"Perry Mason" was an American hit show in the years it aired, but one of its main characters, William Talman, left a valuable lesson to his fans before his death to cancer a few weeks after.
William Talman warmed the hearts of American movie lovers when he played Hamilton Burger, the district attorney in the long-running series "Perry Mason," which remains one of Hollywood's most iconic shows.
His life and career were cut short in 1968 following his addiction to smoking which left him with a battle with lung cancer. After his death, his youngest son Tim continued his legacy.
WHO WAS WILLIAM TALMAN?
The late actor was born on February 4, 1915, in Detroit, Michigan as the eldest son of his parents. Talman came from a wealthy background. His father was the vice president of an electrical company that produced industrial heat-measuring recording devices and yachts.
Growing up, Talman tried different sports and was described as athletic by his son Tim during an interview. Talman was good at baseball and boxing. His family had a long history of sporting figures, and Talman was proud to continue the genes.
Talman took steps towards actualizing his dreams of being an athlete. He competed in the boxing team of his local church and later tried himself in semi-professional boxing.
During his high school days, Talman discovered his love for acting and became part of some theatrical groups in Detriot. While in college at Dartmouth University, Talman's full passion blossomed, and he was among the early founders of the theatre in the school, but his time was cut short.
An incident involving a freshman led to Talman's expulsion from the university. He was said to have borrowed a student's car to visit his girlfriend, and while on the weekend trip, a bus hit the vehicle and killed a boy with them.
After close investigation, it turned out the car was stolen, and Talman was asked to resign from the school, which he did. Later on, he was invited back to the school, but he had his heart on something else by then.
The ambitious Talman began his career in the 40s and featured in some Broadway shows. His first roles were in "Beverly Hills," "Yokel Boy," and "Of Mice and Men." He was featured in "Spring Again" when he was drafted to join the US army.
SERVING IN THE ARMY
Before leaving for his national assignment, Talman tied the knot for the first time, marrying actress Lynne Carter. He got into the military as a private and served for 30 months. Before he left, Talman was promoted to the rank of a major.
Talman was placed in charge of training the boxing and baseball team during his time in the military, and to his credit, his teams often performed well, earning him the credit of his superiors.
He and his first wife Carter appeared in a show together, "A Young Man's Fancy," which was at the Plymouth Theatre, but their marriage came to an end after she sued him for extreme cruelty and was granted a quarter of his income as well as custody for their daughter Lynda.
Talman returned to Broadway after Word War II. Two of his famous postwar roles were in Joseph M. Hyman's and Bernard Hart's production of "Dear Ruth" in 1946 and Henry Adrian's production of "A Young Man's Fancy" in 1947. Talman moved to Hollywood in 1949 to start making movies.
Although he was from a rich and affluent background, Talman was determined to excel in Hollywood, and this left his family disappointed, and as a result, he bore the burdens of catering for himself.
He had little money to start off with, but his friends from his theatre days proved helpful as they helped him settle in and cope with the little work he got in those struggling months.
His first role was as a gangster Bunny Harris in the 1949 film "Red, Hot and Blue," and afterward, he got more roles to appear in television shows and movies.
Talman's talent soon attracted producers, and he was called to appear in films like "The Racket," "Armored Car Robbery," "Smoke Signal," and "Two-Gun Lady."
One of his most famous roles was as Emmett Myers, an escaped killer, and kidnapper in the classic film "The Hitch-Hike" directed by Ida Lupino. Prior to his death, Talman wrote feature films.
The actor married Barbara Read in 1952, and they shared two children Barbie and Billy, before their separation a few years later. Reed would go on to commit suicide later on, which was blamed on her poor health.
Talman later joined the hit series "Perry Mason" but was later fired after being arrested in a raid at a party where stars including Talman were found nude or semi-nude.
In 1963, Talman walked down the aisle for the third time with Margaret Louise Larkin Flannigan who he shared two children, a son, Timothy, and a daughter, Susan. He also adopted her two children Steve and Debbie, from a previous marriage.
Talman was a heavy smoker throughout his life. He was once angered by an article that claimed actors were worried about speaking against smoking to avoid losing the heavy commercials from cigarette companies.
Talman decided bravely to make an anti-smoking commercial for the American Cancer Society, a move that was considered bold for an actor of that era. He was the first movie star to feature in such a commercial.
The actor was aware of his grave condition as he battled lung cancer from years of smoking. The actor acknowledged he was dying and noted that he wanted to contribute his part in a cancer-free world.
On August 30, 1968, at the age of 53, Talman died of cardiac arrest due to complications from lung cancer. His death was a huge loss for his family, especially his youngest son Tim, who has since followed in his steps and hopes to take on his role if Perry Mason ever returns to the screen.
TIM IS AN ACTOR
Tim has gone to become an actor in his own right and has appeared in movies like "National Treasure: Book of Secrets" and "In the Orchard," but he continues to keep his father's legacy by staying away from cigarettes.