Fiji and enter the orchid-distribution business, until purchasing farm land in Sonoma County, California, to raise grapes and to produce wine.
Raymond Burr's legacy is one of hard work, dedication and determination, concentrating upon his charitable donations to assist the less fortunate, to the point of distributing most of his wealth to the needy. He also receives eight honorary degrees along the way, including one Doctorate for Law, after not receiving a degree after dropping from high school.
Interview Guests for this episode consist of Geraldine Fuller (Sister), Marilyn Headley Gozzano (Friend), Barbara Hale (Actress/co-star), Don Galloway (Actor/co-star), Errol Wintemute (Cousin), Walter Tyler (Cousin-in-law), Robert Benevides (Companion), Christian Nyby (Director), Dean Hargrove (Producer), Alan Dershowitz (Attorney), Bob Thomas (Associated Press), and Peter Travers (Rolling Stone), with Harry Smith (Narrator) and Jerry Orbach (Guest Host).
Still Photographs include Raymond Burr Minerva Burr (Mother), William Burr (Father), Geraldine Burr (Sister) and James Burr (Brother); Isabella Ward (former Wife), Agent (Unidentified), Claudette Colbert, Robert Benevides (Partner), Erle Stanley Gardner ("Perry Mason" creator); Barbara Hale, William Hopper, William Talman and Ray Collins ("Perry Mason" TV series co-stars); and Barbara Anderson, Elizabeth Baur, Don Galloway and Don Mitchell ("Ironside" TV series co-stars).
Archive film footage includes Raymond Burr, Montgomery Clift, Grace Kelly, James Stewart, Whit Bissell, Don Galloway, William Katt, and Wings Hauser, plus numerous unidentified co-stars.
Film Clips include a screen glimpse of Raymond Burr in scenes from A Place in the Sun (1951), Rear Window (1954), and Godzilla (1956).
Television Clips include scenes from "Perry Mason: The Case of the Restless Redhead (#1.1)" (1957), "Perry Mason: The Case of the Crooked Candle (#1.11)" (1957), "Ironside" (1967), Perry Mason Returns (1985) (TV), plus Raymond Burr on a CNN Interview (undated).
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